Chicken in Green Tomatillo and Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Pollo Pepián Verde) (Tested)

Serves     6


“Pepian Verde” is a traditional sauce made with tomatillos and “pepitas,” which is the Spanish word for pumpkin seeds. It is very easy to make, and in spite of the chiles it is not that spicy. The poblano peppers are mild, and contribute a pleasing chile note. Check with your grocer if you don’t see them, they are sometimes mistakenly called “pasilla peppers” as well. Also, Trader Joe’s carries the hulled pumpkin seeds called for in this recipe.

The sauce can be made ahead of time (at least a day or two), which is a bonus. If you do that, store the sauce in the fridge until you are ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe. You will find that in the fridge the sauce will solidify, because the pectin from the tomatillos has thickened it. Once heated, the sauce will become liquid again. Cool!

You can of course, use any kind of chicken parts for this recipe. I chose to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for economy and ease of preparation. And if you really want to make this an easy dish to prepare, you could purchase a rotisserie chicken and cut the meat into large chunks instead of cooking chicken thighs. Just heat up the sauce and add the chicken pieces to warm.


3 fresh poblano peppers

12 medium-size tomatillos

2 serrano or jalapeno chiles (remove seeds for less heat)

2 or more cups of chicken stock

1 cup roughly chopped onion

3 cloves peeled garlic

1 large handful of cilantro, no need to stem

¾ cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. oil

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Flour for dusting the chicken (optional)

Additional pumpkin seeds for garnish

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Lime wedges for garnish


Begin by making the sauce. To do so, first roast the poblano peppers over a gas flame on the top of your stove (as I do), or broil them in the oven until the skin blackens. (For those who would like a little more instruction on how to roast and peel peppers check out this short video on roasting peppers.) Make sure you keep your eyes on them for the entire process, though, moving your baking tray around as needed.

Once the peppers are roasted and the skin is blackened, place them into a covered bowl to finish steaming. When they are cool enough to handle, pull out the stems and seeds, and remove the skins. There is no need to pull off every bit of skin, as everything will be blended up smoothly. Place the peppers in a blender container.

In the meantime, while the poblano peppers are roasting, remove the papery skins from the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos and the serrano or jalapeno peppers into a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until they are soft, about 15 minutes.

Scoop the softened contents of the saucepan out of the water and put into the blender container with the poblanos. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, onion, garlic, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and salt, and blend on high until everything is smooth.

Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil to the pan. Dust the chicken thighs with flour (if using), add them to the oil, and brown on one side. Turn and finish cooking on the other side. You may have to do this in a couple of batches if you don’t have a large enough pan. When the chicken is cooked, make sure all the chicken pieces are back in the sauté pan and add the sauce, then let it come to a simmer. This is where you will take note of whether you need to add more stock or water if the sauce seems too thick. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Garnish the plate with pumpkin seeds, cilantro sprigs, and a lime wedge. Serve with Radish Salad  and Mexican Rice, both recipes that you will find are already listed in the archives.


Notes and Instructions

Recipe contribution from Linda McElroy, adapted from:

Photo credit: Linda McElroy