Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

I’ve been smitten with this smoky chipotle salsa recipe 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


  • Some thoughts from the author regarding riffing on this smoky chipotle salsa…
  • Replace the tomatillos in this chipotle salsa recipe with tomatoes. (Grab two 4-ounce plum tomatoes and roast them like the tomatillos or opt for half a 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, drained.) Keep in mind that the tomato will tip the salsa toward the sweet rather than the 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

Smoky chipotle salsa with pan-roasted tomatillos in a glass bowl on a towel, two tomatillo in front
Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless

Prep 15 mins
Total 15 mins
5 / 3 votes
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  • 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


  • 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.
  • When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. The tomatillos should be completely soft.
  • 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 dish and let cool.
  • 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Mexican Everyday cookbook

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Now THIS is good salsa. Roasting the tomatillos and garlic in a pan that has been lined with foil is a brilliant idea. When I make salsa, I often roast the tomatillos and/or tomatoes in the oven, but this is a great method as well. Roasting really brings out the natural sweetness of whatever it is you are using. If you like the smokiness of chipotle, look no further than this recipe. The tang of the tomatillo is so lovely with the chipotle. We used it with chips and also as a topper for nachos. We enjoyed it so much that I’m making another batch today to freeze, as tomatillos are difficult to find here. The only small thing I would change, and it is a matter of personal taste, is to add one more chipotle chile to the mix. I think that would be perfect. This will be one of my go-to salsas from now on.

So few ingredients, so little time, so easily the best salsa you’ve ever tasted. Amazing! I don’t think I have ever done less in a recipe that tasted this good. The tangy flavor of the tomatillos blended with the spicy chipotle chiles and the hint of roasted garlic produced the perfect Mexican salsa. This salsa is, of course, great with tortilla chips, but was also the perfect topping for our fish tacos tonight and I think would complement any meat. I also plan to try it in place of my regular salsa in a Mexican salad dressing we use on taco salads. I can not always find tomatillos at my local grocery store, so I will try it with tomatoes on those occasions, and I think it will just change the salsa from smoky and tangy to smoky and sweet.

Originally published April 16, 2005


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  1. 5 stars
    I made this for a salsa competition in school and it turned out great and has a great smoky taste. WOULD RECOMMEND!

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 5 stars
    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!

  5. 5 stars
    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.

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