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Chicken Pepian (Guatemala)


Chicken Pepian


Pepian is very nearly the same thing as mole; the primary difference is a lack of nuts and a reliance on pumpkin seeds as the main ingredient.  The sauce can work with nearly anything, but I particularly enjoy it with chicken and vegetables like chayote.


While there are chiles in the recipe, the dish is not spicy at all.  In fact, you might want to add a dash of hot sauce.

Some notes: 

  • If you don’t have chayote, never fear.  Root vegetables like turnip or rutabaga would work.

  • Be sure to strain the sauce before adding the bread and additional stock.  The seed husks and woodsy bits of cinnamon are unpleasant if not strained out.

Serves 4


  • 2 ounces (50 g) sesame seeds

  • 2 ounces (50 g) pumpkin seeds

  • 5 large roma tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatillos, husks removed

  • 1 dried guajillo chili, seeds removed

  • 1 dried pasilla chili, seeds removed

  • 10 peppercorns

  • 1/2 stick cinnamon

  • 1-2 cups (250-500 ml) water (or stock), as needed

  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil

  • 2 slices white bread

  • 1 chicken, cut up

    • or 4 chicken thighs (boneless)

    • or 4 chicken breasts (boneless)

  • 1 chayote, peeled, cubed

  • 2 potatoes, peeled, cubed



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees/190 Celsius.

  2. Toast the cinnamon and peppercorns in a cast-iron frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Once toasted, transfer the spices to a bowl.

  3. Add the dried chillies, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds to the frying pan and toast them also at medium heat until the sesame seeds are golden brown. Then transfer all the spices and roasted seeds to a blender and blend until as powdery as possible.

  4. Add the onion, tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic to the pan and roast in oven until tomatoes are soft and blackened. Then remove from heat, remove the skin off the tomatoes and chop.

  5. Combine the ground spices and vegetables in the blender, add the chicken stock and blend until smooth. 

  6. Strain the sauce into a large saucepan, removing any seed or spice bits.

  7. Return to blender, add bread in chunks, and puree.  Return the sauce to the saucepan, and stir in half liter of chicken stock.

  8. Bring to boil, stirring until the mixture has thickened a little.  Add plenty of salt to taste.

  9. In a dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the chicken.  Add the sauce, potatoes and chayote, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.


Recipe adapted from and


Photo by Drew Vahrenkamp

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