The pepián dish was declared intangible nation heritage on November 2007, the Guatemalan Minister of Culture and Sports declared it intangible nation heritage, next to the Kaq-Ik, Jocón, and plantain mole.
The origins of the recipe, goes back to the Pre-Columbian era, of Kaqchiquel origins, from Chimaltenango, and it was with the arrival of the Spaniards, that this dish merged with Arabian ingredients, such as sesame seeds, chilies and ground squash seeds; taking on the characteristic flavor which we know today. In the Guatemalan kitchen, the pepián is considered one of the most delicious dishes, traditionally served with rice, tortilla or hot small white tamale.
There are two variations of the recipe: red and black. The last one takes its name because of one of its ingredients; burnt plantain hull. Many recipes indicate that for the black pepián, you must burn the tortilla to get that characteristic black color, but this ingredient makes the flavor turn bitter, which is why it is recommended to make it with burnt plantain hull.
Most of the ingredients have Indian-Arab origins; the pepitoria, also called sesame seed, pepper, onions, chicken, pig, coriander; and the rest like tomatoes and potatoes.
1 whole chicken, jointed, or 8 pieces of chicken, skin on
3 medium onions, 1 quartered, 2 whole
1 heaped tbsp salt
2 guaque (guajillo) chillies, dried, deseeded
2 pasa (poblano/mulato) chillies, dried and deseeded
115g raw squash seeds (pepitoria)
115g sesame seeds
6 large black peppercorns
3 large garlic cloves
1 small bunch coriander
9 roma/plum tomatoes, around 500g
1 tbsp dried oregano
1⁄2 stick cinnamon
1 guisquil (mirliton/chayote) or squash
500g potatoes or root vegetables
- Put the chicken in a large pot, covering it with roughly 3 liters of water, so the chicken is covered. Add the salt and the quartered onion to the water while the chicken boils.
- While the chicken is boiling, roast the dried chilies over a medium heat in a dry frying pan until fragrant. Once roasted, crumble chilies into a mixing bowl; all roasted ingredients will be combined in this bowl so make sure it’s large enough.
- Next, toast the raw pumpkin seeds in the same pan, then add to the mixing bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until golden. Add to the mixing bowl.
- Put one whole onion with 6-8 black whole peppercorns and 6 cloves plus the garlic cloves, in the pan, then toast until golden and mix with the seeds.
- Toast fresh coriander the same as the other ingredients. This will become very fragrant. Add to mixing bowl.
- Next, roast the tomatoes until blackened and soft, and then add to the other ingredients.
- Finally, toast 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and the cinnamon, then add to mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, cut peeled potatoes into large chunks. Cut guisquil into thick slices and peel. Cut remaining onion into chunks. These will be added to the chicken pot once chicken is mostly cooked.
- Combine all roasted ingredients and add 750ml water. Whizz in a blender to combine fully. Add the mixture to the chicken pot. Continue cooking at a rolling boil until the sauce reduces, add the vegetable and cook until tender. The sauce is typically thin like a soup. This dish can be served in a bowl as a stand-alone meal or with rice. Typical Guatemalan style includes rice or tortillas.