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.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these: