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Spinach Patties with Green Tomatillo Salsa Verde {gluten-free}

These vegetarian spinach patties with salsa verde are one of my favorite ways to eat spinach. Covered with rich green tomatillo sauce, each fork-tender little green cake hides pinky finger-sized chunks of melty sharp cheese.

Tortas de Espinaca Carmen/Spinach Patties with Salsa Verde

The first time Carmen made her tortas de espinaca for me, I flipped out, they were mindblowingly good.  Carmen is my Mexican hostess, cook, sister and friend, my Mexican home-stay mother at Spanish language immersion school. She is also a teacher, and when you stay at her house, you speak only Spanish. Even if you just speak beginner Spanish.

It’s a goal of my life to speak Spanish well. The best thing I’ve done to that end was travel to Mexico, to language immersion school. Tortas de espinaca Carmen, or spinach patties with salsa verde, is one Spanish lesson I’ll remember, and that I’m happy as a margarita to pass on to you.

spinach for Tortas de Espinaca Carmen/Spinach Patties with Salsa Verde

The salsa verde Carmen ladles over tortas de espinaca, this recipe, is unique in that there’s no cilantro, which I always put in tomatillo sauce. I even called Carmen in Mexico to confirm that her salsa verde doesn’t include cilantro. Sí, no. Cilantro goes in the tortas but not in the sauce.

Carmen’s original recipe includes bread crumbs, to absorb moisture and help the patties hold together. I told her I was going to replace ground corn tortillas so the patties could be gluten-free. She said “no hay problema”, and that flour or cornmeal are also fine substitutes for the bread crumbs.

Like Carmen’s, I serve my tortas de espinaca come with Mexican rice and tender pinto beans.

Tortas de Espinaca Carmen/Spinach Patties with Salsa Verde

My last visit with Carmen, she sent me home on the plane with para llevar, a couple tortilla roll-ups of leftover spinach patties. Wrapped in the roll-ups were slices of avocado, tomato, and queso Oaxaca, a melty cheese similar to mozzarella. I am pretty sure the person next to me on the flight was envious. He got peanuts.

  • This recipe is a blog post from years ago, written right after a two-week stint at Cuernavaca Language School, and home-stay at Carmen’s; I’ve updated the post with new photos. See an old photo of Carmen’s tortas de espinaca on her floral-pattern melamine plate below the recipe.

You might also like my green enchiladas with spinach and arugula.

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5 from 1 vote
Tortas de Espinaca Carmen/Spinach Patties with Salsa Verde
Spinach Patties with Salsa Verde
Prep Time
35 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
55 mins

Spinach tortas, spinach patties, tortas de espinaca--call them what you like. You can make them with fresh or frozen spinach--see recipe. With easy tomatillo green sauce!   Recipe can easily be doubled. Makes about 6 patties. Serve 2 tortas per person.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican, Vegetarian
Keyword: spinach, patties, burgers, tomatillo sauce
Servings: 3 servings.
Author: Letty | Letty's Kitchen
Spinach Tortas:
  • 2 bunches spinach or 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
  • ¼ white onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely ground stale corn tortillas, about 3 tablespoons, as needed, (see note)
  • About 1 ounce sharp white cheddar cheese or queso añejo, cut in little pieces
  • Olive oil, as needed
Salsa Verde:
  • 6 large fresh tomatillos, or one small can
  • 1 or 2 serrano chiles, seeds and veins removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ to 1/2 cup vegetable broth as needed
  • Olive oil as needed
To make the spinach tortas:
  1. ** Fresh spinach: Wash well and remove and discard stems. Steam the spinach leaves about 5 minutes. Allow to drain in a colander or sieve, pressing very well to remove as much excess water as possible. Coarsely chop the spinach.

  2. ** Frozen spinach: Thaw the spinach. Put in a sieve and press very well to remove as much excess water as possible.

  3. In a bowl, mix with the chopped onion, garlic and cilantro. Using a fork, stir in the eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in the corn tortilla meal or breadcrumbs, just enough so that the mixture holds together.

  4. In the palm of your hand, shape the spinach mixture into small round patties, and as you do, poke 4 or 5 little pieces for the cheese in the middle. For each torta use about 1/3 cup of the spinach mixture, forming them about 2 ½ inches wide. (It may feel like the tortas won’t hold together, especially if there is still a lot of moisture in the spinach. Handle them gently and they will cook nicely, all in one piece.)
  5. Over medium flame, heat a thin layer of the oil in a large skillet. Gently cook the patties, turning to cook both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.
To make the Salsa Verde:
  1. Drop the fresh tomatillos into boiling water and cook for several minutes, mostly to remove the paper-like skin. Place the tomatillos, serrano chile(s), onion and garlic and salt in a blender and whirl. Heat a small amount of olive oil in another skillet and add the tomatillo mixture. Cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in vegetable broth, just enough to thin the sauce. Season to taste with salt. Pour on top of the spinach tortas and over medium heat, cook them together a few minutes.
Recipe Notes

I substituted ground corn tortillas in place of breadcrumbs, which Carmen uses to absorb moisture and help hold the patties together. You could also use a little cornmeal, or flour.

Carmen's Spinach Tortas

Carmen’s Spinach Tortas


  • […] 5, 2010 by Letty Flatt We know all about basil pesto and most of us are familiar with Mexican green cilantro salsa. Did you know about chermoula, the Moroccan green sauce of cilantro and parsley, seasoned with […] Reply · 5 October, 2010

  • Savvy

    your email arrived just in time- bread pudding in the oven. The Irish blessing is perfect to use @ St Patty’s fundraiser today!! Recipes get used tomorrow. Thanks Letty! Reply · 14 March, 2015

  • Sarah Klingenstein

    Great memories! As someone lucky enough to have stayed with Carmen too (Letty introduced us), I can remember so well sitting at her counter and taking notes. Tortas de Espinaca! I was a pretty basic beginner, and I loved that word “espinaca”. Carmen’s pozole is another favorite, though not veggie. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful dish, Letty! Reply · 14 March, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks Sarah. I tried to explain to Carmen how I make vegetarian pozole–and put my recipe on this blog so she could see it! Reply · 15 March, 2015

  • I do admire you Mexican culinary adventures. GREG Reply · 16 March, 2015

  • kathryn deckert

    Letty – the patties were really so delicious with that woderful salsa verde. The cheese i used Oaxaqueno didn’t melt so well no matter they were special treats in the patties. Reply · 16 March, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks Kathryn. I am sure any cheese is great in these patties, in fact they are wonderful without too! Reply · 17 March, 2015

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