My first try at cooking with tomatillos was on a whim when experimenting with a salsa verde type of chili recipe. I really didn’t even know what a tomatillo was or what it tasted like. I only knew they were a key ingredient in green salsa. That chili recipe is still under construction, because I got completely distracted by my idea for a chicken tomatillo soup. It’s similar to what a lot of people call chicken tortilla soup, but I really wanted to highlight the tomatillos as a key ingredient.
What even is a tomatillo?
If you are like me, you might be wondering what exactly is this weird-looking vegetable. Tomatillos originated in Mexico – like a lot of the best foods – and are in the same plant family as tomatoes. The tomatillos you find in the grocery store are almost always green, which is perfect and when they are their most tart. However, if you are lucky enough to have space for a garden to grow your own, they will continue to ripen past the sour and green phase to a yellowish color with a sweeter flavor. That may or may not be desirable depending on how well you like sour flavors. To clean a tomatillo, remove the papery husk, rinse well, cut off the stem, and you are ready to cook!
What I like so much about tomatillos is their sour flavor. I love sour food. If it’s spicy and sour at the same time, even better! This chicken tomatillo soup is that ideal mixture of sour and spicy. When I made it for this post I was even talking to Ben about how it almost reminded me of a fusion between Tom Yum soup and chicken tortilla soup. Tom Yum is like the gold standard for sour and spicy soups, so the more often I can eat food that tastes like it the better!
I know some people are not fans of chicken thighs, but I would recommend trying them at least once. I feel like dark meat generally works better in soup. It brings more flavor and is less likely to get kind of tough or dry. Chicken thighs are also a lot cheaper than breast meat! I always buy boneless and skinless chicken thighs, and I don’t trim the fat. I’ve found that baking the thighs on a sheet pan at a relatively high heat really renders off most of the fat. Any excessive fatty bits that remain can be discarded when chopping up the cooked meat, so you don’t have to deal with raw chicken too much during meal prep.
The chicken tomatillo soup is pretty quick to make and is filling on its own. However, if you are looking for a larger dinner, serving it with cornbread or chips and guacamole would be nice. You will definitely want to have your favorite hot sauce handy to spice it up even more, if you like spicy. Adding some cheese as a garnish is okay, although I find cheese in soup to be really annoying. I also like to garnish it with a little cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.