Guatemalan Food: Jocón

Rudy Giron: &emdash; Guatemalan Food: Jocón

Jocón is basically a Guatemalan tomatillo-cilantro sauce; although we use the word miltomate instead. We also have another word for cilantro in Guatemala, do you know what it is?

Because pepián steals all the attention, jocón does not receive as much press as it should. Basically, pepían is the red Mayan curry, recado we call it in Guatemala and mole in Mexico, while jocón is the green Mayan curry.

This picture of jocón was taken at the restaurant Los Tres Tiempos, a new joint serving Guatemalan food with a twist.

Whats4Eats has shared this recipe of jocón:

Jocón or pollo en jocón is a dish popular with the Mayan population of Guatemala. Chicken is simmered in a tasty sauce tinted a beautiful green by tomatillos and cilantro and thickened with ground sesame and pumpkin seeds and corn tortillas.

4 to 6 servings


  • Chicken, cut into serving pieces — 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • Water — 4 cups
  • Salt — 2 teaspoons
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) — 1/4 cup
  • Sesame seeds — 1/4 cup
  • Corn tortillas, chopped, soaked in water, drained — 2
  • Tomatillos, hulled and chopped — 1 cup
  • Cilantro, chopped — 1 bunch
  • Scallions, chopped — 1 bunch
  • Jalapeño or serrano chile pepper, chopped — from 1 to 5


  1. Place the chicken, water and salt into a large pot over medium-high flame. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Remove the chicken to a bowl and strain and set aside the broth. Let chicken cool, then remove the meat from the bones and shred it with your fingers. Set aside.
  3. Heat a dry skillet over medium flame. Add the pumpkin and sesame seeds and toast, stirring, until lightly browned. Remove to a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.
  4. Add the sesame and pumpkin seeds, tortillas, tomatillos, cilantro, scallions and chile peppers to a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup of the reserved broth and process until smooth. If using a blender you may have to do this step in batches.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot. Pour over pureed sauce and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the remaining broth to give it a sauce-like consistency.
  6. Heat over medium-low flame and simmer for an additional 15-25 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Jocon Variations

  • Leave the chicken pieces whole if you prefer.
  • If you can’t find pumpkin seeds, simply use 1/2 cup of sesame seeds. And if finding sesame seeds is a problem, you can substitute a slightly smaller amount of tahini.
  • Cubed pork can be substituted for the chicken. There is no need to shred the pork, but you may need to simmer it longer for it to become tender.
  • Use any remaining broth to make rice to accompany the meal.

© 2014 – 2016, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • Jose Byron Gonzalez

    Good morning. Nice picture. As you mentioned before, Guatemala is the land of stews and sauces. I guess to convey the idea one can call pepian “a kind of curry” though we know it’s not quite the same. And did you know there are at least two types? The red one you mention was actually new to me and it seems it gets the color from the fact that everything is pre-packaged. But the one I knew is black and gets its very distinctive flavor from burnt tortillas and chiles. Oh, and the other name for ‘cilantro’ (and the one I still proudly use and will always use in Los Angeles and anywhere) is culantro.

    • You know, José Byron, most people use the word cilantro now, instead of culantro.

      • Jose Byron Gonzalez

        I’ve noticed. Good for them.

        However, since I ain’t Mexican it will forever be “culantro” to me. It’s bad enough I have to live with spanglish in Los Angeles to also have to hear it in my own country.

  • Evolina

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I also wanted to add that there’s such a thing as: Cilantro and Culantro. I’m certain most of us are familiar with cilantro, but Culantro has a different leaf, which is longer and it tends to grow in the wild, but also has a different flavor than cilantro. Therefore, there’s not “Mexican” nor “Guatemalan” version of it. Is simply that those 2 are different plants.

    • You know Evolina, some of other people had suggested the same thing. Although when I go to the market, I get the same herb whether I ask for cilantro or culantro.