A Gringo's Ode to Mama Ninfa's Green Sauce 18.000

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

Smackdown VI Feb 1, 2012

Houston restaurateur "Mama" Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo died more than a decade ago, leaving behind a chain of Tex-Mex eateries that still bear her name but have little connection to the family members who survived the founder of Ninfa's. Food section staff writer (and former Houstonian) Tim Carman has fond memories of sitting in the original Ninfa's on Navigation Boulevard, working his way through a complimentary bowl of tortilla chips served with a fiery red sauce and its cooling antidote -– a tomatillo-and-avocado green sauce that defined Ninfa's almost as much as the restaurant's sizzling fajitas platter.

This recipe is a variation of the "Ninfa's Green Sauce" found in Texas food writer Robb Walsh's "The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos." Walsh's recipe is a variation itself of Mama Ninfa's original green sauce, which called for a combination of tomatillos and green tomatoes, not to mention imitation sour cream. Some '70s traditions, it would seem, should never be revived.

Make Ahead: The green sauce's flavors and texture improve when the salsa is refrigerated for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day in advance.

Servings: 18

Yield: Makes 9 cups

  • 20 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 6 jalapeño peppers, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and wrapped as a group in aluminum foil
  • 6 ripe Hass/dark-skinned avocados
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste


Position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Arrange the tomatillos, jalapenos, onions and garlic packet on a baking sheet. Broil for 15 to 20 minutes, monitoring the vegetables closely and turning them regularly to ensure even charring. Let them cool on the sheet.

While the vegetables are roasting and cooling, cut the avocados in half horizontally. Remove their pits and scoop out the flesh.

Working in batches, transfer the tomatillos, avocados, onions, jalapenos and roasted garlic to a blender; puree until smooth. (For a spicier green sauce, you can always roast extra jalapenos and add them one at a time until you reach your desired heat level; you can also leave the seeds and stems intact.)

Pour the batches of pureed green sauce into a mixing bowl large enough to hold 9 cups or more. Fold in the sour cream until you reach the consistency you desire. Fold in the chopped cilantro and the salt.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day before serving; taste and adjust the salt as needed.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from a recipe in Walsh's "The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos" (Broadway Books, 2004).

Tested by Tim Carman.

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