Tomatillo Ketchup

Tomatillo Ketchup
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tomatillo ketchup
Making ketchup isn’t hard. And, it’s the best use for tomatillos that we’ve found.

We have a hard time liking tomatillos. They have that slightly sour taste, and, while we don’t mind the salsas we’ve made in the past, they just don’t stand out as something we truly enjoy. This past week as we headed down to pick up our food share, we thought of making ketchup from tomatillos. Why not? Making ketchup is pretty easy; we’ve made it from both canned tomatoes and green tomatoes in the past. Why not tomatillos?

Why not, indeed! We saved making this for a day when we’d have a batch of oven fries for dinner, quickly whipping it up in the morning so it could chill completely in the refrigerator during the day. That way, we could enjoy it as a nice dipping sauce in the evening.

Oh, if you haven’t made your own ketchup, give yourself a real treat and try it. It’s far and away better than that stuff in the bottle (we just can’t eat the commercial stuff, as it is so dreadful). For regular readers: this is the experiment we referred to in last Wednesday’s post.

Tomatillo Ketchup

Yield: about 1 cup

Tomatillo Ketchup


  • 4-5 tomatillos
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 4-5 tsp brown sugar
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch red pepper flake
  • 1-2 tsp molasses
  • 2-3 Tbs white vinegar, divided8 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Abbreviated Instructions

Core and chop tomatillos into pieces, placing them in a small saucepan. Add onions, bay leaf, brown sugar, nutmeg, red pepper flake, a teaspoon of molasses, and a tablespoon of vinegar and place over medium heat.

Place cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, celery seeds, mustard seeds, and garlic in an infuser or tie in a small clean cloth (sachet). Add to tomatillos and bring to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos are breaking down and liquid is reduced by about half, 40 minutes.

Remove sachet of spices and bay leaf and transfer mixture to a blender. Blend smooth and add molasses, vinegar, and kosher salt to taste.

Ingredient discussion:

Tomatillos look somewhat like green tomatoes when removed from their papery husks, and they’re quite popular in Mexican cooking. If you can’t find tomatillos in your grocery store, head to an ethnic market. Or your local farmers’ market, as the plants seem to be great producers. It’s a long list of spices, so you might not have everything on the list; just substitute where you can (such as a bit of ground pepper for peppercorns), and omit what you don’t have. It’ll be fine. You could use white wine vinegar if you wish, but it won’t really matter.

Procedure in detail:

Chop tomatillos. Peel the husks off the tomatillos, and wash to remove the stickiness that occurs on the surface. You might not get it all off, but a good washing will help. For prepping them, we quarter the tomatillos through the stem end, cut out the core from each piece and cut each piece in half. It’ll seem as the pieces are too big, but they break down readily while cooking. Place all the pieces in a saucepan along with the onions, bay leaf, brown sugar, nutmeg, red pepper flake, a teaspoon of molasses, and a tablespoon of vinegar. The last two ingredients add a bit of liquid to start cooking down the tomatillos. Place over medium heat.

spice sachet
We use a tea infuser to hold our spices, but you can also use a piece of clean muslin.

Make sachet. Meanwhile, fill an infuser with the remaining spices. If you don’t have a small infuser, tie the spices up in a small piece of clean muslin. Or, perhaps, you could try wrapping them in a coffee filter and tying it closed. Regardless of what you use, insert it into the pan so the spices will be able to infuse the liquid as the ketchup simmers.

making tomatillo ketchup
Tomatillos release a lot of liquid as they cook down, but it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of liquid in the pan to get them started.
making ketchup
Forty minutes later, you’ll be able to blend the mixture to make ketchup.

Simmer. Let the tomatillos come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is gone and the volume is reduced by about half. All told, it’ll take about 40 minutes or so.

making ketchup
As you blend, taste and add salt, vinegar, and molasses as needed.

Blend. Remove the sachet and bay leaf and pour the mixture into a blender. Process until the ketchup is very smooth. Depending on the blender, it might take several minutes. Taste and add kosher salt, more molasses, and more vinegar, as needed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until needed.

Very, very good. Nice and smooth with a tangy taste and a spicy bite. Store-bought ketchup will pale by comparison, and making ketchup is far easier than one might think. Once you see how easy it is and taste the results, you’ll want to try it again and again. Easy five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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