chicken in tomatillo salsa


Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce

Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce

Pollo con Tomate Verde, Chipotle y Piloncillo

Recipe Yield

4 to 6 servings

Cooking time

1 hour

Rate this recipe

4.63 from 8 votes


  • 3 chicken leg quarters or 3 drumsticks and 3 thighs, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
  • 2 cups white onion sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 lbs tomatillos husks removed and rinsed, quartered
  • 4 tbsp piloncillo shredded, or substitute for brown sugar
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce plus more sauce if desired
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water

To Prepare

  • Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  • In a thick and tall heavy skillet or casserole dish, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken pieces. Brown on one side, for about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and brown on the other side, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t try to flip too soon or the skin will stick to the skillet. Remove the chicken pieces and place in a bowl. You may remove the skin if you wish, I don’t.
  • Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring for about 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, for about 20 seconds. Make room in the pan and add the tomatillos. Let it cook all together, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the piloncillo, the chipotles and their sauce and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer incorporate the chicken pieces along with the chicken broth and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be chunky and thick, and the chicken fully cooked.


71comments inChicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce

  1. Brendan

    Jan 16

    Just goes to show…. Good ingredients equals a delicious dish! The flavors blended so well together. Yet another Pati Jinich dish that delights the tastebuds, tummy and brings a smile to my face.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jan 16

      Aw, this is so sweet of you, thanks!

  2. Peter

    Sep 26

    Hello from Australia, Pati

    We don’t get a lot of good Mexican ingredients over here, but my supermarket just got canned tomatillos for the first time. I bought them to try out, but had no idea what to do with them.

    I poked around the internet until I found this recipe, and I”m glad I picked it. It is delicious and I am so happy to have something new in my culinary vocabulary.

    Thank you.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 11

      Yay Peter, so happy you were lucky to find tomatillos, one of my favorite ingredients ever. Greetings to Australia!

  3. Anonymous

    Jul 09

    Looks delicious I am going to try

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 28

      Hope you’ll enjoy it!

  4. Catherine Dogear

    May 16

    I halved this recipe to see if I would like it–now I wish I had tripled it. Back to the store for more tomatillos! But I have to ask: How to handle piloncillo? I tried every side of my box grater but achieved nothing but scratching a white patina on the surface. Finally went at it with a hammer, sending glass-like shards all over the kitchen, some of which will never be seen again. I can’t think of anything else short of putting it in a zip lock bag and driving the car over it, but I worry for my car! Finally opened a bag of brown sugar. I like the idea of piloncillo so I’ve tried it in the form of a cone and a block. Both forms seem to be indestructible.

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 19

      Catherine, hahaha, you made me laugh really hard!!! You know what, they sell piloncillo (also called panela) already granulated 😉

    2. Patty M.

      Sep 25

      Catherine, I was laughing so hard my husband said “What In THE WORLD??”!! Indestructible!! Still rolling around laughing!! Made my day and I thank you for that!

  5. Christine Mayer

    Mar 12

    I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!! It was so good. There wasnt a lot of talking but a lot of Mmmmmming. This is a treasure recipe for sure. Thank you!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 15

      So very happy to hear you guys enjoyed this recipe Christine, yay!

  6. Lilli and Lee

    Mar 05

    Wow. We just licked the out bowls. Did not expect such complexity. Totally delish. Thanks.

    L&L, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, soon to be Mazatlan, Sinaloa

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 06

      Thanks so much Lilli and Lee, enjoy Mazatlan!

  7. Amy McCullagh

    Jan 30

    This was scrumptious and satisfying. Love it– your recipes never disappoint!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Feb 07

      Thanks so much Amy, love that you enjoyed this recipe 😉

  8. Fellow Marylander mark

    Dec 11

    I just made this for my 91 year old mom who is home bound and has been I’ll. She ate it like a 16 year year old boy after soccer practice. Thank you for nourishing her soul as well as her body. Highest regards

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 27

      Aw, love that she liked it! Abrazos grandes to her 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    Sep 18

    Pati. Love this recipe. My wife requests this all the time. Such a great meal. I enjoy cooking it for other couples for our dinner parties. Fan favorite! Appreciate you.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 18

      Thanks so much! Hugs to you and your wife 😉

  10. Cees & Natalja

    Jul 03

    I wish I could picture to these comments. My partner and I cooked this recipe on a campfire out in one of the Canadian national parks. We love the balance in flavour between the sweet pilloncillo, the tart tomatillos, the slightly spicy chipotle and adobe sauce, and, being Dutch, we cooked some potatoes with it. All with that smoky campfire goodness. Delicious and super easy. We love it. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 04

      Oh wow!!! I can only imagine cooking this recipe in a campfire, thanks, sounds like a lot of fun!

  11. Mauricio A. W.

    Apr 25

    Hola Pati!
    Thank you for this recipe. It was a welcome change in flavors for dinner! The chicken was moist and had a tangy taste. Leftovers were even better than day of. Saved the sauce in freezer for next time. It was so different than anything I had made this entire pandemic. We absolutely loved it! Thank you for this and all recipes that I can’t wait to try. Also thank you for vegetarian options as well.
    Love your show. It’s very educational and love how you go to places where dishes are from.
    Best of luck always!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 25

      Thanks so much Mauricio for the kind words! So glad you enjoyed this recipe so much! Stay tuned because a new season from Jalisco, Mexico will premiere early this fall, yay!!

  12. Joanne Gonzalez

    Oct 23

    Hi Pati, Thank you for your kind words. I don’t have a recipe for the wonderful stuffing my late husband made. I was always baking pies when he made it. I remember he browned onions in butter, and added torn up corn tortillas, chopped jalapeños, crushed Fritos, and beer. I make it and it’s good, but never as good as his. He would have loved your show, affectionately, Joanne Gonzalez

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 27

      Gracias Joanne 🙂

  13. Dee

    Sep 02

    You inspired me. Kinda made this recipe tonight since I didn’t have all the spices recommended. Made due with what I had. Two ingredients I had were tomatillos & boneless chicken thighs. Didn’t take as long to cook with boneless. Waited to long before realizing I had no sides for it. So, chopped up green cabbage & tossed on top & steamed it in the same pot & stirred it all together. Really Good!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 06

      Yummy Dee, you guys always have great ideas!

  14. Jesus Mendoza

    May 25

    Hola Pati!

    Recently my wife and I bought your two books. I was coming into town and asked my wife to choose one recipe and we would do that dish for the weekend. She chose this one. It was so delicious. We had arroz rojo and frijoles fritos as our sides. My wife made your chocoflan for dessert. It was so deeelicious! Our goal is to try and make every dish in your two books. And waiting for number three. Saludos!

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 28

      Thanks Jesus! So glad to read you already enjoyed this recipe and the chocoflan and that you are planing to try every recipe, wow!!!! You better hurry because book number 3 is scheduled to be released this Fall 😉

  15. Venita

    May 17

    I came across your recipe several ago on an episode of “Pati’s Mexican Table” and it has become a fan favorite among my friends and family. One of my close friends joked about changing her sexual orientation and marrying me after eating the dish for the first time 🙂

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 20

      🙂 🙂 🙂 She must have really liked it Venita, yay!

  16. Anonymous

    May 15

    Hi Pati! I love your recipies so much! I have done this one before and it is easy and delicious… But im making ot again for my daughters and I do not have a clue for side dishes? Help

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 16

      Hi there! Some white rice like this one would be a great side for his chicken. Also, refried beans Enjoy!

  17. Nana

    Dec 05

    Sounds good, I wonder if I’ll taste like our no name recipe.

    1 jar salsa
    Brown sugar
    Chicken tenders
    Casserole dish

    In a bowl dump whole jar of salsa
    Add brown sugar and mustard to your liking ( taste it and add more if need be)
    I love the hottest salsa the brown sugar helps with the strong bit, squeeze mustard 2 times around the bowl.

    Cut chicken into cubes
    Add to casserole dish pour salsa mixture over chicken bake 350 for 40-1 hour.

    Cook rice

    Bowl add rice, scoop chicken and pour sauce over it all. Enjoy YUM

    The smell is so wonderful why cooking.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 05

      Give a taste test, Nana, and let me know what you think!

  18. jane

    Jan 13

    what is piloncillo?

    1. Pati

      Jan 14

      Oh it’s the rawest form of sugar cane…here’s some more information, Jane:

  19. Marils

    Jan 10

    Is this to be served as is, or with a starch, such as rice, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

    1. Pati

      Jan 10

      All of those would work…or mix it up and do pasta and rice: Or any of your favorite side dishes like salad or green beans.

  20. Shoshanna

    Dec 24

    Think I can make this with boneless, skinless chicken breast? Thanks!

    1. Pati

      Dec 27

      Go for it, Shoshanna!

  21. Jasmine

    Dec 12

    I don’t have chipotles so inn going to try this w/o them. thoughts? Do you think it’ll still be good?

    1. Pati

      Dec 19

      Hmmm chipotles do give this dish a lot of flavor…if you have chicken and tomatillos here are a few other recipes you might want to give a try:

  22. Ed Naimon

    Sep 11

    Hola, Pati.

    What do you think about mincing the chipotle rather than keeping it whole? Thank you!

    1. Pati

      Sep 11

      Go for it, Ed!

  23. Linda Isenson

    Aug 08

    A friend of mine made this several years ago for a casual dinner we shared. We flipped over how simple and delicious it was. Since then, we have both made it over and over. I usually make it a day or so ahead, since the flavors are even more spectacular after it sits a bit. It gets raves from everyone every time!
    I made it again the other night and thought, I really ought to thank you for this wonderful addition to our table. I wasn’t sure where my friend got the recipe but she sent me the link to your site. I’m not a television watcher so I had not seen your show. So, thank you! And now, I’m going to explore more of your recipes.

    1. Pati

      Aug 08

      Oh I’m so happy to hear this, Linda! Thank you so much…and have fun cooking many more recipes 🙂

    2. Ben M

      Feb 17

      I took your advice and made it the day before. Letting it sit overnight really helped bring the flavors out. And thank you for this recipe Pati! I really enjoy the fusion of sweet, spicy, and tart. This is one to make again and again.

      1. Pati

        Feb 18

        Glad it’s a repeat recipe, Ben 🙂

  24. Terri Black

    Aug 07

    My family adores this dish! Even my mashed potatoes and roast beef hubby says this is the best chicken recipe. I served it with the grilled corn and tomato salad. So delicious! Even the leftovers are fantastic! Thank you Pati!

    1. Pati

      Aug 07

      Oh I love leftovers! And I’m so glad the whole family enjoyed the dish, Terri.

  25. Belinda Gordillo

    Aug 06

    This is what’s for dinner at our home tonight. Thank you for sharing your recipes Pati , every recipe I make off your page is a success !

    Muchas gracias Pati Jinich por compartir tus recetas con nosotros, cada receta tuya que hago es un exito!
    Excelente provechito 😊

    Saludos desde Tijuana México

    1. Pati

      Aug 07

      Have a great dinner tonight, Belinda…and many more!

  26. jzzbassman72

    Aug 05

    This was amazing! I used the whole can of chipotle in adobo because I love the heat and the flavor and the balance between that and the sweetness of the brown sugar and tomatillo made for a super dish. Can’t wait until the next time we have this.

    1. Pati

      Aug 07


  27. Lupita

    Aug 03

    I’m making this for dinner tonight. I will let you know how it turns out.

    1. Pati

      Aug 03

      Hope you enjoy it, Lupita!

  28. Martha

    Aug 03

    I made this recipe last night l. So simple but soooo delicious! My husband and I loved it.

    1. Pati

      Aug 03

      Super, Martha!

  29. Karen

    Jul 19

    I made this recipe last night and it was delicious. However, there was much more liquid in the end so we ate it as a soup rather than a stew. Should have I kept cooking it to evaporate the broth? I didn’t want to overlook the chicken though. I used coconut sugar rather than piloncillo.

    1. Pati

      Jul 20

      Next time you make it, Karen, use half the chicken broth and cook it a bit longer!

  30. Roy

    Dec 30

    Can this be made in a crock pot?

    1. Pati

      Jan 02

      Oh yes…give it a try!

  31. Mar

    Apr 29

    What type of sides would you recommend with this dish?

    1. Pati

      May 05

      Rice would be great! Or a salad…tons of recipes on my site.

  32. Sharee Clifton ??

    Mar 22

    Hi Pati,
    I live in Australia and some times struggle to find the ingredients you use in your cooking can you help me out and tell me what I can use for a substitute we don’t have adobo sauce and tomatillo yeah we are missing out down here in Australia ?? love ❤️ your food I will also email

    1. Pati

      Mar 23

      Hi Sharee, those two ingredients are rather hard to substitute…but there are lots of other great chicken recipes like

  33. Maile

    Mar 11

    Delicious! Easy to make too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Pati

      Mar 13

      Thank YOU Maile!

  34. Steve Thomas

    Mar 05


    1. Pati

      Mar 06


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