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Chicken Pepian

Enjoy a little taste of Guatemala from the comfort of home. Dating back to Mayan times, chicken pepian has become Guatemala’s national dish. This savory dish in the form of a rich, spicy stew, delivers substantial comfort and deliciousness.

chicken pepian


  • 3 lbs. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 2 tsp salt

  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds

  • ½ cup sesame seeds

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 2 corn tortillas

  • 5 fresh Roma tomatoes

  • 1 white onion, medium (with skin)

  • 1 dried chile pasilla, seeds and stem removed

  • 1 dried chile guaque, seeds and stem removed

  • ¼ tsp paprika

  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped


In a large pot, add chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces and cover chicken with salted water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Allow the chicken to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until it turns white and is cooked through. Skim off any residue found on top of the water. Once fully cooked, remove chicken from the water. Reserve the water (now broth).

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and cinnamon stick to the dry skillet. Toast the combination until the seeds begin to turn brown. Once toasted, remove seeds, and set aside.

Add two corn tortillas to the already hot skillet. Toast until brown on one side. Use tongs to flip over until browned on the other side. Remove tortillas from the heat once toasted. Place them in a small bowl with a thin layer of water to soften the tortillas.

Heat skillet to high. Add five Roma tomatoes and cook, turning until the skin is charred. Once charred, remove them, and set aside.

Next, add the white onion (skin still on), 1 chile pasilla, and chile guaque. Turn in the skillet and remove once skin is charred. Set aside.

Add the cinnamon stick to a spice grinder and pulse until the cinnamon is finely ground. (or use ½-¾ tsp pre-ground cinnamon)

Grind sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds to a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Using a food processor, finely grind the charred tomatoes, unpeeled onion, chile pasilla and chile guaque. Add paprika, chopped cilantro, ground cinnamon, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Pulse together until fully combined.

Add the corn tortillas and four cups of the reserved chicken water. Pulse until everything is fully combined and smooth. Pour the sauce into a large pot and bring it to a low boil. Add the chicken and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, sliced avocado, rice or tortillas on the side. Enjoy!


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