When it comes to salsa, homemade is always better. But not everyone has fresh Mexican ingredients available to them, so a store-bought jar might be their only option. Or perhaps, some people just don’t have the time that a delicious homemade salsa requires. This article is for all of you that have emailed me asking advice on salsa verde without tomatillos and for the busy cook that wants to get as close as possible to a homemade green salsa.
Depending on where you live you may or may not have access to fresh tomatillos, which are the base of salsa verde. If you’re super lucky you’ll find them canned, and as exciting as that may be, sadly and honestly, they are just not the same as fresh ones still in their protective husk. Believe me I know your pain and frustration of not having fresh tomatillos available — I even know how sadly frustrating it is to not even be able to find one dusty can of tomatillos. All of those years that I live in Europe were difficult ones when it came to the lack of Mexican ingredients. I did my fair share of experimenting to help us cope with our cravings for Mexican food, but now that I live in Mexico I am appreciating all these wonderful ingredients that I missed so much.
Before you ask about using green tomatoes (as in unripe ones) instead, it just won’t be the same because these two fruits are different from each other. Tomatillos have a unique taste and that is what gives salsa verde it’s flavour. By all means feel free to experiment if that is the only option available to you, just know that the salsa will taste differently than ones from a restaurant or traditional Mexican recipes.
Though some places around the world don’t sell fresh or canned tomatillos, now we are beginning to see jars of ready made green salsa. This is a huge help! Even if your local grocery store doesn’t carry salsa verde you can find it online in stores like Amazon and Mexgrocer. These jars are what we will be using today. When you open a jar (or even a can) of many of these store-bought salsa verde, they will often be bland and have a strong tomatillo taste. You may be disappointed as it will be a watered down taste, but don’t worry we’re going to work our magic.
(Please notice that the type of jarred green salsa I am referring to is a basic one, not the special or gourmet brands — those fancy ones will probably taste better than the more generic or basic looking ones.)
Table of Contents
How to Make a Bland Store-Bought Jar of Green Salsa Taste Better
- one 16 oz or 463 gram jar of store-bought salsa verde*
- a quarter of a small white onion
- two or more fresh Serrano chilies stem removed (use more or less chilies to taste)
- 3 garlic cloves peeled (adjust to taste, if desired)
- a large handful of fresh cilantro I leave a bit of the stems
- fine sea salt to taste
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and if needed adjust any of the ingredients. You can either serve this salsa as is, but I like to cook it a bit. To do so, heat a little bit of oil in a pot and once it’s hot add the salsa — be careful because it will sputter. Cook for about 8 minutes, the salsa will change colour from a vibrant green to a slightly brownish-green colour. Allow to cool before using or use warm in desired dishes.
- Heat a griddle, flat grill, or a large pan; Once warm place the onion, chilies, and garlic on it. Allow the vegetables to evenly char -- keeping a close eye as to not burn the garlic. Then place them into a blender with the store-bought salsa, cilantro, and salt, and blend until smooth. Serve straightaway or cook on the stovetop as in Method #1.
There you have it, I hope this simple tip helps you enjoy better tasting salsa. Provecho or enjoy!
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…