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Chicken and Green Tomatillo Tamale Filling

Photo: Thomas J. Story

Total time 1 hr, 30 mins

Makes enough filling for about 3 dozen tamales (serving size: 1 tamale)

Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. The tang of green tomatillos goes exceptionally well with chicken. Use fewer jalapeños and/or seed them if you want a mild filling.


  • Chicken:
  • 1 1/2 white onions, quartered
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken breasts with skin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Tomatillo-Cilantro salsa:
  • 11 firm tomatillos, husked, stemmed, and rinsed in warm water to remove stickiness
  • 2 or 3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, halved lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • About 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • About 1/4 tsp. pepper

Nutrition Information

  • calories 174
  • caloriesfromfat 48 %
  • protein 9.8 g
  • fat 9.4 g
  • satfat 2.9 g
  • carbohydrate 13 g
  • fiber 1.4 g
  • sodium 293 mg
  • cholesterol 29 mg

How to Make It

  1. Poach chicken: Put onions, garlic, salt, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken and bay leaves and lower heat to a simmer. Cook chicken, partly covered, until no longer pink inside, 20 to 25 minutes (cut to check).

  2. Let chicken cool until cool enough to handle. Tear into bite-size shreds, discarding skin, and put meat in a bowl.

  3. Make salsa: Meanwhile, transfer 1 cup broth from pot to a container (leave onion and garlic in pot). Remove bay leaf. Add tomatillos and chiles to pot and cook, covered, over medium heat until tomatillos are soft and olive green, 10 to 12 minutes.

  4. Drain tomatillo mixture (save broth, along with the 1 cup broth from step 3, for making tamale dough if you like). Transfer tomatillo mixture to a blender. Add cilantro, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and whirl until smooth.

  5. Pour salsa into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and simmer to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  6. Make ahead: Up to 2 days, chilled.