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What Is a Tomatillo⁠—and How Is It Different From a Tomato?

My Recipes logo My Recipes 10/1/2019 Corey Williams
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Tomatillo means, literally, “little tomato.” Its name is misleading, though—tomatillos are a completely different fruit. Here’s what you need to know about the Mexican staple, including how to use it:

What Is a Tomatillo?

Tomatillos, sometimes called husk tomatoes, are a staple in Mexican cuisine. The small, round, green fruit is a member of the nightshade family, and comes from a plant of the same name. They look almost like unripe, green tomatoes—except tomatillos are wrapped in a dry, papery, corn-like husk.

Tomatillos are eaten raw or cooked. They’re particularly notable for the major part they play in many salsa verde recipes.

At their best in fall, tomatillos taste tart, fruity, and slightly herbal.

Tomatillo vs. Tomato

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Tomatoes and tomatillos are both members of the nightshade family, they both are frequently misidentified as vegetables, and they grow best in warm climates. That’s where the similarities end.

Unripe, they look the same (save for the tomatillo’s husk). However, most tomatillos remain green throughout the ripening process. Tomatoes, meanwhile, eventually develop a rich red color.

Tomatoes come in a variety of rounded shapes and sizes—they’re frequently spherical, oblong, or kidney-shaped. They come in differently sized varieties like cherry and heirloom. Tomatillos are typically small to medium-sized and are almost always spherical.

Tomatillo Recipes

a bowl of food on a plate © Provided by Meredith Corporation

Ready to try your hand at cooking with tomatillos? Salsa verde is a great place to start. Check out more of our favorite tomatillo recipes below:


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