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Guatemalan Pepian de Pollo Recipe

Guatemalan Pepian de Pollo Recipe

Pepian de Pollo is a delicious chicken stew layered with roasted peppers, pepitoria and sesame seeds blended together into a rich and meaty sauce.

Borne from the fusion of Mayan and Spanish cultures, there cannot be a dish more representative of the Guatemalan cuisine than the Pepian de Pollo.

Viewed by many as the national dish of Guatemala, this incredibly delicious stew combines the flavors of ancient and present Guatemala, presenting the food heritage of the country on a plate.

Origin & Cultural Significance

Guatemalan hills landscape

Pepian is believed to have been originated from the ethnic community of Maya-Kaqchikel, before the arrival of the Spaniards. In the past it was reserved only for major religious and political ceremonies and rituals.

However with time it grew to become a favorite, making its way into the routine lives of the people.

The recipe has since been modified to incorporate flavors from Spanish condiments like sesame, cinnamon and coriander with the Guatemalan pepitoria or pumpkin seeds, which remains the key component to date.

In September 2007, the dish was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation, marking its significance as an integral part of the culinary heritage of Guatemala.


Pepian derives its flavour from the roasted spices that are blended into a thick and rich stew. Although it could be prepared with pork, beef or chicken or sometimes a combination of various meats, but Pepian made from chicken is the most famous.

Different variants of the dish also feature vegetables and fruits like onion, tomato, carrots, squash, pear and corn. Additionally, peppercorns, pepitoria, cumin and sesame seeds are added to give it the characteristic bitterish spicy flavour.

Pepian de Pollo

Pepian de Pollo Recipe

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Indulge in the rich flavours of Guatemalan history. This stew is not just incredibly delicious but also easy to prepare, once you can get hold of all the ingredients.


  • Large chicken breasts- 5
  • Onions quartered- 2
  • Cinnamon stick- 1/2
  • Cloves- 6
  • Black peppercorns - 6
  • Guajillo chilli- 1
  • Pasila chilli- 1
  • Red pepper flakes- ½ tsp
  • Coriander seeds- 1 tbsp
  • Allspice berries- 1 tbsp
  • Pepitoria (Pumpkin seeds)- 1 tbsp
  • Sesame seeds- 1 tbsp
  • Dried oregano
  • Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Plum tomatoes - 500g
  • Tomatillos- 3
  • Garlic- 2-3 cloves
  • Water -1L
  • Guisquil (mirliton/chayote) or squash - 2
  • Large potatoes, peeled and cut in small chunks- 2
  • Carrots- 4
  • Cornflour- 1 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves to garnish
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook the chicken in a litre of water with salt. Once the water boils, add quartered onions, carrots, potatoes and chayote. Keep the pot covered and boil until cooked. Remove the chicken and the vegetables and the set the stock aside.
  2. In a separate frying pan, roast the black peppercorns, cinnamon, allspice berries, cloves and coriander seeds over medium heat until fragrant. Transfer these into a bowl when roasted and then roast the pepitoria, chillies, sesame seeds and oregano in a similar way.
  3. Grind all the roasted ingredients and spices into a powder.
  4. Heat the oil in the frying pan, add the onion, the tomatillos, the whole tomatoes and garlic and saute them all together until the onions are golden brown. Then remove from heat and skin them.
  5. Put all the ground spices and the roasted vegetables into a blender, add a little chicken stock and blend until smooth. 
  6. Pour the blended mixture into a large pot and add the remaining chicken stock to it.
  7. To improve the consistency of the mixture, add the cornflour to two tablespoons of chicken stock and pour it into the pot with gentle stirring. Continue stirring until it reaches the desired consistency.
  8. Finally add the chicken and the vegetables to the pan and simmer the stew on low heat for another 30 minutes until it is completely cooked and reaches its rich and thick consistency. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Pepian de pollo tastes best when served with boiled rice and corn tortillas. 

So what are you waiting for? Just pick a spoon and fork and indulge in the rich and warm flavors of Guatemala.

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