Facts about Mayan Culture and Guatemala

Chicken stew with tomatillosGuatemalan Green Chicken Stew is more commonly known as chicken stew with tomatillos or “pollo en jocon.”  Chicken is poached and then simmered in a beautiful green sauce made from tomatillos, cilantro, green peppers and onion. It is a popular dish in Guatemala which is what led me to try it.  I have never cooked with tomatillos before, nor have I ever thickened a stew with ground toasted seeds but I’m glad I did. This is a delicious tender stew with fresh tangy flavors.  It also happens to be healthy and low fat.  It is a perfect dish for casual entertaining, especially with the added excitement of the garnishes. I will definitely be making this one often!

How to toast pumpkin seeds

Cans of tomatillosI hope you had a happy holiday season and are enjoying the new year so far.  For me a big part of the holidays is cooking and entertaining – two of my favorite activities.  This time around I had the added enjoyment of sharing some of my favorite recipes with people outside of my inner circle of family and friends, through “Panning The Globe”.  Thank you for visiting.  I’ve appreciated your comments and feedback.  It’s been a challenging, fun and fascinating endeavor researching and developing recipes from different countries. I look forward to a new year of delicious discoveries!  I hope you will stop by and try some recipes and let me know what you think.

Pot of Guatemalan Green Chicken Stew

Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Guatemalan
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Tender shredded chicken simmered in a fresh tangy tomatillo-cilantro sauce
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (5-7 minutes in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat with constant tossing until lightly browned)
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted (2 minutes in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat with constant tossing until very lightly browned - remove from heat as soon as they start to color)
  • 5 pounds skinless chicken breasts with bones
  • 1½ pounds of fresh tomatillos, husked (10-12) or 2 11-oz cans of tomatillos, drained
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or other cooking oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 green peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Corn tortillas to serve with stew (1 per person)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 avocado, cubed or sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced into wedges for squeezing on top
  1. GRIND THE SEEDS: Put toasted pumpkin seeds and toasted sesame seeds into a blender and pulse on "puree" for 5 or 10 seconds, until they are ground. (You may need to stir a bit between pulses) Scrape into a small bowl or cup, and set aside. (no need to wash blender - you will use it again soon)
  2. POACH THE CHICKEN (AND TOMATILLOS, only if using fresh ones) : Put chicken and fresh tomatillos in a large pot with 9-10 cups of water (enough to just cover) and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Transfer chicken from broth to a large plate or bowl and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatillos to the blender. If using canned tomatillos, put them into the blender. Pour broth through a strainer into a large bowl and set aside. (you will need 4 cups of broth for the stew) Wipe out pot.
  3. PUREE TOMATILLOS AND CILANTRO: Add cilantro to the blender with the tomatillos and add 1 cup of the strained chicken broth. Puree for about 10-15 seconds. Pour the mixture into the pot. (keep blender out for one more use)
  4. SAUTE THE VEGETABLES: Add 3 tablespoons of oil to a large sauté pan and cook garlic, jalapeño, green pepper and onion over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, until they start to brown. Scrape them into the blender. Add 1 cup of the strained broth and puree for 10-15 seconds. Pour into the pot with the tomatillos and cilantro. Add ground seeds to the pot and 2 more cups of the broth. (Remaining broth will not be needed but you might want to use it to make rice to accompany the stew) Bring contents of pot to a boil. Lower to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Meanwhile, remove chicken from bones and shred (pull chicken apart using two forks. Refer to photo in BBQ Chicken Enchiladas) . Add shredded chicken to the thickened sauce along with salt and fresh pepper, to taste. Simmer gently for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Serve stew in deep bowls, over rice, with corn tortillas tucked in. Sprinkle with cubed avocado, green onions and lime juice. I suggest a simple green salad with citrus dressing on the side. Enjoy!



  1. Michael says

    I also made this for my family tonight. So much flavor! Great instructions — came off without a hitch. Thanks Lisa

  2. Hannah says

    This recipe is lovely – probably my favorite of the typical recados of Guatemala. One small note, though: it’s called jocón, not jacon. And fun fact: in Guatemala tomatillos are called miltomates (not tomatillos like in Mexico). If you can find fresh ones, it’s definitely worth it to use them (although they are tedious to peel).

    Buen Provecho!

  3. Laura says

    Our family really enjoyed this! We only added one jalapeno, though. I added the seeds and it was just the right heat. The pumpkin and sesame seeds really added flavor to the dish! I added sour cream, cilantro with the avocado on top. I forgot to serve it over rice, I’ll do that next time. Such a delicious meal. I’d give it 4/5 stars. the kids say 5/5.

  4. Serendipity says

    Fantastic stew! Great meal that I can adjust the heat on for different tolerances in the family. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. anna peter says

    Oh. My. Gosh. Soooooooo good. I only used one jalapeño, So it wasn’t too spicy. It was perfect. It made a lot, so perfect for a large group. I definitely will be sharing this recipe. Although, I lived in Guatemala for a fair amount of time and I’ve never seen it or heard of it before.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Mjen says

    Make every effort to have decent tortillas with this. In the states the best thing is to make them with corn masa or maseca. Most commercial ones are horrible.

  7. Jen says

    Dropping in to let you know this was awesome!I used leftover turkey….Very Mexican tasting….okay Guatemalan!


  1. […] So, I have a wonderful unseasonal bounty of tomatillos. This harvest was even better than when I planted them on purpose. I used half of them to make Roasted Green Tomatillo Salsa, and served it with fish tacos (this dinner brought to you by your garden!). The other half of them went to make a Guatemalan Green Stew. […]

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