How long do tomatillos last on the counter?

Tomatillos are a staple ingredient in many Latin American dishes, prized for their tart and slightly sweet flavor. However, their peak ripeness period is short, which leads many home cooks to wonder – how long do tomatillos last on the counter after purchase?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about storing tomatillos and maximizing their shelf life, including:

The Shelf Life of Tomatillos

When stored properly, whole tomatillos typically last 5-7 days on the kitchen counter before going bad. Peeled, their shelf life is shortened to around 3-5 days.

Once tomatillos are cut open, they will only last 1-2 days in the fridge before spoiling.

How to Tell if Tomatillos are Still Good

Here are some tips for identifying fresh vs. spoiled tomatillos:

  • Look for tomatillos that are light green and firm with tight, papery husks. Avoid any with brown spots.
  • Give them a sniff – fresh tomatillos will have a distinct tart, citrusy smell.
  • Spoiled tomatillos will be very soft, discolored or moldy, with a strong unpleasant odor.
  • If in doubt, cut one open – the inside should be pale green and juicy, not brown or slimy.

How to Store Tomatillos to Maximize Freshness

Follow these storage tips to keep tomatillos fresh for as long as possible:

  • Leave husks on – the papery husks protect the fruit and prevent it from drying out.
  • Keep unwashed – don’t rinse until ready to use, as moisture speeds up spoilage.
  • Store at room temperature – warmth hastens ripening, while the fridge can damage texture.
  • Keep away from sunlight – direct light will cause discoloration.
  • Place in a single layer – stacking can bruise and accelerate spoilage.
  • Use breathable container – a bowl or basket allows air circulation to prevent mold.

How to Ripen Tomatillos Faster

Follow these tips if your tomatillos need a little help ripening:

  • Leave at room temperature – warmth will speed up the ripening process.
  • Place in a paper bag – this traps the natural ethylene gases that aid ripening.
  • Add a ripe banana or apple – their ethylene will hasten ripening.

Within 2-4 days, your tomatillos should develop a pale green, juicy interior and papery, easy-to-remove husks.

How to Freeze Tomatillos

Freezing is a great way to preserve a tomatillo surplus. Here’s how:

  1. Remove husks and rinse the tomatillos.
  2. Cut in half and remove cores and seeds.
  3. Blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes to stop enzyme action.
  4. Cool completely in an ice bath.
  5. Drain thoroughly and pat dry.
  6. Arrange in single layer on tray and freeze solid.
  7. Transfer to ziplock bags or freezer containers.

Frozen this way, tomatillos will keep for 10-12 months. Thaw before using in recipes.

How to Preserve Tomatillos

In addition to freezing, you can extend the shelf life of fresh tomatillos through:

  • Canning – blanch and boil tomatillos in jars to create a long-lasting pantry staple.
  • Pickling – simmer tomatillos in a vinegar brine to make tangy, crunchy pickled tomatillos.
  • Drying – dehydrate tomatillo slices to use as seasoning.

With proper storage and preservation techniques, you can enjoy tomatillos long after the fall harvest season is over!

How to Store Cut Tomatillos

Once tomatillos are cut open, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Here are some tips:

  • Place cut tomatillos in an airtight container or ziplock bag.
  • Make sure tomatillos are completely dry before storing.
  • Use within 1-2 days for best quality and flavor.
  • You can also freeze cut tomatillos for longer storage (see freezing tips above).

Leaving cut tomatillos at room temperature will quickly lead to spoilage and mold growth.

Ripe vs Unripe Tomatillos

It can be tricky to tell if tomatillos are ripe and ready to eat. Here’s what to look for:

  • Unripe – Firm with bright green, tougher husks. Inside is hard and pale yellow.
  • Ripe – Plump with darker green, papery husks that peel off easily. Inside is soft and light green.
  • Overripe – Shriveled with yellow-brown husks. Inside is very soft with brown spots.

For the best flavor, allow tomatillos to ripen at room temperature until the husks turn paper-thin.

Do Tomatillos Ripen After Picking?

Yes, tomatillos can continue ripening after being picked from the plant. However, their window for ripening is relatively short.

Leave tomatillos at room temperature for 1-2 days to allow them to fully ripen. The husks will turn papery and loosen. Avoid leaving them longer than 5-7 days or they risk spoiling.

To speed up ripening, you can place tomatillos in a paper bag which will concentrate the natural ethylene gases. Just be sure to keep checking them daily.

Can You Refrigerate Tomatillos?

You can refrigerate tomatillos, but this will halt the ripening process. Only refrigerate tomatillos that are fully ripe.

To refrigerator tomatillos, leave the husks on and store in a perforated plastic bag in the veggie drawer. They will keep for 5-7 days this way.

Avoid refrigerating unripe tomatillos as the cold damages them. Let them ripen at room temp first before chilling them.

How Long Do Tomatillos Last Once Opened?

Once the papery husks are removed and the tomatillos are cut open, they have a very short shelf life of just 1-2 days.

This is because exposure to air causes them to spoil and develop mold quickly. For this reason, you should only open tomatillos right before you plan to use them.

Store cut tomatillos in an airtight container in the fridge and aim to use within 24-48 hours. Otherwise, freeze any leftovers for longer storage.

Can You Freeze Tomatillos Without Blanching?

It’s possible but not recommended to freeze tomatillos without blanching them first. Blanching stops the enzyme action that leads to flavor and texture changes in frozen produce.

If you don’t blanch tomatillos prior to freezing, you may find they develop a mushier, less crisp texture when thawed. They may also become less tart over time.

To maintain the best quality and flavor, take the extra time to quickly blanch tomatillos before freezing for 10-12 months of storage.

What’s the Best Way to Use Up Tomatillos Quickly?

If you have a surplus of tomatillos that are nearing the end of their prime, here are some delicious ways to use them up fast:

  • Make salsa verde – tomatillos are the key ingredient in this zesty Mexican green sauce.
  • Add to chili – they give a nice tangy flavor to vegetarian chili.
  • Roast and blend into hummus – roasted tomatillos add great flavor to chickpea hummus.
  • Top nachos or tacos – sliced tomatillos make a tasty nacho or taco topping.
  • Blend into salad dressing – combine with olive oil, lime, cilantro for a tasty vinaigrette.

The possibilities are endless – get creative with recipes to use up tomatillos quickly!

Can You Eat Tomatillos Raw?

Yes, tomatillos can absolutely be eaten raw! In fact, their tangy flavor is delightful when enjoyed fresh.

Some delicious ways to eat raw tomatillos include:

  • Sliced on top of salads or tacos
  • Chopped and mixed into guacamole
  • Blended into fresh salsa
  • Juiced and turned into a tart tomatillo juice

Just be sure to remove the papery husk and rinse the tomatillo before eating raw. The firmer and greener it is, the tarter it will taste.

Overripe tomatillos tend to get mushy and lose some of their signature tangy snap.

Can You Make Tomatillo Sauce Without Tomatoes?

Absolutely! Tomatillos can be turned into a zesty green sauce all on their own without the need for tomatoes.

Here are two delicious tomatillo sauce recipes without tomatoes:

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

  • 1 lb fresh tomatillos – husked, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 serrano chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss tomatillos, onion, garlic and serrano pepper on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes until nicely charred.
  4. Blend roasted veggies in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  5. Stir in cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Raw Tomatillo Avocado Sauce

  • 10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Chop the tomatillos, avocado, onion, jalapeño, garlic and cilantro.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  3. Blend until smooth, adding water if needed to thin.
  4. Taste and season with additional salt and lime if desired.

Enjoy these delicious tomato-free tomatillo sauces on enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and more!


With their short peak season, knowing how long tomatillos last on the counter and how to store them properly is key. Follow these tips to maximize their freshness and enjoy their signature tangy flavor in all your favorite Mexican dishes. With proper handling, ripe tomatillos should last 5-7 days on your countertop.

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