Guatemalan Pepián De Pollo Recipe

Pepián de pollo, or chicken pepián, is one of the oldest Guatemalan chicken recipes. This Guatemalan chicken stew is rich in flavors and filled with roasted spices. Pepián can be made with chicken, beef, or pork (or a combination of these meats), stewed in a tomato-based sauce flavored with roasted seeds, and peppers. The addition of a couple of veggies like potatoes and carrots, with white rice as a side dish, makes this Guatemalan chicken recipe a complete meal.

Chicken pepian from Guatemala

This traditional recipe is a fantastic representative of  Guatemalan comfort food, combining Mayan heritage and local ingredients with the influence of flavors brought from Spain. This authentic Guatemalan dish is such an important part of Guatemalan culinary history that it was declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation by the government in 2007. 

Here is my take on this traditional dish, one of my favorite chicken recipes. It is the perfect comfort food for when I’m missing my family and my country. If you’ve never made Pepián, don’t let the long list of ingredients discourage you. This traditional dish is a lot easier than it looks. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on making Guatemala’s national dish! So follow the easy instructions and thank me later!

 What is Pepián? 

The word Pepián doesn’t have a direct English translation. Pepián refers to the tomato-based sauce stew.  And the name most likely comes from the word “pepitoria” (dried squash or pumpkin seeds), one of the key ingredients in this Mayan dish.

Guatemalan pepian chicken stew

Pepián gets its distinctive flavor from roasted pepitoria (pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds that are grounded into a fine powder. It gives the stew its distinctive nutty flavor and also helps thicken the sauce.

There are many Pepián recipes in Guatemala, ranging from velvety red sauces to darker black ones and even yellow versions. Guatemalan Pepián dulce is made with chocolate. It has a savory, sweet flavor and is usually made with free-range hen instead of chicken. Be sure to check out my recipe for gallina en Pepián dulce. Guatemalan Pepián rojo is very similar to the traditional Mexican “Pipián” recipe, as we have so many things in common with our neighboring country, sharing not only geographical proximity but historical roots and traditions. 

The main difference between the Guatemalan Pepián recipe and the Mexican pipián is that the Guatemalan version does not have nuts and may or may not include chocolate. In contrast, the Mexican recipe includes almonds (or peanuts) and chocolate as its main ingredients. The Mexican version of this dish is also usually spicier. For traditional Mexican cuisine, check out these fantastic homestyle recipes.

What Are The Ingredients For The Guatemalan Pepián De Pollo Recipe?

Pepián is basically a stew made with chicken meat and vegetables cooked in a thick and smooth sauce. Most traditional recipes use tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions that serve as the base for the recado (sauce). Guaque and Pasa peppers add a little twist to the dish, with its tangy, mild taste. An essential ingredient in this tasty recipe is pepitoria (roasted pumpkin or squash seeds) which gives it a distinctive nutty and smoky flavor. Traditionally chicken is used to make Pepián but you will find variations made with beef, pork, or a combination of all three.

Guatemalan pepian national dish

Since Guatemala enjoys a great climate year-round, no wonder it is referred to as “The Land of Eternal Spring”, most of the traditional dishes include lots of fresh produce, and Pepián is no exception. Carrots, green beans, and güisquil are usually added to this amazing stew, turning it into a complete meal and making it the ultimate comfort food.

What Is The Difference Between the Guatemalan Pepián Rojo And Pepián Negro?

Depending on the region you are visiting, Pepián recipes will probably taste and look a little different. When ordering it at different eateries, the first thing you might notice is that there is a red and a black version of the same traditional dish, varying only in some of the ingredients.

Guatemalan pepian de pollo

The traditional recipe for Pepián negro (black) incorporates plantain peels which are added when roasting the seeds. And with a more toasted tortilla (nearly blackened), it will brown the sauce a little more.  An authentic Pepián rojo (red) will skip the plantains and add more tomatoes and peppers, which will give way to its rich crimson color and unique taste.

The taste of both chicken stews is very similar, as they use most of the same ingredients, like pepitoria and sesame seeds. But you will soon find out that no Pepián is the same as another, and many different Guatemalan departments (or regions) claim this dish as their own creation.

Tips For Making Guatemalan Pepián

  • Roast the ingredients in batches: The first step is to toast the cinnamon, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, guaque pepper, pasa pepper, and the tortilla. While waiting for them to cool down, start the second roasting batch that incorporates the tomatoes, tomatillos, bell pepper, garlic, and onion to make the recado (sauce). And to save even more time, while the second roasting is on the way, start blending the first batch of cooled ingredients. It will cut your cooking time significantly!

Ingredients for pepian chicken from Guatemala recipe

  • Take a trip down to your local Hispanic market: You might not find all the ingredients listed in the recipe at your regular supermarket. But I promise going to a Hispanic store to find the needed peppers and seeds will be worth the extra effort for a taste of this mouthwatering recipe from Guatemala.
  • Out of chicken? No problem! This stew is very accommodating; you can make it with chicken, beef, or pork. You can even try combining all three for a different twist. No matter what protein you choose, it will surely turn out delicious.

Can I Freeze Pepián?

Pepián is a delicious recipe that is very flexible. Besides allowing you to cook some things ahead of time, you can also make extra and freeze them. 

First, prepare the sauce and freeze it in a ziplock bag; Don’t forget to label and date the bag, so you can quickly identify it and know how long it has been in your freezer. I like to make a double batch of the sauce and freeze half for future recipes. Next, freeze the chicken in a separate bag and mark it “Chicken for Pepián,” so you set it aside and don’t use it for another recipe.

Thaw the sauce and chicken overnight in the refrigerator (don’t let food defrost on your kitchen counter: it is a magnet for bacteria!). Put everything in a large pot, and heat at low to medium temperature. Add the veggies you prefer, like carrots and green beans, cook till tender, allowing all the flavors to blend smoothly.

What To Serve With Guatemalan Pepián?

Thanks to its rich, thick sauce, the traditional Pepián is usually served in a deep soup bowl. Typically, local restaurants and street vendors serve it over white rice and accompanied by a stack of freshly made corn tortillas

vegetabes for pepian recipe Guatemala

If you feel creative, serve a “deconstructed” version. Cook and serve the vegetables separately. This way, your guests can choose what they would like to add (or leave out) Another great idea is to put the Pepián in a corn tortilla and enjoy it like a taco!

Pepián Recipe from Guatemala:

Ingredients for the Pepián:

  • 1 Chicken
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 4 Ounces sesame seeds
  • 4 Ounces of pepitoria seeds (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 Guaque pepper (guajillo pepper)
  • 2 Pasa peppers (pasilla/poblano peppers)
  • 1 cold tortilla
  • 2 Pounds of tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Ounces of green tomatoes or tomatillos (miltomates), coarsely chopped
  • 2 Red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Bunch of cilantro
  • 3 Carrots cut into cubes
  • 1 Güisquil (chayote) cut into cubes
  • 3 Potatoes cut into larger cubes
  • ½ Pound green beans, cut into pieces
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a comal or a metal skillet, place the cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, guaque pepper, pasa peppers, and the tortilla and grill them together. Let them cool down before blending.
  2. Blend all the ingredients in step one with a glass of water. Then, put them through a strainer. If you use a mill, you do not need to add any water.
  3. Separately, roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, bell pepper, garlic, and onion. After letting them cool down, blend them, adding only a sprig of cilantro (set aside the rest). Put them through the strainer for a smooth sauce.
  4. Cut the chicken into pieces and cook it in approximately 3 liters of water and salt to taste. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the water, setting it aside. Add the carrots, güisquil, potatoes, and green beans. 
  5. Add the two sauces that you blended previously and the rest of the cilantro. Continue cooking over low-medium heat until all the vegetables are tender. If the sauce seems a little thick, use the boiled water from the chicken to thin it out a little.
  6. Serve your Pepián in a bowl as a stand-alone meal or with white rice and corn tortillas.

Guatemalan pepian recipe

Make Ahead Of Time

I’m always looking for ways to simplify recipes to make my life easier. For me, cooking is also a joy, especially when I am making recipes that bring back so many wonderful memories of growing up in Guatemala. Cooking is also something I love to share with my family. It’s a great way to encourage my kids to connect with their heritage! 

But some recipes are easier than others or take more time than you would like (or have). With this straightforward recipe, you can take some “shortcuts” to make things easier. 

To make the recipe easier prep the ingredients ahead of time. You can also make the sauce a day or two before and keep it in the fridge and then cook the chicken and vegetables on the day you plan to serve the Pepián. 

Guatemalan pepian sauce

If you are planning a big family dinner, finish cooking in the morning and reheat it before serving. This traditional recipe for Pepián will impress your friends and family.  Whether you’re making this recipe for a family dinner or to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month or Guatemala’s independence, making it ahead of time will free some time to attend to other things, like making some Guatemalan inspired crafts with the kids.  

Other Traditional Guatemalan Recipes

  • Gallina en Pepián Dulce: My twist on a traditional Guatemalan recipe, served in chocolate sauce. The recado resembles mole, a sauce known well in Guatemala’s northern neighbor, Mexico. Its flavor, however, is remarkably distinct due to roasted sesame and squash seeds
  • Guatemalan Cocido:  This slow cooker version of my grandma’s traditional Guatemalan cocido recipe is an easy-to-make vegetable and beef stew. It will surely become your go-to favorite comfort food, as it is mine!
  • Chiles Rellenos: This popular dish is made with fried sweet peppers, filled with a mixture of beef and veggies, served drizzled with tomato sauce. If you’ve never tried Guatemalan food, Chiles Rellenos should be at the top of your list!

Guatemalan chiles rellenos

  • Fiambre: It is a dish prepared once a year on November 1st for the Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos. There are many different recipes, and mine is of fiambre rojo, which gets its red color from beets.
  • Buñuelos: Growing up in Guatemala, buñuelos were always one of my favorite foods.  They are made with sweet dough, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, covered in white sugar, and served swimming in a light syrup with a hint of anise.
Chicken pepian from Guatemala

Guatemalan Pepián De Pollo

Pepián de pollo, or chicken pepián, is one of the oldest Guatemalan chicken recipes. This Guatemalan chicken stew is rich in flavors and filled with roasted spices. 

Ingredients

  • 1 Chicken
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 4 Ounces sesame seeds
  • 4 Ounces of pepitoria seeds (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 Guaque pepper (guajillo pepper)
  • 2 Pasa peppers (pasilla/poblano peppers)
  • 1 cold tortilla
  • 2 Pounds of tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Ounces of green tomatoes or tomatillos (miltomates), coarsely chopped
  • 2 Red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Bunch of cilantro
  • 3 Carrots cut into cubes
  • 1 Güisquil (chayote) cut into cubes
  • 3 Potatoes cut into larger cubes
  • ½ Pound green beans, cut into pieces
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

    1. In a comal or a metal skillet, place the cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, guaque pepper, pasa peppers, and the tortilla and grill them together. Let them cool down before blending.
    2. Blend all the ingredients in step one with a glass of water. Then, put them through a strainer. If you use a mill, you do not need to add any water.
    3. Separately, roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, bell pepper, garlic, and onion. After letting them cool down, blend them, adding only a sprig of cilantro (set aside the rest). Put them through the strainer for a smooth sauce.
    4. Cut the chicken into pieces and cook it in approximately 3 liters of water and salt to taste. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the water, setting it aside. Add the carrots, güisquil, potatoes, and green beans. 
    5. Add the two sauces that you blended previously and the rest of the cilantro. Continue cooking over low-medium heat until all the vegetables are tender. If the sauce seems a little thick, use the boiled water from the chicken to thin it out a little.
    6. Serve your Pepián in a bowl as a stand-alone meal or with white rice and corn tortillas.

Best recipe for traditional Guatemalan pepian de pollo chicken stew

Easy recipe for Guatemalan pepian de pollo chicken stew

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe