What Are Tomatillos?

Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes that are wrapped in an outer, cabbage-like husk. But despite their appearance and name, which is Spanish for "little tomato," this food isn't even a vegetable.

Tomatillos are acidic, bright green fruits native to Mexico. They're a distant cousin to tomatoes, but denser and not as sweet. Their tangy flavor makes them a great addition to any summertime dish.

pan of peeled tomatillos
Playa del Carmen/Shutterstock

How Do You Prepare Tomatillos?

Prepping tomatillos for cooking is very simple. When you harvest the fruit, they are covered in coarse husks. The husks should be easy to peel off, so just remove them by hand. The fruit should have a sticky film coating its round surface, so rinse it with warm water before use.

After the fruit is washed, it can be boiled, roasted, grilled or eaten raw. Tomatillos are often used to make salsas, stews and mixed veggie side dishes.

tomatillos in their husk on black surface
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Meal Inspirations

Fried Whole Fish With Tomatillo Sauce

This striking dish is the perfect recipe for adventurous cooks. Simply peel, rinse and chop the tomatillos before blending them together with cilantro, pickled jalapeños and brine to make the sauce base. After frying up the fish, place it in the sauce and serve with tortillas.

Tomatillo Guacamole Salsa

One of the most common uses for tomatillos is to chop or mash them into pastes to make salsas or sauces. In this simple recipe, the tomatillos are added to a regular avocado-based guacamole recipe for a tangier rendition on a favorite dip.

tomatillo guacamole salsa in glass bowl
Paul Horwitz/Shutterstock

Pork And Green Chile Stew

Though this recipe contains many ingredients and contains many steps, the end result is well worth the work. The tangy tomatillos interact with the smoky and hot flavors of the spices to make a delicacy that only gets better once it's been stored for a few days.

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Soup

This tasty recipe mixes tomatillos with chicken broth and green vegetables that, when roasted, have a more mellowed heat. So if you're a fan of tartness but not heat, this is the dish for you. You can turn the heat down even more by serving it with creme fraiche.

close up of tomatillo and chicken soup in white bowl

Are Tomatillos Healthy?

Tomatillos are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron and manganese. They are also low in sodium and saturated fats. However, like many fruits, a large portion of tomatillos' calories come from sugars that can be harmful to your health if you don't eat them in moderation.

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