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Tomatillos and green tomatoes come from entirely different plants. Each fruit has its own unique properties in the kitchen.
The easiest way to tell them apart is to note that when a tomatillo is ripe, it remains a small, green fruit, and it grows inside a papery husk called a calyx. On the other hand, a green tomato is the unripe fruit of any variety of tomato plant. The fruit does not grown inside a papery husk, and it can be large or small and picked at any time throughout the summer or fall.
In a Nutshell: Tomatillos vs. Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes and tomatillos are different in flavor and usages as well, so we do not recommend substituting one for the other. Tomatillos also tend to be juicier and not as firm as green tomatoes, so they are quite different in texture. Stick to finding the right one for your recipe.
Tomatillos are small, firm bright-green fruits (yes, fruits!) about the size of a golf ball and native to Mexico, and are sometimes called Mexican green tomatoes or jamberries.
They grow inside a papery husk that should be peeled away and discarded before cooking. The surface of the fruit is coated in a slightly tacky residue and is easily washed off with a little warm water before proceeding with a recipe.
They’re most often used in salsas and sauces, although they can also be eaten raw and can be found year-round, most often in Latin American grocery stores.
What Does a Tomatillo Taste Like?
Tomatillos have an acidic, bright, tart almost citrus flavor and can be used raw or cooked. They are the core ingredient in salsa verde commonly served in Mexican restaurants.
Green tomatoes are simply the firm unripe fruit of any tomato plant. They can be large or small depending the variety of the tomato (although don’t confuse them with a Green Zebra, a variety of tomato that stays green when ripe). Color and firmness are pretty much the only similarity green tomatoes share with tomatillos.
What Do Green Tomatoes Taste Like?
Green tomatoes aren’t something you want to sink your teeth into like an apple, although they are firm like one. The taste is neutral leaning toward astringent, although the tartness mellows out with cooking.
How to Use Green Tomatoes
Unlike the fruit in its more mature state, green tomatoes hold their shape when cooking, and aren’t as watery.