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Taquería-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

June 19, 2014

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Add this to the list of recipes filed under: WHY did it take us so long to try making this?!

There are many reasons we frequent some of the taco shops in Santa Barbara. Hunger, convenience, Groupons, entertaining visitors from out of town… And, aside from all of the obvious ones, Paula gets to eat carne asada (which I don’t eat), and I get to eat rajas con queso (melty cheese over grilled onions and peppers) and pico de gallo (both of which she doesn’t eat, because: onions).

Ingredients for Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

But really the salsas rank right up there for THE reason to go out for Mexican food. If it weren’t for those tempting salad-bar-style salsa bars with their rainbow of assorted roasted, charred, blended, spicy, medium, mild, red, green, smoky, tangy, fresh-diced salsas, then we could just make ourselves the same Mexican dishes at home!

Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado SalsaPin it!

In fact, sometimes Paula gets a take-out burrito from a lunch place near her work just so she can snag a few extra little plastic containers of taco-shop salsa, which we then use to drench our homemade frozen tamales at dinner time.

Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado SalsaPin it!

We agree on two favorites — a liquidy red salsa that’s spicy, peppery, and so brightly colored it’s almost orange (perfect on tamales), and this one: a thicker, creamy, fruity, tomatillo-based avocado salsa verde with just a little hint of spice. (Perfect on tacos, with chips, and — when the chips have all disappeared — I like to eat it with a spoon.)

Roasted tomatillos and other ingredients for Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

Paula judges Mexican restaurants by their pre-meal chips-and-salsa offerings.

When she first moved up to Santa Barbara from the San Fernando valley, she avoided the Mexican restaurants here (for over a year, until she met me!), thinking that they wouldn’t be quite as good. And she was probably right.

Tomatillos and other ingredients for Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

Can you imagine that? A move 90 miles north from Southern California to the Central Coast, and you get a noticeable drop in taco quality. I don’t think Southern California natives fully appreciate how much MORE the taco quality can drop once you get, say, 2,000 miles away from either Mexico or California (e.g., Wisconsin).

Despite her doubts, we’ve gradually amassed a collection of favorite taquerías in town. Places where the salsas pass muster.

Roasted tomatillos and other ingredients for Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

And the best ones offer a salad bar array of salsas with mini plastic molcajetes or plastic cups. If you bring a group of friends along, then you can feel a little more justified and a little less greedy in scooping up at least a sample of each to bring back to your table to try.

Not too hardcore habañero-level spicy, this type of tomatillo-based creamy avocado salsa is usually a crowd favorite. And like I said, I CANNOT BELIEVE we had never tried making it before.

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For one thing, it’s really not all that different from Paula’s go-to roasted tomatillo salsa. It just has fewer tomatillos, serrano instead of jalapeño, and a ripe avocado for some extra creamy greenness.

Making Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

And compared to almost everything else on our long, dreamy list of “salsas to make,” it’s a very simple recipe. There’s no frying or soaking of dried chili peppers, no charring of tomatoes (just some hands-off oven roasting), and no meticulous grinding by hand — this recipe works beautifully in the blender.

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We whipped it up this weekend and I swooned over the first bite. And (after we got mad at ourselves for not trying it sooner) this recipe became an instant favorite.

One more salsa recipe down, many, many more to go.

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Print this recipe. (PDF)


Taquería-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

(Makes about 3 cups)

Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 35 minutes.

~ 10 tomatillos, de-husked and rinsed well (buy a few extras, since it’s hard to tell if some are bad)
~ 2 cloves garlic, peeled
~ 2 serrano peppers (keep seeds in for more spice; remove some/all of them for a milder salsa)
~ ¼ onion
~ ¼ bunch cilantro (leaves and stems)
~ 1 large, ripe avocado
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ juice of ½ lime

Special equipment needed:
~ blender or food processor

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the husks of the tomatillos and rinse under cold water, rubbing them gently with your fingers to remove the sticky coating.

2. Place the rinsed tomatillos face-down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Add the garlic, serranos (stems removed), and the onion to the baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tomatillos have changed color from a bright green to a pale yellow-ish green. (Check on the garlic and serranos before this and remove them from the oven if they’re getting too browned.)

Making Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado SalsaMaking Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

3. Let the roasted ingredients cool slightly, then add the garlic, serranos, and onion to the blender, along with two or three of the tomatillos. Pulse until all ingredients are well blended, then add the cilantro, half of the avocado, and the rest of the tomatillos, and blend well. Finally, blend in the second half of the avocado, along with the salt and fresh lime juice.

Blending in cilantro and roasted tomatillos                 Making Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado Salsa

4. Taste and increase amounts of salt and/or lime juice if desired. (You could even blend in an extra half/whole avocado for a thicker, creamier, milder salsa.) For a thinner salsa — which could also be used as a salad dressing — blend in up to a few spoonfuls of cold water at the end. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. Serve over tacos or with chips. Best within the first few days.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Taqueria-Style Creamy Avocado SalsaPin it!

Related recipe posts:

Chilaquiles Verdes and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup) Avocado Chicken Tacos Squash Blossom Quesadillas with Saffron Tomato Salsa
Chilaquiles Verdes and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup) Avocado Chicken Tacos Squash Blossom Quesadillas with Saffron Tomato Salsa
21 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2014 9:14 am

    I totally agree about the chips and salsa as an indicator of a meal. I also understand how there is a drop in taco quality…i’ve seen it in New Mexico. The further north you go, the worse it gets. We have no really decent mexican tacos around here, save for a few. Stunning photos. I love tomatillos. I just starred them in my own recipe. And avocados might be my hands down favorite food. I love cilantro too. What a wonderful taco recipe!

    • June 19, 2014 9:30 am

      Thanks, Amanda! I know… I never would have been able to be that discerning about the chips and salsa in Wisconsin (and I also just didn’t eat Mexican food that often there), but now I’ve started to get more picky (especially about the chips?! …most places around here at least have Paula-approved salsas). Life in central coast California is good… :)

      I also love tomatillos, avocado, and cilantro — the latter two are absolute STAPLES in our house, and there’s just no way to go wrong with those ingredients combined, in my opinion. (Although after I hit ‘publish’ on this, I thought, man if I ever live in Japan again with no access to cilantro or tomatillos and only overpriced avocados, then I’m really, really not going to want to look back at this post for the duration of my time there!)

  2. June 19, 2014 9:45 am

    Oh, Allison! What a drop dead, gorgeous post! As usual! Being born in California and living here in Sacramento until I kick, I have access to just about everything. I have given up gardening and use very little water to support the California farmers in my area because I grew up on a pear orchard along the Sacramento River (Sacramento River Delta). Thank you so much for your recipe and those wonderful step-by-step details. I love all those ingredients that you are using, but you’ve always got some wonderful twist to share. I am your forever fan.

    • June 19, 2014 9:51 am

      Thank you, Arlene! That is such a sweet comment. :) It will have me smiling for a while, I’m sure!

      I’m impressed that you’ve given up gardening to support the farmers in your area, that’s probably more than a lot of people in CA are willing to do, despite how horrible this drought is! Luckily for us in CA, we still have access to all of these great ingredients… let’s just hope the state is able to recover from the drought before too long (like if El Niño brings us rain this winter…).

  3. June 19, 2014 10:24 am

    looks great!

  4. sarahjmir permalink
    June 19, 2014 10:50 am

    I am really wishing that we got tomatillos here (Toronto) right about now so I could try this!

    • June 19, 2014 10:52 am

      Agh… yes I’m sorry about that! I knew this might be torture for people who can’t get tomatillos… (Toronto doesn’t have any little hidden Mexican food markets?)

      • sarahjmir permalink
        June 19, 2014 10:54 am

        I can think of one right now but it’s in downtown Toronto and I am in the ‘burbs. Next time I am there I am going to get some for sure

      • June 19, 2014 10:56 am

        Nice! I hope they have a good produce selection. (Maybe they’d take requests for what they’ll stock…) Hope you can find some!

  5. June 19, 2014 11:07 am

    They are looking so incredibly delicious! How I wish I hadn’t made our dinner already …

  6. June 19, 2014 11:45 am

    Hands down this is my favorite type of salsa, already pinned. I’m up in Oregon for the summer and as soon as we go inland I am picking up some avocadoes and making this. I can’t wait.

  7. June 19, 2014 2:49 pm

    I hear your comments about the drop in taco quality the further you move away from Mexico. Imagine what happens on an entirely different continent. I really didnt get the fuss about tacos until very recently when a couple of very high end taquerias opened. Gorgeous salsa. Now all I need to do is figure out where to source those elusive tomatillos.

  8. June 19, 2014 3:06 pm

    Uh, yes please! This looks fantastic – and I’ve been having such a yearning for Mexican food lately, too!! Cannot wait to make this :)

  9. Debbie Spivey permalink
    June 20, 2014 4:36 am

    Allison, I too agree about the chips and salsa indicator! My husband and I love Mexican food. Definitely want to try this, yum!

  10. June 20, 2014 5:49 am

    i am so jealous of the abundance of such beautiful avocados you have! i’m constantly looking through the piddly piles of sub-par avocados here on the east coast for JUST one good one. this really does look like something i could eat up with a spoon!

  11. June 21, 2014 10:35 am

    Absolutely beautiful! I am a total taco addict and this crema looks sublime – yum.

  12. June 22, 2014 4:14 pm

    I love this salsa and think you did a fantastic job! Where I live in Mexico we use habaneros in place of the serrano or jalapeños that other parts of Mexico use — regardless, the salsa is always delicious. Thanks for sharing Allison!

  13. June 23, 2014 12:23 pm

    I take salsa bars so seriously. I will try every single one and absolutely judge a taqueria based on that! Meat and tortillas are hard to mess up I think, but a great salsa makes me swoon. This looks especially fantastic–and I love the char on that tortilla! So hungry now.

  14. June 24, 2014 6:01 pm

    This looks so good – seems like it would be really tasty over a salad too!

  15. June 27, 2014 10:35 am

    Yes, sublime!

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