For a satisfying meal try these healthy chicken tomatillo quinoa bowls loaded with wholesome ingredients! Tender chicken is tossed in a spicy and creamy roasted tomatillo sauce for a flavor kick!
When you go to your favorite Mexican restaurant are you a red sauce or green sauce fan? I used to be all about the earthy creamy red sauce poured on top of burritos, enchiladas or stewed meat. Then one day I had a change of heart when I had the most incredible plate of pork Chile Verde. I’ve been itching to learn how to make tomatillo sauce that could I use for just about any meal.
Today I’m sharing a healthy chicken tomatillo bowl! You will learn how to make the sauce from scratch paired with a creamy, and spicy chicken topped on a bed of cooked quinoa. I will leave the rest of the extra toppings up to you, but at least you’ll have the essential recipe.
What are Tomatillos?
You may have seen them hanging out next to the hot peppers in the produce aisle, but have you dared to cook with them? To be honest, I was a little hesitant at first, but I gave it a shot. Here are the basics of using tomatillos in cooking.
- Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family. They are wrapped in a wrinkly paper husk, and once you remove the outer layer a gorgeous candy-apple green colored fruit appears. You’ll notice a slightly sticky film on the thick tomatillo flesh, but once cooked the skin softens and a tangy, fruity, herbal flavor emerges.
- Tomatillos can be diced up and eaten raw like for salsas, but have a more tart flavor. To add to a quick sauce, they can be blanched for about 5 minutes or until tender, then further blended or crushed for salsas, enchilada sauce, soups, or spreads.
- To add extra earthy flavors to the tomatillos, you can broil, fire-roast or oven roast the tomatoes like for this chicken tomatillo bowl recipe. I found that this adds additional depth in flavors, and they practically melt in the oven.
The base for the tomatillo sauce is, of course, the green fruit to add it’s characteristic tangy flavor, jalapeno, and pasilla (or poblano) peppers for heat, caramelized purple onions for sweetness and buttery roasted garlic for earthiness.
Check out how all of the fruit, vegetables, and aromatics just melt together in the pan after roasting. So many incredible flavors in one place, divine!
Now it’s time to bring the sauce components together! Chicken broth and fresh parsley are added to the roasted ingredients, then pureed in my Vitamix Blender until smooth.
So the first taste I took off the tomatillo salsa, it was SPICY! If you want more of a mild sauce, remove the seeds and inner membranes of the jalapenos and pasilla peppers before roasting. Or even add just one jalapeno instead of two. However once I added some yogurt to the sauce, that helped bring down the heat. This recipe makes a lot of sauce so that you can use it for another meal like enchiladas, or even as a salsa with some crunchy chips!
Let’s talk POLLO. For the shredded chicken, I like to add a generous amount of spices for flavor, and a short saute so that the chicken stays nice and juicy. You can bake, or poach the chicken, but I like the flavors developed on the surface from the sear with the sauteed chicken. If you are in a pinch for time, grab a roasted chicken from the store and shred away.
Oh yea, check out this creamy green goodness! The spicy tomatillo sauce gets combined with just a touch of plain Greek yogurt to add a creamy texture to each bite. The yogurt also helps to back the heat a bit, but it’s still got a nice kick! The sauce and the chicken get tossed together, and it’s ready for bowl customization.
It’s topping time! I like a balance of textures and making sure I get a variety of colors for extra nutritional benefits. I add sliced radishes, limes, chopped red onions, black beans, diced avocado and tomatoes to the bowl. The additional protein, fiber, and phytonutrients make this a healthy meal that you will crave!
Grab a fork and let’s dig in! If you are having guests over you can create a build-your-own chicken bowl bar and put out different toppings and even have brown rice or vegetable noodles to fill. What other tasty dishes would you add the tomatillo sauce? I would love to hear so I can try!
How do you pick ripe tomatillos?
When tomatillos are ripe, they are juicy, firm and tart. A few guidelines when you are at the market to pick ripe tomatillos are go for smaller sizes. They tend to be a little sweeter. Slightly peel back the husk and look for bright green colored fruit. This will yield a more tangy fruit which is what you want in your dish. Pale yellow or light green tomatillo will be overripe but less tart. Touch the outside of the husk and look for it to be sticky and not dry and the fruit should fill most of the husk. Pick firm tomatillos, if it’s too soft, it’s past it’s prime.
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Healthy Chicken Tomatillo Quinoa Bowls
- 20 tomatillos
- 2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed
- 3 pasilla chilies, or poblanos, stems removed
- ½ red onion, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth, or stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed
- 2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt, or lowfat sour cream
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Remove the paper off of the tomatillos and place them on a large baking pan. Add jalapeño peppers, pasilla chilies and cut red onion to the same pan.
- Drizzle the chilies with one tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the peeled garlic in foil, lightly drizzle with oil and wrap into a packet that is open from the top, place on the corner of the baking pan. Roast chilies, onion, and garlic for 40 minutes stirring chilies after 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa and chicken.
- Transfer the roasted chilies, onions, garlic and any juice on the pan to a blender or food processor. Add chicken broth, one teaspoon salt, and cilantro to the blender. Pulse on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the sauce is smooth.
- Add 2 cups of sauce to a large saute pan and set aside. This recipe makes about 5 cups of sauce. You only need 2 cups. Save the extra sauce in the refrigerator for five days, or freeze.
Chicken Quinoa Bowls
- Add 1 cup quinoa to a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse well with running water. Transfer to a pot with lid. Add 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Bring to a boil, put a lid on then reduce to a simmer, over medium-low heat. Allow it to cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until water is absorbed, then turn off the heat. Allow it to sit with the lid on for at least 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork when ready to serve.
- Evenly season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika on both sides. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken breasts to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 5 minutes on the other side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Transfer to a clean plate.
- Once slightly cooled shred chicken into smaller pieces. Transfer to the saute pan that has 2 cups of tomatillo sauce. Turn heat to medium and warm chicken and sauce until hot. Turn off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons yogurt. Taste season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Assemble bowls with quinoa, add tomatillo chicken and other desired toppings.
- Additional Topping Suggestions: Sliced limes, radishes, cilantro, diced onion, tomatoes, black beans, sour cream, and avocado.
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