All About Tomatillos — They're Not Green Tomatoes!

How to Buy, Store, and Use Tomatillos

Fresh Tomatillos In a Bowl
Tomatillos. Matthew O'Shea/Getty Images

Tomatillos may look like small green tomatoes covered with a papery husk, but they are a different fruit from a different plant. As much as tomatillos look like green tomatoes, they are not tomatoes, but a distant relative thereof.

Tomatillos are small, round fruits harvested in late summer and into fall. They would ripen to yellow, red, or purple if we let them, but unlike most fruits and vegetables, it's the green, unripe tomatillos that have the most flavor.

What Do Tomatillos Taste Like?

Tomatillos have a bright, lemon-like flavor perfect with spicy food or alongside grilled items. They can also add a nice hit of acid to stews and other heavy fare.

How to Choose Tomatillos

Tomatillos are usually sold in big piles. There can be a lot of variance within those piles. Look for tomatillos that are firm but not rock-hard with husks that are fresh looking and more or less intact.

The husk can be split open, but you don't want them to have been handled so much that the husks are ripped off or torn to pieces, and you don't want them to have been sitting around long enough for the papery husk to be browned or brittle from being dried out.

How to Store Tomatillos

Store tomatillos for a day or two at room temperature or for up to a week wrapped loosely in plastic in the fridge. However you store them, leave their papery husks on until you're ready to use them.

How to Clean Tomatillos

The papery husks on tomatillos are pretty, but they need to be removed before cooking. Simply lift them off and discard them, twisting them off at the stem end if they're resistant. Once their husks are removed, the tomatillos underneath may feel a bit sticky. That's okay and normal.

Just rinse them clean under cool running water and pat them dry. Again, don't remove their papery husks until you're ready to use them. 

How to Cook with Tomatillos

Tomatillos are often used chopped and cooked into sauces to play a background note. They have a fabulous lemony flavor can carry a dish, though, such as this Grilled Tomatillo Salsa or this Green Chile Tomatillo Soup.

I'm also a fan of these Fried Tomatillos, a delicious riff on fried green tomatoes. Serve them on their own with salsa or sour cream, or use them to top late summer composed salads for a warm, crunchy element.

On a hot day, tomatillos form the backbone of this refreshing Chilled Green Gazpacho.