Fresh, zesty, and slightly smoky, this keto-friendly Charred Tomatillo-Pepper Salsa makes a flavorful condiment perfect for spicing up all kinds of foods, such as chilled seafood, grilled meats, and salads.
Summer’s almost over, but I had to squeeze in one more KISS recipe. After savoring the Grilled Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onion that I prepared from last week’s farmer’s market, I was itching to grill more vegetables. After eyeing the gorgeous selection of tomatillos, peppers, onions, and tomatoes at this week’s market, a fresh salsa came to mind. Of course, I could have made the usual raw salsa, but I thought it would be fun to use the grill to put a nice char on some of the veggies. I imagined the smoky carmelization would add a nice flavor dimension, and my hunch was correct. This Charred Tomatillo-Pepper Salsa is a keeper!
If you haven’t worked with tomatillos before, there’s no need to be concerned by their strange-looking papery outer skin — it peels right off! While tomatillos are a relative of the tomato, they taste nothing like them. Tomatillos have a delightfully tart flavor and green color that makes them popular in Mexican-style cooking, particularly in salsas. When selecting tomatillos, choose unblemished ones that completely fill the outside skin.
In addition to tomatillos, Anaheim peppers (mild green chiles), red onion, and beefsteak tomatoes, I found some unusual sweet red peppers in a long, somewhat contorted shape, along with small red peppers (perhaps Fresnos) that the farmer indicated were spicy. In the recipe below, I give you the equivalent quantity of sweet red bell pepper and jalapeno because they are most common and can be easier to find. The beauty of salsa is that you can tweak it to use what’s available in your area. In fact, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever make it exactly the same way again because salsa is the perfect dish for getting creative with what’s looks good at the market. My advice to you is to adjust the veggies, proportions and seasonings to suit your taste, and go for it!
To prep the salsa, I first removed the papery outer skins from the tomatillos and the skin from the onion, then rinsed and patted dry all of the produce. After slicing the onion in half vertically (through root end, to keep it from falling apart), I tossed the tomatillos, peppers, and onion halves with a little avocado oil, then seasoned well with salt and pepper before placing them on a preheated grill topper pan (see this post for more info on using grill toppers). I closed the lid and checked the veggies every 3 minutes or so for spotty charring, turning as needed to achieve that lovely carmelization.
After I removed the vegetables from the grill and set them aside to cool slightly, I zested and juiced the lime, diced the tomato, and chopped the herbs. Then I cored the tomatillos and placed them in a blender with a clove of garlic to puree. After dicing the onion, I removed the stems, seeds, and membranes from the peppers and diced them as well. While you could peel the peppers if you prefer, I was going for a rustic-style salsa and also wanted the extra smoky flavor from the charred skin.
For the hot pepper, I handled it carefully with disposable gloves and chopped it into very small pieces (minced). Tip: if you don’t wear gloves, avoid touching your face, and especially your eye area, as the residue from hot peppers can burn your skin. Do wash your hands thoroughly when finished. Also, if you don’t like spicy salsa, you can reduce the quantity of pepper by half or eliminate it entirely. I usually start with half, then taste, and add more if needed. The heat can vary from pepper to pepper, so I find it safer to start with less until I know what I’m dealing with!
To finish the salsa, it was as easy as combining all of the ingredients and adjusting the salt and pepper to taste before adding fresh herbs. I know cilantro-lovers wouldn’t think of leaving it out of their salsa, but really just about any type or combination of fresh herbs will add a nice dimension. I happened to have fresh chives and Italian parsley on hand, so I used those.
This Charred Tomatillo-Pepper Salsa was fantastic served with chilled fresh Oregon Pink Shrimp for a bit of a riff on the traditional shrimp cocktail. These shrimp are a variety of the tiny wild-caught, cold-water shrimp also known as “bay shrimp” and “salad shrimp.” They’re slightly sweeter and more delicate than regular shrimp, and come already cooked. It’s Pink Shrimp season here in the Pacific Northwest, so I can find them fresh at the moment. If that’s not the case where you live, bay/salad shrimp can usually be found in the freezer section at many grocery stores.
This salsa would also be a terrific addition to my Low Carb Fish Tacos, Barbacoa, or Beefy Taco Mexi-Cauli Rice Skillet. We enjoy using the salsa in various other ways. I make a quick Mexican-style slaw using fresh shredded cabbage combined with salsa, a dollop of healthy mayonnaise, and extra lime juice for the dressing — so refreshing and easy!
And who doesn’t love salsa for a simple snack or appetizer? Dale is blessed with a metabolism that affords him the ability to occcasionally indulge in tortilla chips, so he is happy to scoop up the salsa in classic fashion. As I avoid grains and other fast-acting carbs, I use chicharonnes (crispy pork rinds) instead. To add natural fat, I often mix salsa 1-to-1 with sour cream (full fat, of course!), and add diced avocado if I have it on hand. You’ll want to use any leftovers within 3 days for best results, although you can freeze it for up to 3 months if necessary.
I was quite pleased with the zesty, smoky flavor of this Charred Tomatillo-Pepper Salsa. While the specific assortment of veggies may vary in the future, the technique of grilling some of the vegetables is something I will undoubtedly repeat.
What are some of your favorites ways to use salsa? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!
- 8 ounces fresh tomatillos
- 8 ounces Anaheim peppers (about 2 large), or othe rmild green chiles
- 8 ounces sweet red bell pepper, about 1½ large
- 1 small fresh jalapeno chile (or other hot chile), more or less, to taste
- 4 ounces red onion (about 1 small)
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 ounces tomato (about 1 large)
- 1 medium lime, zest and juice
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, your choice, to taste (optional), i.e., cilantro, parsley, chives, oregano
- Preheat grill over high for about 10 minutes.
- While grill is heating, remove outer skins from tomatillos and peel red onion. Rinse and dry all vegetables, plus the lime and herbs; set aside.
- Cut onion in half vertically (root end intact) and place in large bowl with remaining vegetables (except tomato). Toss with avocado oil and season generously with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
- Place grill topper on heated grill for about 2 minutes. Using long-handled tongs, arrange vegetables evenly, and close lid. Check in about 3 minutes. As vegetables become spotty-charred to your liking, rotate them and repeat until all sides are charred. Transfer to bowl to let cool enough to handle, about 5-10 minutes.
- While veggies are cooling, zest and juice lime, dice tomato, and chop fresh herbs. Set aside.
- Core tomatillos and puree with garlic clove in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside
- Remove and discard the root of the onion and dice small. Remove stems, seeds and membranes from peppers. Mince the jalapeno/hot pepper (handle carefully or wear gloves), and dice the remaining peppers as small or chunky as you like.
- Transfer onion and peppers to a large serving bowl. Add the reserved tomatillo puree and tomato mixture. Stir to combine. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with additional herbs, if desired. Keeps refrigerated, well-covered, and is best used in 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.