Jocón de pollo, Chicken in Green Tomatillo Sauce


Michele Peterson
Jocón de pollo is a traditional Guatemalan dish hailing from Huehuetenango. The dish is made with a combination of chicken pieces, pumpkin and sesame seeds, tomatillos, cilantro, onions, chili peppers, and corn tortillas that are chopped, soaked in water, and drained. This recipe for jocón is similar to Chicken in Salsa Verde a popular dish in Mexico. But it has a nutty depth of flavor drawn from toasted pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Those two magical ingredients make jocón a deliciously memorable Guatemalan dish.


  • 3 pounds chicken pieces whole chicken cut into serving pieces
  • cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds known as pepitas in Latin America shelled
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • whole corn tortillas fresh, soaked in water and torn in pieces
  • cups tomatillos husked and poached or substitute 16 ounces canned tomatillos (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions fresh, chopped. Scallions are the green part of the stalk of a green onion
  • 1/4 cup mint fresh, chopped (hierbabuena variety of mint)
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped


  • Bring chicken, water or broth, and salt to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the foam from the surface while cooking.
  • Remove the chicken and set aside in a bowl. Strain the broth and reserve the liquid, discarding any solids.
  • Bring a dry cast iron skillet or comal to a medium-high temperature. Add the pumpkin seeds and then the sesame seeds toasting them until light brown. Stir while they’re toasting so they don’t burn.
  • Grind the seeds in a spice or coffee grinder or in a blender/food processor until very fine.
  • Add the pepitoria (ground seeds), cooked tomatillos, soaked and shredded corn tortillas, cilantro, mint, scallions, and jalapeño pepper to a food processor. Add one cup of broth and process until silky smooth.
  • Return the chicken to the cooking pot. Pour the green sauce in the food processor over the chicken and add the remaining 3 cups of water, stirring to mix well.
  • Simmer for 20 more minutes. Adjust seasoning and then serve.


  • The key to making sure jocón keeps its bright green color is not to overcook the sauce.
  • Using fresh tomatillos will make the dish a brighter green than if you use canned tomatillos. To cook fresh tomatillos,  remove the papery husks, wash the tomatillos, and place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and the lower portion of the tomatillos. Cover and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, turning the tomatillos until they’re fully cooked and soft.
  • If you use canned tomatillos you’ll need much less added salt.
  • Add more jalapeño or serrano hot chiles to taste. But note that the traditional Guatemalan recipe for jocón makes a very mildly spicy dish.
  • Always wear gloves when chopping hot peppers.
  • Be sure to process the sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds until very fine. A coffee or spice grinder works well for this.
  • Properly stored, this chicken and tomatillo stew will last for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • If you can’t find hierbabuena mint and are using spearmint, cut the quantity of mint in half or omit it.
Jocón de Pollo Chicken in Green Tomatillo Sauce