Pepian de Pollo Chicken Pepian
This tasty national dish is adapted in various ways in Guatemala to cater for individual tastes by using different meats or through making the sauce thicker or spicier.
- Prep: 30 minutes
- Cook: 30 minutes
- Total time: 1 hour
- Recipe serves: 4-5
- 3 pound chicken cut into pieces, or use chicken thighs, for more flavour
- 3-4 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 5 medium-sized roma tomatoes
- 5 medium tomatillos, husks removed
- 2 medium onions, skin on
- 4 large cloves garlic, in skins
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
- 2 sticks canela (the softer, easily shredded type of stick cinnamon usually found with Mexican spices, not the hard stick cinnamon)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 pasilla chile
- 2 guajillo chiles
- 1 ancho chile
- 2 corn tortillas
- 1/2 teaspoon achiote powder or paste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Place chicken, broth and salt in a large pot and bring slowly to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, but not quite fork tender (about 20-30 minutes).
- While the chicken is simmering, put tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and garlic on a large comal, cast-iron or nonstick skillet. Turn the heat on to medium and let the vegetables dry-roast. Turn them with tongs and let them get charred on all sides. The onion peels might start to look pretty black, but you’ll remove the outer skins anyway. This will take 15 minutes or so. When they are soft and roasted, move them on a plate where they can cool enough to handle.
- While the vegetables are roasting, and in another dry skillet, put the sesame seeds, pepitas, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes over low heat. Toast them, tossing, and once you can smell and see they are getting browned and toasted, remove them from the heat and pour into blender. Set the pan back on the heat and now toast the pasilla, guajillo and ancho chiles, lightly, turning them a few times. When you can smell the chiles warming, becoming fragrant (just a couple of minutes) take them off heat and turn onto a plate. Now, put the corn tortillas into the pan and again, let them toast, dry, until they are crisped.
- Whirl the toasted seeds and spices in the blender and pulse to a coarse powder. Take the stems off and seeds out of the dried, toasted chiles and put them into the blender along with the crisped tortilla (which you can cut or crush into pieces with your hands). Blend this mixture well, but you might need a cup or so of chicken broth from the pot to help the process along. That’s OK. Turn this finely blended mixture into a bowl and set aside.
- Next, trim stem ends and skins from the cooled, pan-roasted vegetables. The softened garlic will come right out of the skins. Put these into the blender and blend to a smooth sauce. Add the tomatoes and onion mixture to the the seeds and chiles mixture and mix well. (You can also put these all into the blender to further process, if there is room.) Add the achiote and pepper and whirl until smooth. Taste for salt.
- Now, drain the chicken stock from the pot with the cooked chicken and set aside. Then, pour in the contents of the blender, stir gently and add 2 cups of the chicken broth. Simmer the chicken until fork tender (another 15-20 minutes) in the mixture. If it gets at all pasty, add some more broth. It should be a smooth, thick sauce that coats the chicken pieces well but isn’t sticky.
- Serve pieces of chicken on a plate covered generously with the sauce, or serve stew style in a bowl. (If you would rather have it as stew, which is how we had it at Kacao, use enough chicken broth to give it a more stew-like consistency.) Serve with white rice and more warm, corn tortillas.
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Real Latin America Experts
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.
Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant
It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.