Ever since we witnessed a tomatillo salsa being made at home, we were hooked for life. Our photographer friend Penny De Los Santos took us to meet a friend of hers in East Los Angeles who is known as “The Barbacoa Lady.” This lovely woman specializes in making lamb barbacoa, and though we didn’t have any that morning, she made us an incredible lunch of chicharrones tacos and tomatillo salsa. The fresh tomatillos were roasted to a fragrant char in a dry pan, then crushed in her molcajete. Everything was made by hand and tasted incredible. So, this recipe is inspired by The Barbacoa Lady, who showed us how a simple technique, some ingenuity, and lots of love can make a simple side dish amazing.

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  • 1 pound (455g) medium tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano chile
  • 1 Anaheim or poblano chile
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup (30g) minced fresh cilantro
  • Chips, for serving



  1. Wash the tomatillos well to remove any stickiness. Dry well.
  2. Pan roast the tomatillos: In a large, dry pan, add the tomatillos and turn the heat to medium. The skins of the tomatillos will start to brown, then char. Cook, turning the tomatillos frequently, until the tops and bottoms are brown. Remove the tomatillos from the pan and allow to cool.
  3. In the same heated pan, add the onion, garlic, and chilies and dry roast them in the pan. Gently stir the ingredients until they are brown and roasted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Remove the stems from the chilies and add them to a blender with the tomatillos, onion–garlic mixture, salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Blend until well combined.
  5. Add additional salt or chile to taste. Or add a little water, if needed, to thin out the salsa.
  6. Serve with chips.