Mom teaches me to cook Pollo in Tomatillo Sauce with Spanish Rice!


Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  Thank you for all the wonderful dinners you have made over the years.  Thank you for starting to pass on the recipes on some of my favorite dishes growing up.


One of my favorite dishes that my mom cooks is pollo in tomatillo sauce, paired with Spanish rice. I LOVE the tart and juicy taste of tomatillos.  It is a popular ingredient that originated in Mexico and is also used in other latin countries.  You can boil, steam, or fry them.  Blended or ground in a molcajete, they can also make great salsas as well as sauces for entrees.  In this dish, one of the best parts is mixing some of the tomatillos juices up with the rice as you go through this dish.  The juice makes the rice taste creamy and brothy.



Tomatillos- About 20-25

Onion- a quarter sliced

Garlic- 2 cloves

Thyme- 5-6 sprigs

Jalapeno or Serrano pepper- 1

Bay Leaves- 3-4

One whole chicken



First we  gather a lot of tomatillos and break them free out of their husks…

Ripe green tomatillos




For the green tomatillos, which is the more commonly seen, a bright green color and firm texture indicates ripeness.








In a deep pot, cover the base with  a thin layer of vegetable oil over low-medium heat.

Add the white onion and the 2 cloves of garlic.  Gently saute.

Sauteing onions











If you buy a whole chicken, go ahead and cut your sections up.  For a safer and convenient way, feel free to buy your chicken already divided.  My mom is just used to do doing the work and likes saving by buying the chicken whole.  Make sure to pat down chicken with a paper towel to remove excess water if you rinsed the chicken.

Cutting up chicken


There is a whole debate wether it’s better to rinse your chicken or not.  Many argue that rinsing chicken makes it more probable that you will splash bacteria onto the counter and any little flying micro bugs will just jump ship and onto you.  No matter what you do, the most important thing is to cook the chicken thoroughly and wipe down your work area to help reduce the risk of illness.  Amen.

Let’s get back to business.







Start laying out the chicken pieces in the pot.  Raise heat to medium-high.  Use your judgement to determine if it needs to be turned down or higher.  It should sizzle, but not to the point where it starts to burn.  A little oil spitting as you place them in is normal.  This is why my mom lays down the foil paper to limit the amount of oil she has to clean up later.

Saute the Chicken Pieces











While the chicken cooks, go back to your washed tomatillos and start chopping all of them!

Chopped tomatillos











Going back to the pot of chicken, add a sliced up jalapeno or serrano chili.


Prepping the chicken for tomatillo sauce












Add the chopped tomatillos and bay leaves.  Lower heat.  Add salt.  Mix gently.

Chicken and tomatillos cooking











Add the sprigs of thyme.  My mom grows some of her own, so I ran out back and harvested 🙂

Thyme in the garden












Add the thyme and raise heat until it comes to a light bubble.  Notice the beautiful greenery that’s coming more vibrant as it start heat up.  Green is probably my favorite color on a dish, just looks earthy.

Cover and let simmer.

Chicken cooking in tomatillo






In a few minutes, add sugar and gently mix.


Also, as you start to get the juices coming out of the tomatillos, taste to see if you need to add more salt.

Continue to cook, gently mixing occasionally, being careful not to start shredding the chicken as it starts to soften.

For Spanish Rice:


White Rice

Onion – A couple outer layers of your quartered onion

Jalapeno – 1

Garlic- 2 cloves

Cilantro- a few strands

Plain smooth tomato sauce- one regular can

Chicken broth- 2 cubes

Vegetable Oil- About 2 tablespoons


First, in a deep sauce pan, cover the base with a then layer of oil over low-medium heat.

Place a few outer layers of the remaining onion, a jalapeno, and garlic into the pan.  Cook until translucent.

prepping for spanish rice











While that is cooking, start rinsing your white rice in a colander.

Rinsing Rice













Take out the jalapeno.  Pour rice into the pan.  Raise heat to medium.  Stir and cook uncovered until the rice is slightly toasted and has absorbed the oil.

Cooking rice












Add 2 cubes of chicken broth or the equivalent in liquid broth.

Pour the can of tomato sauce and stir.

Add 4 cups of water and bring to a simmer.

This is where we add a jalapeno and cilantro to start cooking with the rice, it will excrete a very subtle flavor into the rice.

Cover and let cook until rice is tender.



You should now have a soupy look to your pot.  You can keep simmering as long as your chicken isn’t falling apart.  If you are not going to eat this right away, you can just let this cool and store it in the refrigerator until ready to warm up.

Chicken cooking in tomatillo












Spoon the chicken onto a plate, and ladle the tomatillo sauce over the chicken.  In this picture, I dumped the jalapeno onto the plate just because I like some spice to smoosh into my rice.  I barely started pouring the sauce over my chicken, so the chicken might look bare, but up close you’ll see a light glaze from the juices.  It’s probably good that you don’t have too much tomatillo sauce sticking to the chicken as too much tomatillo can cause a lot of puckering.  Once you bite into the chicken, you will taste the tomatillos and herbs that have been absorbed.


Chicken in Tomatillo w/ Spanish Rice











The Spanish rice helps absorb the leftover tomatillo sauce and add some more flavor to the rice.  It reminds me when I used to eat spanish rice out of my chicken soup growing up.






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