April 23, 2011 11:30 AM
Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce
POSTED IN: TV Show Recipes , Pati's Mexican Table
TAGS: brown sugar , chicken , chipotle , EP104 , food , Mexican , piloncillo , recipe , tomatillos
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Pollo con Tomate Verde, Chipotle y Piloncillo
Serves 4 to 6

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

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.


Just watched the show of 23 April featuring the chicken

in a tomatillo, chipotle and brown sugar recipe. I really

enjoy the show and the recipes but I find it hard to hear

Pati because the background music seems very loud. Seems it

might be better to lower the volumn on the music.

I've only tried one recipe so far ( chilorio burritas)

which we really enjoyed. We look forward to the show!

Jim Ogle | April 23, 2011 4:42 PM

Really like the show and bits of information she gives on food items - but would really like if Pati would give us menu ideas for each recipe, what would go with the dish as a main or side accompaniement, keeping with the tradition of the dish. I agree about the music too, a bit loud.

Marj | April 23, 2011 6:29 PM

I just watched Pati I too wish you would lose the music,but loved the show love her receips.will be watching.

Curtis Branch | April 24, 2011 4:43 PM

Thank you for the lovely introduction to the tomatillo! Unfortunately, I've walked past this little jewell (the tomatillo) for too many years because I didn't know how to use it. I will try the chicken recipe this week.

Even though I'm a seasoned cook--I love learning new things, and your explanations of what to look for when shopping are helpful. Our public television station (WUNC-TV) just started carrying the show a couple of weeks ago.

Karen Mortimer | April 25, 2011 11:09 PM

I just watched Patti's Mexican Table on KBTC from Tacoma, WA. The recipe tooks great, as well as easy to make; and I am going to try it. Looking forward to more from Pati

Lindy R | April 30, 2011 7:13 PM

I just cooked this dish, and to my taste buds, it turned out perfectly. I couldn't find piloncillo, so I used organic brown sugar instead. And I was worried about the tartness of two pounds of tomatillos (I shouldn't have), so I used an entire seven ounce can of chipotles in adobe sauce. I loved the way it turned out, but it was too hot for my wife, so I'll cut down on that next time. Thanks for this wonderful recipe.

Jeff Crompton | May 4, 2011 9:23 PM

Just made this dish and it looks like a simmering chicken soup with some chunks of tomatillo. I don't know what happened, but this did not work out for me.

Benjamin C | May 8, 2011 9:16 PM

Hi Benjamin,
With this recipe try to make sure that you use a large, deep skillet, of 12 inches or more. You want to give the chicken lots of room, so it's not crowded! And mostly, make sure to let the sauce simmer uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, so that it can thicken and turn into a beautiful, deep color. Hope this helps!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Benjamin C | May 9, 2011 12:50 PM

Just a quick question, do you cut the tomatillos or leave them whole?

Megan | May 21, 2011 9:10 PM

Thanks for noticing Megan! You should quarter the tomatillos, or if they are really large, you can chop them. Enjoy the recipe!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Megan | May 23, 2011 2:27 PM

We live in Canada so we were not sure if tomatillos would grow outside of Mexico, but we bought seeds and started them in the house and planted them in our garden after the frost left.

What a surprise! They grew like crazy and re-seeded themselves for another crop next year.

It seems that all cooking shows have the same audio problem: As the chef stands over or even close to a sizzling skillet, the sizzling competes with the voice of the chef. I don't know how an overhead boom mic or a lapel mic could overcome this technical problem.

Background music should be in the background, nothing should compete with the voice of the chef.

Ross | May 24, 2011 7:33 AM

just found you on our local pbs station. i love your show and look forward to each week. you make it easy and informative. can't wait to try the chicken in tomatillo, sounds delicious. never knew what to do with tomatillos so am enjoying the recipes you shared. being raised in so. california i have always loved mexican food. now i can make my own. thank you so much. eleanor

eleanor sagely | June 13, 2011 5:29 PM

Receipe says 1 Chipotle chile..., is this the whole can or just one from the can?

Janna | June 19, 2011 10:39 AM

Since watching the show a month ago I have made this dish about 8 times. 2 cups broth/water is way too much. I start with 3/4 cup and it is always enough. I love spicy but you really have to watch the canned chipotle adobo sauce, it can be really spicy.
This recipe is so easy and gets rave reviews.

Ron | June 20, 2011 3:39 PM

Hola Janna, I usually just use 1 chipotle chile from the can, you are welcome to use more though! Especially if you love the smokey heat! But the whole can will overpower the dish so be careful.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Janna | June 28, 2011 10:31 AM

We have just discovered Pati's Mexican Table a few weeks ago on Denver Public TV. We look forward to every episode, even if they are repeats. We got a kick out of "mushy" tomatillos this episode :-) We look forward to making this recipe (and alot more!)

Darlene | June 28, 2011 8:53 PM

Pati, thanks so much for the tomatillo recipes! I just discovered your show on WFYI Create in Indianapolis, and was thrilled to see an entire show devoted to tomatillos. I have been growing tomatillos for the last four years (I have no choice, they re-seed and I can't stop them from growing!) and always have so many. I have kept my recipes to salsa verde and a wonderful pork chile verde (I would love a recipe for this from you), but have been at a loss for other ways to serve them. I especially appreciated the freezing tip. Now my bounty won't go to waste. I look forward to learning more! Julie

Julie | June 29, 2011 12:40 PM

Bendita Pati!
My husband and I love your show. We happen to find it on our local PBS station and have been hooked ever since. I love the concept of taking a simple ingredient and transforming it into delicious new recipes. As a fellow Mexicana, you are teaching even me, recipes and traditions rich in culture and I'm enjoying every minute. We love that you are opening new doors to Mexico's past, present and future through its amazing food. Adelante y MIL GRACIAS!



Veronica | July 5, 2011 11:09 AM

I am so grateful for your most generous and lovely comment, and can only say that will keep on working in my desk and kitchen to give you all some more ; )
Thank you!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Veronica | July 5, 2011 12:42 PM

I truly enjoy your show and the way in which you introduce the foof items. You bring a new idea and worldly attitude of what it can be. This is expressed , also in the food receipt and introduction.

Mary David | July 10, 2011 4:57 PM

soy dominicana vivo en new york, es la primera vez que veo su programa, y se que no es la ultima quiero cocinar su comida mexicana gracias y me gustaria recibir recetas de ustedes, felicidades

isabel | July 10, 2011 5:55 PM

I grew up on San Antonio "Mexican" food which I am finding is closer to true Mexican than any place in US. (I now live in Denver.) The tomatillo/chipotle chicken is a delicious addition to my tomatillo arsenal: enchiladas verdes, roasted tomatillo and avocado salsa (very similar to yours).
Like your show very much, especially your sense of humor.


Bill Juraschek | July 22, 2011 12:42 PM

Hi Pati,

I made this dish this week and my family loved it. The only thing I did differently, was after the sauce was cooked I put it in the blender to smooth it out. Then back in the skillet I added a heaping teaspoon of corn starch to thicken it up. Then made white rice as a side dish to absorb all that great sauce. Along with a couple of margaritas, I was a happy boy!

Mike Wassom | July 24, 2011 10:17 AM

Hi Bill, I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the tomatillo/chipotle chicken. I so hope you continue to enjoy the show and the recipes! Please always feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Bill Juraschek | July 26, 2011 11:18 AM

I saw Pati make this on TV and can't wait to try it. I am really enjoying learning from Pati how to make real Mexican food. I love the show and the music. Pati is so adorable. When I am reading the comments from her on the website I hear them in her Mexican accent!

April | August 24, 2011 2:39 PM

April, you are such a sweetheart. Thank you for watching, and thank you for writing!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from April | August 25, 2011 10:21 PM

Hi Pati,

I made this dish with 6 chicken thighs and just finished my 2nd piece. I love the uniquenes of this recipe. Born, raised and still live in San Antonio, TX, but I think the Mexican food here has become too Texan-ized, because you don't see foods like tomatillos and piloncillo in main course recipes in the restaurants. Anyway, I love this dish and I think it's even good for a low-carb diet. It came out soupy, but still DELICIOSO. I'm going to purchase a larger wider caserole type pan to cook this in so that the food has more room.

The music in the program doesn't distract me. I can hear all the instructions perfectly. I have your series on PBS set to record on my DVR so that I won't miss anything.

I've also made the sauce only from the Huevos Rabo de Mestiza con Salsa de Jitomate y Rajas de Poblano and put it over chicken breast as something different for lunch. It was good.

Diane Najera-Garcia | August 27, 2011 9:54 PM

Hola Pati! I love your show! I am planning on trying this recipe but for a large crowd- my boyfriend's Large mexican family! I was wondering if I could cook the chicken in shifts, then make the sauce and put it all in a large casserole dish for 30 min to finish? Also should I leave it uncovered in the oven? Any tips on making this recipe large would be great! My boyfriend's family has jokingly said he is going to lose weight living with his american girlfriend so I really want to wow them and make a great first impression! Your show is awesome and I love the music, Is that Juanes in the intro?!

Stacy | September 1, 2011 10:53 AM

I saw this on KLRU in Austin and made it today. I used dry chipotles soaked in water for a day along with some tomato paste since I did not have the chipotle in adobo. It turned out really well, it is almost a perfect dish: it is sweet and tart and spicy at the same time, yet it is very easy to make. Thank you Pati for a wonderful recipe.

Thomas | September 1, 2011 5:14 PM


I just happened to catch your show one day while I was off work. I loved it. I tried the Chicken in Tomatilla, Chipolte, and Brown Sugar Sauce recipe. Wonderful taste. I had a few questions like other readers but found all I needed to know through your comments. My first attempt turned out like soup also but the flavor was wonderful. I have been curious about the tomatilla for some time. Glad I tried your recipe. Will try others! Thank you for sharing.

Kim | September 14, 2011 9:18 PM

We used boneless skinless chicken thighs since they were on sale. Good choice.

The recipe tasted great. We bought a package of eight little 1-Oz piloncillo cones while visiting Hampton, Iowa. They must have been a little old since we couldn’t shred them even a microplane. The two whole little cones melted easily in the pot though. It gave the dish a great balance with just a touch of sweetness.

We thickened the sauce up a bit with 1 tsp of starch and served in over rice. Nummy. Next time just 1/2 teaspoon of starch.

BTW, our 800x600 display resolution on IE8 does not show part of the left side of this website. If we reduce the viewing size to 75% we can see it all, but we have to squint.

Required | September 18, 2011 4:42 PM

Hey Pati,
Im a single dad and i have four adopted hispanic girls. I saw your chicken tomatillo recipy on opb and made it that night. my girls LOVED it and so did I. They ask for it just about every day now. Im genna be making many more of your recipies soon. I wanna make them mole but im kinda intimidated by it. im glad i saw you on opb your AWESOME...

Evan | October 29, 2011 1:46 PM

Hi Patti,

I love your show. I love Tomatillos and also some of the great recipes that you had on your show. Keep them coming and thank you.

Iris in Chicago

Iris M | November 4, 2011 4:28 PM

Hi - this is Tuesday Dec 13, 2011 & our PBS station showed you making bread items from doughs that you made & let rest for a while. Unfortunately, my doorbell rang and I nissed most of the show. Where can I get these recipes to make these breads?? Really enjoyed the bit I saw. Thank you.

Audio | December 13, 2011 2:30 PM

Hola, Here is a link to all the recipes from the season I am guessing it must be one of the cookies. If you are able to identify what episode it is, then it may be the cookie recipe from that episode. If you are still unsure or have any more specifics let me know! I want to make sure you get the correct recipe! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Audio | December 16, 2011 1:18 PM

Hi Pati!

I have made this numerous times since I found this site and love how different it is. I am making it again tonight but I am going to convert it into a soup! I love how your recipes are unique. I am patiently awaiting for a cookbook!!!

michelle | January 25, 2012 7:00 PM

So glad you love the recipe Michelle and let me know how it tastes as a soup! Love the innovation!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from michelle | January 26, 2012 9:36 AM

Hi Pati!
I have made this recipe many times now and would like to make it for a large crowd. what's the best way to go about this without losing any of those great flavors?
Thank you for all your great recipes!

Elizabeth | January 28, 2012 4:10 PM

Hola Elizabeth, Thank you for your question! You can make it in batches, and you can even make it before hand and heat it up in the oven in a large roasting pan before serving. If you do make it before hand, just cover it while reheating. :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Elizabeth | January 30, 2012 2:21 PM

Pati, you are a delight!

I've just seen your show for the second time and are intrigued by your presentation as well as the various preparations. I appreciate the additional information you provide such as tomatillos providing the same flavor whether large or small and encouraging the use of fresh ingredients, specifically lime juice.

My partner, who is Mexican, is now encouraging me to incorporate your wonderful dishes into our meal plan. We look forward to your other recipes.

Thanks so very much!

Richard | February 4, 2012 2:04 PM

Hi Richard,
Thank you so for your lovely comment. I am so glad you like the show and the recipes and I am delighted that you want to incorporate them into your meal plan, I am flattered. Thanks!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Richard | February 4, 2012 3:51 PM

Pati- Will using canned tomatillos be OK?

Alejandra | February 19, 2012 10:46 PM

I saw this on OPB (PBS) the other night, then went out the next day and got the ingredients I didn't have, and made it that night. I had a package of Spanish rice I made as a side. My husband won't stop talking about it, and insists its the best thing he has ever eaten! Thanks for the wonderful and easy recipe! I will be making it about once a week from now on!

Megan L | February 21, 2012 7:21 PM

So so happy that you and your husband loved the chicken in a tomatillo, chipotle and brown sugar sauce Megan!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Megan L | February 23, 2012 3:13 PM

I've only had the pleasure of catching Pati's show twice while channel surfing, but both times I was intrigued and engrossed. This recipe in particular inspired me to such a degree I cooked it the same night! I've started a new healthier regime in my kitchen and short of the oil this recipe suits our new lifestyle. So, I cut back on the oil and substituted olive oil for canola and every member of my family (grandma 91, mom 61, myself 41, daughter 21, her boyfriend 21, and my son 17) RAVED about this dish! I'd never used tomatillos, piloncillo or chipotle in adobo before and I'm a native Southern Californian! Wow! I did slice the tomatillos into slices rather than quarters and the sauce was perfectly blended! We serve this over Calrose rice. Its what's for dinner tonight and I've shared this site with highest recommendations to all my Facebook friends! Love you Pati! Keep up the great work!

Heather Griffin | February 25, 2012 11:17 PM

Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce

I watched this program yesterday and was so intrigued that I went out to buy the ingredients. It was my first time cooking with tomatillos and anticipated the adventure. It was also my first time cooking with the chipotles in adobo sauce. I think because I never really knew what to do with them.

I cooked the dish tonight and it was fabulous. I followed the instructions closely, though my dish required much more time to develop the same richness in the sauce. It was fabulous! The flavors melded together and resulted in a deep flavor that was not overwhelming at all. Next time I will use more chipotles, since I discovered that I love them!

I love your show. One thing that delights me is the sophistication in your use of the English language. With your accent, it's just charming. Keep up the nice program.

Judy McC | February 26, 2012 8:46 PM

Thank you so much Judy for your lovely comment!! I am so happy you enjoyed the Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce and found a new love for the chipotles in adobo! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Judy McC | February 27, 2012 5:20 PM

Heather, Thank you so much for your kind words and recommending me to your friends! One of my favorite things about cooking is that you can take a recipe and adjust it to your own likeness, and I love to hear that you created your own version with less oil and sliced tomatillos. So happy your family loved it too!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Heather Griffin | February 27, 2012 5:30 PM

I absolutely love your show.For years I have wondered how to prepare tomatillos and low and behold came accross your show and all my questions were answered very well I might add. Your chicken recipe is so outstanding I now make it regularly for my family and now my daughter is making it also. I love it just the way it is my only addition has been some chorizo. I love this sauce so much the other night I made it with pork tenderloins.
Your show is very well done and I hope it is on a very long time.I love making new dishes and your explanations of ingredients are wonderful.

Joann Mc | March 2, 2012 10:25 AM

Thank you so much Joann for your lovely comment! So happy I could assist you and help you fall in love with tomatillos. I love how you are taking the recipes and making them your own for your family by adding the chorizo and using the sauce for pork tenderloin. If you ever have any questions or requests, don't hesitate to ask!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Joann Mc | March 7, 2012 3:21 PM

I saw your show on PBS San Antonio about a year ago--and this was the first recipe I tried--poured a whole can of chipotles the first time---ay chispas!muy caliente!--next time I used just 2 chilies---mucho mejor---Me encanta este plato---and I love your accent Patti---su amigo

Richard | March 14, 2012 2:19 PM

I just made the chicken with tomatillos and piloncillo. It is fabulous. I made it for dinner but my husband snuck some of the sauce on his breakfast. Last summer was the first time we grew tomatillos (they are wonderful in the vegetable garden and very easy to grow) and I had some in the freezer. I have been looking for new ways to use them. You have very delicious and different recipes which we have really enjoyed. I have also made the Chicken Mole and the Orange and Almond Flan which were also fabulous. I hope you are planning to make more shows. We really like your cooking and charming personality.

Dolores | March 19, 2012 1:59 PM

Thank you so much Dolores! I am so glad you and your husband enjoy the recipes. You will be happy to hear we are in the production of season 2, and I will be sure to keep you updated on when it will be aired :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Dolores | March 20, 2012 9:47 AM

I just saw the episode for this chicken dish and thought it looked amazing. I want to try to make it, but my family does not like spicy foods. We are terribly wimpy when it comes to spice. We never cook with any chiles. I was wondering if anyone has come up with an alternative ingrediant to the adobe sauce.
Thanks! : )

Anne | May 5, 2012 10:50 AM

I had to try this after watching the show. I made it tonight, with a few tweaks. I only used 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (4 tablespoons would be too sweet for me) and used 2 large chipotles. Near the end of cooking I pureed a small can of green chilies and added it along with 1 tsp of ground Chipotle powder. I was looking for a more prominent smokey flavor and the chipotles in adobo weren't very spicy.

I'll have to pickup some piloncillo to see how the taste differs from brown sugar.

Thanks for the recipe. I'll definitely make this again.

Jorge | June 11, 2012 10:20 PM

Hola Jorge, I love how you made adjustments to satisfy your personal tastes! That is the beauty of cooking, taking a recipe and making it your own :). So, glad you enjoyed it!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jorge | June 12, 2012 9:56 AM

Saw this recipe last night, looks really tasty. I will try cooking this soon. And I'm sure you know this already, but you are a hottie!

James | July 10, 2012 12:36 PM

Hello Patti,

Fantastic show!!! Having worked with an all Mexican crew back in my greenhouse days, I can state with certainty that your recipes are authentic and bring back fond memories of living/working on the California coast.

Thank you very much for sharing/posting your recipes – it is very generous of you. My family is aiming on cooking with tomatillos this weekend from your episode 104. The only suggestion I have for the show is what others have posted wrt music – it could be a bit lower in volume as it masks your presentation of the recipe and the other wonderful color commentary you bring to it.

Many thanks again – oh we watch you on CreateTV (KBTC) in the Puget Sound.

Cheers, Michael

Michael | July 11, 2012 4:24 PM

Hola Michael, Thank you so much for your thoughtful message! I hope you and your family enjoy the tomatillos. I will speak to my producers about what you mentioned about the music in the show.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Michael | July 12, 2012 11:04 AM

Just came across this show and loved it! Can't wait to try this recipe, it looks delicious. I would love to know where I could find such a great skillet.

Claudia | July 14, 2012 10:09 AM

Isaw the show today featuring the Chicken & Tomatillos. It was very easy to prepare. I will try this recipe for my family. Always looking for good recipes to try. Keep up the good recipes Patie. Jennifer

Jennifer | July 14, 2012 10:58 PM

Hi Pati,

My wife and I saw your show today and LOVED IT! Your recipe presentations are very good, nice and slow that despite the accent I still can understand what you say unlike other foreign cooks on PBS the recipes are awesome but a bid turn off when it comes to them explaining what to do. Anyways, will definitely try this recipe and will let you if it's wife approved (she's Mexican descendent).
Keep up the good work and yes turn the salsa music a couple of notches down to hear you better.

Phil C | July 15, 2012 8:09 PM

Hi, Pati!

Oh, my goodness! I LOVE your show!! I just made this chicken recipe tonight & it was fabulous!! I've also made your chilorios burritas, as well...also fabulous!

Thanks so much for bringing an authentic Mexican cooking show to the airwaves! I live in the Philadelphia suburbs, and it's hard to find AUTHENIC Mexican food here. I lived out in California previously, so I know and appreciate there's a definite differnce!

The recipes you present are so satisfying and delicious. Pure comfort food! Keep up the good work!


Tara R.

Tara | July 15, 2012 9:12 PM

It is so good to hear that you love the show Tara! I am glad you enjoy the recipes. If you ever have any requests, let me know. :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Tara | July 19, 2012 12:24 PM

Hola Phil, Thank you for your comment! I am so glad you and your wife love the show. Let me know what you all think of the recipe. And, I will talk to my producers about the music throughout the show. :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Phil C | July 19, 2012 12:43 PM

Hola Jennifer, Let me know what you and your family think of the Chicken in Tomatillo, Chipotle and Brown Sugar Sauce!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Jennifer | July 19, 2012 12:55 PM

Thanks, Pati!!!

Tara replied to comment from Tara | July 26, 2012 12:07 PM

Patti, Thank you so much for this awesome recipe. The tomatillo is interesting but this recipe puts it in a special class. The only change i made was to add our homemade hot sauce instead of the chipolate. I have made it twice and am posting it on my facebook page and blog. I think it is so simple, it should go in everyone's repertoire. Som simple yet so delicious , so healthy and satisfying!
Thank you for your show!

Mary | October 10, 2012 1:44 AM

Hola Mary, Thank you for trying the chicken in tomatillo sauce recipe. The addition of homemade hot sauce sounds delicious!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Mary | October 17, 2012 12:52 PM

Tried this and LOVED it. I have maded it several times for several parties. Everyone loves it. Also love Your show.

Don Copeland | December 20, 2012 11:55 PM