Braised Chicken with Tomatillos

This braised chicken with tomatillos has a slightly tart green sauce made from tomatillos, onions, peppers, garlic, lime, and cilantro that’s perfect with chicken cooked until falling apart tender, whether on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.

White oval dish with four chicken drumsticks, chopped green tomatillos, cilantro, onion, sliced chiles

This easy-to-make, mild-to-taste braised chicken with tomatillos recipe comes together easily. And, as if we didn’t already appreciate the recipe enough just for its taste, it makes an ample amount of sauce—sufficient for you to stash some surplus in the fridge, whether for Sunday supper or Monday lunch. Cook once, eat twice. You’re welcome.–Renee Schettler

*What Are Tomatillos?

Small, round, and green, tomatillos look like unripe tomatoes and are known as tomates verdes, although they’re not actually tomatoes. Tomatillos have a tart and somewhat herbal taste and are commonly used in salsa verde, soups, and stews. To prep tomatillos prior to using them in a recipe, remove the papery husks and hold the tomatillos under warm running water while you scrub the sticky residue from the skin.


Braised Chicken with Tomatillos

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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To make the Braised Chicken With Tomatillos in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation below.

To make the Braised Chicken With Tomatillos on the stovetop, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces on all sides. Working in batches, sear the chicken until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion to the pan, and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the stock or broth to the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the roasted chiles, garlic, tomatillos, chopped cilantro, and cumin. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Return the chicken and any juices that’ve collected on the plate to the pan, cover, and simmer, turning once, until the chicken is opaque throughout, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size and type.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and loosely cover with foil to keep it warm.

Add the lime juice to the sauce remaining in the pan and simmer over medium-high heat until slightly reduced and thickened, 10 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If a smoother sauce is desired, pulse all or half the sauce in a food processor or blender until the desired consistency is reached.

Tester tip: When guesstimating how long it will take for the chicken to cook, keep in mind that boneless chicken pieces and white meat will cook more quickly whereas bone-in chicken and dark meat will take closer to the full amount of time.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken, if desired, discarding any skin and bone.

Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces or shredded chicken on the platter and garnish with the whole cilantro leaves. Serve with rice or tortillas on the side. Originally published January 3, 2013.

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    Slow Cooker Variation

    • Sooooo simple. Soooo satiating. To make this in the slow cooker you can skip Step 1 above, then modify Step 2 so that you cook the onion and the cumin in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the chiles, garlic, and tomatillos and cook just until softened. At this point, add the stock, using only half the amount listed above. Pour half the mixture into the slow cooker, add the chicken, and then add the remaining mixture. Cook on low for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Remove the chicken. If desired, shred the chicken and/or puree the sauce. Return the chicken to the sauce. Add the cilantro just before serving. Note that chicken thighs work terrifically well in the slow cooker.

      [Editor’s Note: Bear in mind, no two slow cookers are exactly alike, just as no two cooks are exactly alike. This slow-cooker approach worked really, really well for us, although if you have a different slow-cooker cooking technique you want to try by all means, do so. And, natch, we’d love if you’d share it with us in a comment below.] Curious to hear more about working magic with your slow cooker? Peruse our entire selection of slow cooker recipes.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This dish was a big hit at my house. The chicken was flavorful and juicy and the sauce was tangy with a smoky depth of flavor thanks to the roasted chiles. I used all 3 teaspoons of cumin and I’m glad I did, but I’m a big fan of cumin. There was enough leftover sauce for me to freeze and use for tacos down the road.

    There’s nothing quite like a tomatillo and green pepper sauce, and this recipe really fit the bill. I used 3 chicken breast halves and 3 thighs. They emerged from the sauce fork-tender, juicy, and easy to shred. The sauce itself took about 20 minutes to thicken up after I removed the chicken. I used the entire amount of cumin specified in the recipe and the flavor was smoky but not overpowering. This recipe made for excellent comfort food on a chilly afternoon.


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    1. I made this for a quiet NYE at home with the hubs. Instead of shredding the chicken, I dragged it out of the pot (and the sauce) to the broiler for a quick singe (hubs loves broiled chick). Served over jasmine rice with cojita cheese & some corn tortillas. Pureed the sauce. Divine.

    2. The ease of preparation and the flavor were exceptional. I found the sauce was more soupy than I thought it’d be. However, I used less chicken than the recipe called for so that’s likely the reason. Adding some potatoes would easily turn this into a hearty tomatillo & chicken stew. Loved the flavor. To get rid of the sticky film from the tomatillos, I submerged them in boiling water for 1 minute and then tossed them in an ice water bath. That took care of the sticky residue. I roasted 2 Anaheims and 1 jalapeño pepper and the spiciness was perfect. The 3 teaspoons of ground cumin was just right as well. I’d definitely make this tasty recipe again!

      1. Debbie, I agree: This recipe is a winner. The One and I make it all the time. It’s definitely not supposed to be soupy. Brothy, yes. I think you’re right about it being due to using less chicken than the recipe called for.

    3. Has anyone tried this in the Instant Pot? I think it would work well but rather than guesstimate, I am wondering if anyone has already done it and would be willing to share the steps?

      1. Katie, it seems like a natural fit for the Instant Pot, doesn’t it? We didn’t test it that way, but let’s see if anyone else has tried it. I’m also reaching out to one of our testers who loves her Instant Pot and asking if she’d share her advice on tweaking the recipe. Kindly stay tuned and I’ll let you know if I hear back…

          1. Of course! The person I mentioned just told me she’s going to try it later this week in her Instant Pot and she’ll share details afterwards. I’ll be back with you then!

            1. Well, I am going to just give it a shot tonight because my chicken is thawed and ready to go. I will post as to how it comes out.

            2. Here are my Instant Pot notes: I used 4 pounds of boneless, skinless thighs. I turned the IP to sauté and cooked the onions and poblanos for a few minutes. I then hit cancel and added everything else. I set the pot to Pressure Cook and set the timer for 15 minutes. When it finished, I let it natural release for 5 minutes, then did a quick release. I removed the chicken and it shredded beautifully. While I was shredding the chicken, I turned the pot back to sauté so the liquid would cook down a bit. I added the chicken back in with the lime juice, stirred it up and served it. I always think this dish tastes best after a day or two in the fridge, but in general, I don’t see any reason NOT to use the Instant Pot if you have one.

    4. Hi, Renee, your recipe sounds delicious! I make this quite often–I’m Mexican so I make the original LOL, which is quite spicy. I love that it’s all natural and fresh, and the chiles can be any kind or amount you want. And there are no spices that are harsh to some stomachs. i think your recipe is fabulous, although here is my recipe, just for fun: I boil tomatillos and Serrano chiles (I use about 10 to 15 tomatillos and 15 chiles). you don’t need to boil them, though, since they get braised later. Then I place all the drained tomatillos and chiles in the blender, add cilantro and a cube of chicken boullion and a quarter of an onion, and blend for 10 to 15 seconds, just until it’s a chunky salsa. I add it to browned chicken or pork butt chunks or tiny cut baby back ribs and then let it all simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. I serve it with rice and or beans. Well, I hope you try my take on this recipe. There should definitely be more people who try Mexican food—I mean real Mexican food with fresh ingredients like this tomatillo sauce.

      1. Susana, many thanks for this! I look forward to trying your recipe, and I couldn’t agree more regarding more people trying real Mexican food. We’re doing what we can to get the word out about the real recipes of Mexico.

    5. This is one of my first ventures into cooking Tex Mex cuisine, and I must say I was a little nervous that it might be too spicy for my palate. (And honestly I didn’t really know what the flavor of a tomatillo was.) I used Anaheim peppers, which added just the right amount of heat. The sauce was absolutely silken, and I’ve now fallen in love with tomatillos and can’t wait to make something else with them. This is now one of my go-to chicken dishes.

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