Pipian verde is a flavorful and hearty Mexican prehispanic sauce made with pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, leafy greens, and spices. It is perfect to serve with poultry, pork, fish, or vegetables.
What is pipian verde?
Pipian verde is a traditional sauce from central and south Mexico. It consists of a thick preparation made of pumpkin seeds, herbs, and spices.
The origin of this recipe dates from the pre-Hispanic era and was originally used to condiment fish and wild game meat.
The name refers to the color of the sauce, verde=green, which is achieved by using different types of leafy greens and fresh chilies. Another version of this recipe can be made by using red chilies, therefore the sauce turning into red color.
How is the sauce made?
Let’s start with the main ingredient, pepitas. Pepitas are known in English as pumpkin or squash seeds and they not only add color and the particular taste to pipian verde but, together with peanuts and sesame seeds, also act as a thickening agent.
Tomatillos, also known as Mexican husk tomatoes, add some acidity and color. If you can’t find fresh tomatillos where you live, look in online Mexican stores and Amazon for canned tomatillos.
Different spices and herbs can be used, such as garlic, cumin, whole cloves, pimienta gorda (allspice), epazote, etc.
Leafy greens are a must, as they not only add a bright green color but also some herbaceous flavor typical of this recipe. The most used are radish leaves, lettuce leaves, hoja santa, epazote, and cilantro.
Green chilies add some heat and color to pipian verde, such as poblano, serrano, and jalapeño peppers. The amount of chilies is up to the cook’s preference.
What meat to use?
As for the meat, our recipe uses chicken, but the pipian verde mole works as well in meats that range from turkey, beef, pork, fish, rabbit, and even shrimp.
And if you are vegan or vegetarian, we have excellent news, this pipian mole sauce is vegan and you can substitute the meat with squash, chayotes, mushrooms, potatoes, etc.
How To Make It (step by step)
Cook the chicken:
Place the chicken into a large stockpot. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, cilantro, and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the meat for at least 1 inch, you will need about 4-5 cups of chicken stock later to make the pipian sauce.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through (about 1 hour).
Remove chicken from the pot and place in a bowl. Then strain the liquid and set the chicken and the stock aside until needed.
Make the sauce:
If you using fresh tomatillos you’ll first need to boil them. So, remove the husks and wash them well under running water, then boil them in plenty of water.
Drain them and allow them to cool down before placing them in a blender. Or you can also use canned tomatillos and in that case, just drain them before adding them.
Cut the chili pepper (poblano, Anaheim, or jalapeño) longwise and discard the stem, seeds, and veins. Cut them into chunks and add them to the blender.
Add the radish and lettuce leaves, pepitas, peanuts, sesame seeds, cumin, peppercorns, and garlic.
Pour in 2 ½ cups of chicken stock (the one you reserved before) and blend for 3-4 minutes at high speed until you’ll have a velvety sauce. The longer you blend, the smoother the sauce will be.
Transfer the pipian mole sauce to a large pot and pour in 1 ½ cups of chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat and stirring from time to time for 40 minutes.
The sauce should be thick and have some oil floating on the surface. This means it was cooked long enough to allow the peanuts, sesame seeds, and pepitas to release their natural oils.
Adjust with salt to taste, then add the cooked chicken to the pot. Cook for 10 more minutes to flavor the chicken with the sauce and then turn off the heat.
Store and Reheat
If you have leftovers place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. Or freeze them for up to 4 months.
To reheat, thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat on the stove over medium heat adding a splash of chicken stock to reconstitute the sauce.
Is pipian mole spicy?
Not at all, since I recommend seeding the chili peppers, but feel free to add one or two serrano peppers to the blender for some heat.
Can I make it ahead?
Yes, you can! You can make this recipe up to 5 days ahead and keep it in the fridge until needed.
What green chilies can I use?
You can use poblanos, anaheim, hatch, jalapeño, or serrano chilies. Other green chilies also work as long as they are not too sweet.
Can I sub the radish leaves?
Yes. You can replace them with spinach if you need to.
Can I make it vegan?
Yes! The sauce is 100% vegan friendly if you leave out the chicken stock and replace it with vegetable stock. As for the chicken, use mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, or any other vegetable you love.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Absolutely. The thickening agents are pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and sesame seeds. No one of those contains gluten.
Pipian Verde (green mole)
For cooking the chicken
- 8 small chicken drumsticks (or chicken thighs)
- 1 small onion (peeled)
- 2 garlic cloves (skin on)
- small bunch cilantro
- 1 bay leaf
- salt (to taste)
For the sauce (pipian)
- ½ lb tomatillos (boiled, about 1 ½ cup)
- 1 poblano, Anaheim, or jalapeño pepper (seeded and cut into chunks)
- 1 bunch radishes leaves
- 2 romaine lettuce leaves
- ½ cup toasted pepitas
- ¼ cups toasted sesame seeds
- ½ cup toasted peanuts
- ¼ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 large garlic clove (peeled)
- Cook chicken drumsticks in a large pot with onion, garlic, bay leaf, cilantro, salt, and plenty of water (read note 1).
- Remove chicken from the pot and place it in a bowl. Then strain the liquid and set everything aside.
Make the sauce:
- Add cooked tomatillos in a blender and add chilies, radish and lettuce leaves, pepitas, peanuts, sesame seeds, cumin, peppercorns, and garlic.
- Pour in 2 ½ cups of chicken stock (from cooking the chicken) and blend for 3-4 minutes at high speed until you’ll have a velvety sauce (read note 2).
Cook pipian verde
- Transfer the sauce to a large pot and pour in 1 ½ cups of chicken stock.
- Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, for 40 minutes (read note 3).
- Adjust salt to taste, then add the cooked chicken to the pot.
- Cook for 10 more minutes to blend all flavors together then turn off the heat.
- Serve with Mexican white rice on the side and warm corn tortillas.
- You will need about 5 cups of chicken stock later to make the pipian sauce. So make sure you use enough water to cook the chicken.
- The longer you blend the ingredients, the smoother the sauce will be.
- At the end of cooking, the sauce should be thick and have some oil floating on the surface. This means it was cooked long enough to allow the peanuts, sesame, and pumpkin seeds to release their natural oils.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.