Appetizer/ Entertaining

Charred Tomatillo and Red Onion Guacamole

March 29, 2019 (Last Updated: April 25, 2019) by Chef Molly
charred tomatillo guacamole with bagel chips

Everyone should have a go-to guacamole recipe, and this Charred Tomatillo and Red Onion Guacamole is mine. The tomatillos bring enough acidity to the dish that you don’t need to add lime juice, and broiling them softens their bite and adds some welcome bitterness with the charred edges.

The recipe is adapted from an almost-perfect recipe in Gourmet magazine from August 2000. Now that Gourmet has gone the way of many other dearly-departed print publications, I’m happy to pay homage to its brilliance by continuing to introduce recipes like this one to friends and family.

I have made a few tweaks to the recipe (more tomatillo, more avocado, fewer chiles), but this is one of those that you will develop your own personal ingredient ratios for the more you make it.

Ingredient Tips:

  • The original recipe calls for serrano chiles, which I have replaced with jalapeño peppers. You can certainly use either, but I find the jalapeños to be more easily available in almost any grocery store. And, their heat is more mild than serranos. But by all means, use serranos if you can find them, and you love to bring the heat.
  • Tomatillos, sometimes called husk tomatoes, are fruits grown mostly in Mexico. They look like small green tomatoes, but with a papery greenish-brown husk on the outside. Their flavor is tart and acidic, though it mellows slightly as tomatillos are cooked. To prepare them, you remove the stem and papery husk, then rinse off the sticky residue left on the fruit. They are delicious in salsas as well, and can be eaten raw.

Recipe Tips:

  • When you broil the tomatillos, don’t hold back. The blackened skin lends a great flavor and look to the guacamole, and you will still have plenty of beautiful light green flesh when you chop them up.
broiled tomatillos
  • Guacamole is not a great make-ahead appetizer because avocado flesh browns quickly. That said, I hate making things right before a party starts. That’s stress that no one needs. So, I prep the ingredients in advance and add the avocados at the last minute. Broil the tomatillos, and chop the red onion, chiles, and cilantro in the morning. Put them in a medium bowl in the fridge until just before the party starts. Then all you need to do is peel and pit the avocados, scoop the flesh into the bowl, mash, and add salt and pepper. Brilliant. Oh, and if you do need to prep the guacamole entirely in advance, lay plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole. That will prevent browning for a few hours.
  • Note: Don’t blame me if the guacamole is devoured minutes after you bring it to the table. I’ve upped the tomatillos and avocados in the original recipe in part because I was sick of turning around to dip a chip and finding an empty bowl.

If you’re looking for another crowd-pleasing appetizer, check out my Cilantro-Lime Crab Salad with Paprika Toasts. You won’t be disappointed.

Charred Tomatillo and Red Onion Guacamole

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By Molly Madigan Pisula Serves: Makes about 3.5 cups
Prep Time: 15 min Cooking Time: 10 min

A crowd-pleasing guacamole recipe that combines broiled tomatillos and chopped red onion with avocados and cilantro, with a little jalapeño pepper for heat.


  • 8 oz. tomatillos (about 6-8 medium-sized)
  • 1/2 red onion, about 4 oz.
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers
  • 3 avocados
  • 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper



Preheat broiler with the oven rack 4-5 inches from the heat source.


Husk tomatillos and rinse off the sticky residue underneath, then dry and put on flame-proof baking sheet lined with foil.


Broil for about 5-7 minutes on the first side, until skins are blistered and blackened. Then, flip tomatillos over with tongs, and broil for another 3-5 minutes on other side. You want them nice and charred. Set aside to cool.


Meanwhile, chop the red onion and seed and mince the jalapeño pepper(s). (Leave in the seeds if you like it hotter.) Start with 1 jalapeño, and add the other at the end if it needs more spice.


Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.


Chop the cooled tomatillos, and add to avocado.


Add the cilantro, red onion, and jalapeño pepper and stir with a fork to combine, mashing the avocado into small chunks.


Add salt and pepper, then taste, and add more if needed. Add more minced jalapeño pepper if desired.


Feel free to add more jalapeño peppers if you like a spicier guacamole, or replace with serrano peppers, which tend to have more heat. If you want to make in advance, you can broil the tomatillos and chop the onions, cilantro, and peppers—wait and add the avocados right before you're ready to serve.

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