Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

I’ve been smitten with chipotle salsa ever since the first time I tasted it on a crusty sandwich (cemita) in a Pueblan market stall 30 years ago. Its three simple ingredients in perfect balance: the smoky spice of chipotle chiles, the lively, sweet-edged tang of roasted tomatillo, and the alluring complexity of roasted garlic. I like chipotle salsa spooned on practically everything except ice cream, though I’m particularly fond of it with grilled fish or shellfish, chicken, or beef or…here I go again.–Rick Bayless

LC Riffs on Chipotle Salsa Note

You can replace the tomatillos in this chipotle salsa recipe with roasted tomatoes (two 4-ounce plum tomatoes, roasted like the tomatillos, or half a drained 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes), but keep in mind that the tomato will tip the flavor toward sweet rather than tangy.

A little cilantro, fresh thyme, or parsley is always welcome in a chipotle salsa, as is green or white onion—especially if it’s grilled. A splash of mescal (or the less-smoky tequila) makes a borracha (drunken) salsa that’s dynamite. Instead of puréeing the chiles, you can finely chop them and add them to the puréed tomatillo base; they’ll show up as little red flecks, and the salsa will be less smoky.

Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes about 1 1/4 cups


  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (or more if you like really spicy salsa)
  • Salt


  • 1. To make the chipotle salsa, set a large (10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; if you don’t have a non-stick skillet, lay in a piece of foil. Lay in the garlic and tomatillos, cut side down.
  • 2. When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. The tomatillos should be completely soft.
  • 3. Scoop the garlic and tomatillos into a blender jar or food processor, along with the chiles and 1/4 cup water. Process to a coarse purée. Pour into a salsa dish and cool.
  • 4. Thin the salsa with a little additional water, if necessary, to give it an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon.
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  1. Denise Fondo says:

    There is such a brillance in the way Rick Bayliss breaks down, then reconstructs these recipes. Try this smoky chipotle salsa over baked pumpkin, sweetened with brown sugar. Wow.

  2. Lauren says:

    I am pretty much a fan of anything chipotle, so when I saw this recipe I knew I need to try it. I work with Better Recipes so I am always reviewing recipes but I have to say that Mexican Recipes are by far my favorite. They deliver such burst of flavor that I just cannot get enough. I will definitely will be making this salsa again!

  3. Sylvia N. Heck says:

    I do enjoy watching people who love what they’re doing, and Rick certainly does. I’ve given his cookbook to my daughter who appreciates his food, and I’ve learned tricks from him to use in my own food! Now, if he would just send me to one of those lovely Mexican sites he shows on his TV program, I would appreciate the freshness of the foods available. Seriously, keep on telling and showing us about those dishes. You will never disappoint. (My significant other loves the show too. I wish he would learn to cook!) Thank you so much! SNH

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Great to hear you’re such a fan of Rick, Sylvia. Who else has already tried this or another recipe from Rick?

  4. Jennifer says:

    I have tried so many salsa recipes and they always fall short. I was a little intimidated by this recipe at first, as I have always used tomatoes and was never quite sure what to do with a tomatillo. I am so glad I gave this recipe a chance! Simple ingredients, easy to put together and DELICIOUS! I’ll never waste my time with another salsa again!

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