Charred Lime and Nopal Salsa Verde

Salsa is one of my all-time favorite foods. Even though it literally means “sauce”… I typically eat enough of it that it’s one of my main food groups. And as many different kinds of salsa there are – essentially a never ending list – salsa verde always is right at the top. The grassy, fresh, spicy and herbaceous combination is always welcome at the dinner table, or just as a simple snack along a disproportionate amount of chips.

For the longest time, I thought that tomatillos were just green tomatoes. Being a little white boy growing up in Oregon, let’s just say that I didn’t really have too much of a sophisticated palate. Aside from eating tomatillos, I would never have even thought of eating any part of a cactus. But TBH I absolutely love them! They taste kind of like asparagus that’s been soaking in lime juice – a grassy, citrusy taste with a toothy texture.

I made this very lime-forward salsa to go with some carnitas that Andy’s dad requested I make for when they came over… but it would honestly be good with anything. Tacos, burritos, on top of nachos, mixed with cream cheese and used for chicken enchiladas…. literally anything!

Charred Lime and Nopal Salsa Verde

  • 6 medium tomatillos, cut in half
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, quartered with root intact
  • 1 lime, quartered end-to-end
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • Fleur de sel, to taste
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • 8 dried chili de árbol
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1/4 c. nopales, diced*

Preheat oven to 400°

  1. Take prepared tomatillos, onion, and lime and place onto a lightly oiled sheet pan; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Make sure one of the cut sides of the limes is down, while cut sides of tomatillos are up.
  2. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, flip tomatillos and limes to have the cut sides down, and roast 10-15 minutes more.
  3. While veggies are in the oven, heat water, vinegar, chilis and jalapeño in a saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and cover to trap steam.
  4. Cut the root off of the onion quarters and place into a food processor with the tomatillos, jalapeño, 4 chilis (or however many you want for the spice level), 2 Tbsp of the vinegar mixture, cilantro, nopales, and three of the charred limes, squeezed. Purée until desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve or store in the fridge for up to a week. Use the extra lime to squeeze on top if you want an even more intense lime zing!

Notes and Variations

*Nopales are the paddles of the prickly pear cactus. They are available at pretty much any Latin market, and will usually be in either the whole paddle, or de-thorned and already diced for you. As much as I love an authentic experience… sometimes it’s nice to have something ready to go without the work.

The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is! Roast it. Blend it. Eat it. And it’s so adaptable! Less (or more) spicy, more (or less) cilantro… add garlic… leave it a little chunky… It’s so easy to make this exactly how you want.


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