Raw & Naturally Fermented: Salsa Verde

Salsa verde, bright and hot and green, makes its way to our kitchen every August when tomatillos come into their season.  No, they don’t grow in our little corner of the community garden – the altitude is too high and the climate too cold, but they arrive in paper bags with our CSA and in baskets at the farmers market my husband and I manage.  While lovely roasted, tomatillos are better served fresh and raw where their vibrant acidity contributes a beautiful punch of flavor to a truly good salsa verde recipe.

A good salsa verde recipe should be light and green, both in flavor and appearance, and it’s salsa verde’s very lightness that lends itself so well to summer foods: grilled meats and fish as well as classic Mexican and South American dishes like anticuchos de corazon (that, dearest real food lovers, is coming).  So when I’m looking for something bright, fresh and delightfully raw to lighten up the otherwise rich, buttery and slow-cooked dishes I tend to prepare.

Making a Good Salsa Verde Recipe Better: Fermentation

My favorite salsa verde recipe, like most of my favorite recipes, undergoes that traditional and slow practice of fermentation, one that imbues the fresh puree of tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos and serranos with deeper nutrition: beneficial bacteria which then, in their own turn, create an abundance of B vitamins and increase the vitamin C content naturally present in the salsa verde.

Fresh whey drawn off after making labneh (yogurt cheese) acts as an excellent inoculant for all fermented foods, but can be particularly helpful for sauces such as salse verde which have a greater chance of going awry than other ferments.  While whey works fine in this salsa verde recipe and in other fermented foods, I prefer to use a vegetable starter culture, which you can purchase online, as such starter cultures convey the added benefit of culturing specific beneficial bacteria which offer therapeutic effects on digestive health.  While ostensibly more expensive than fresh whey, the therapeutic effects of culturing particular beneficial bacteria, much like the therapeutic effects of a daily dose of fermented cod liver oil (see sources), makes it a worthwhile expense.

salsa verde recipe

By Jenny Published: July 27, 2012

  • Yield: about 1 pint
  • Prep: 5 minutes mins
  • Cook: 3 to 5 days (fermentation) mins
  • Ready In: 8 mins

My favorite salsa verde recipe, like most of my favorite recipes, undergoes that traditional and slow practice of fermentation, one that imbues the fresh puree of tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos and serranos with deeper nutrition: beneficial bacteria which then, in their own turn, create an abundance of B vitamins and increase the vitamin C content naturally present in the salsa verde.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tomatillos (husked and halved)
  • 8 to 12 jalapeno or serrano peppers (seeded if desired and chopped)
  • 1 medium head of garlic (cloves, peeled and crushed)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp unrefined coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 packet vegetable starter culture (dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water or 1/4 cup fresh whey)

Instructions

  1. Toss tomatillos, peppers, garlic, lime juice, salt and starter culture or fresh whey into a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adjusting for seasoning as necessary.
  2. Transfer the sauce to a mason jar or a vegetable fermenter (see sources and allow to ferment at room temperature for three to five days before transferring to cold storage. Serve the salsa verde over grilled chicken or fish or as a garnish for tacos and burritos.

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What people are saying

  1. says

    Wow, that’s a spicy salsa! I just did a batch that is fermenting now, and it was 2 lbs tomatillos to 4 jalapeños.

    Why is salsa verde more likely to “go awry?”. I’ve had a few mold on me, but I also wasn’t measuring my salt correctly. A few times.

  2. christine says

    For the fermentation time, does one put a lid on the jar or just cover it with a cloth (like with kombucha)?

  3. Rachel says

    I was excited to find this recipe (& site) because I’d been looking for a recipe like this. I added the 1/2 pack of culture starter but I made some changes to the recipe to suit my tastes. I decreased the jalapenos (8 way to spicy for me) & garlic to two each & added 1/ 2 cup of chopped cilantro.

  4. Shelly Smith says

    I was wondering if I can “sub” green tomatoes for the tomatillos in this recipe?! I have lots of green tomatoes to use up! Thanks :)

  5. genesis says

    Question, I just got a beautiful German made ceramic fermentation pot. It comes with a few traditional kraut recipes, yet they all take well over a month for fermentation to be complete. I just searched for a salsa recipe and came upon this excellent one here. My question is: Am I seeing correctly, does it really only take 3-5 days in a Harsch ferment pot with the starter to have salsa that is ready to consume? Or, do you have to jar it and let it ferment longer in the jars? Thanks!

  6. Ken Orabone says

    I’ve just started the fermentation journey beginning with Sandor Katz and The Art of Fermentation. I used this recipe, but halved the jalepenos. I also didn’t bother with any starter culture as I figured the ingredients should contribute enough bacteria to let things work out on their own. I did have to ferment longer than the 3-5 days, possibly due to the lack of starter and the cool area of the house that has become our fermentation spot. I probably went in the range of 7-9 days.

    You can see them in the foreground here, with my sauerkraut and kimchee in the back.
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/116992201578501269585/posts/4SV5AbYHLdz

    No issues with mold (none with any of my ferments yet) and it was one of the best things I have made. Absolutely fantastic flavors!

  7. Penelope Gonzales says

    I love salsa verde. I have made some from a different recipe. I’m intimidated by this one because I don’t think I understand the whey thing. I visualize yogurt “juice” but I never seem to get enough from the yogurt that I buy to do any fermenting. Is the whey powder that you can get at the Coop Food store ok to add for the recipe to work? I get the concept, but the practicalities are stopping me from jumping in to the fermentation game.

    • Liam says

      Whey powder will not work it is a powdered protein produced from whey.

      Are you straining the yogurt in the fridge overnight? That really should produce enough whey to use as a starter, if not check the ingredients, there maybe added ingredients to prevent the yogurt from separating.

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