Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce

Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce - Pollo en Pipian Rojo

Ancho chiles, the most commonly used dried capsicum in Mexican cookery, give this thick and earthy dish its characteristic maroon color. The muted red hues of pipián rojo hides its complexity — toasted sesame seeds meld with Mexican herbs and spices to create an intense sauce with a consistency similar to mole.

There are two distinct steps in preparing pollo en pipián rojo. The chicken is first poached in an aromatic broth to season and cook the meat. The red sauce is then created separately. It will be used to poach the chicken a second time.

To make the pipián rojo, the ancho chiles and sesame seeds are toasted and combined with spices and garlic to create a paste. The chicken broth from the first poaching is used to thin the ancho-sesame paste, only to be thickened again to further deepen the flavors of the sauce.

Lasang Pinoy Sunday Edition
Lasang Pinoy Sundays – Red hosted by SpiCes

recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of Mexico

Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce
Pollo en Pipián Rojo

makes 6 servings

For Simmering the Chicken:

1/2 white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1 Mexican bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
salt, to taste

chicken giblets (optional)
A 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces

For the Ancho Chile and Sesame Seed Sauce:

Ancho Chiles and Sesame Seeds

6 Ancho chiles, seeded and deveined (reserve 1 tablespoon of the seeds)
1/2-inch piece of Mexican cinnamon (canela)
3 whole cloves
5 peppercorns
3/4 cup sesame seeds
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons lard or olive oil
salt, to taste


  • If you already have some chicken broth on hand, the red sesame seed sauce can be prepared in advance. Make double batches of the sauce and use it as a condiment for other meats — it will freeze well.

To Simmer the Chicken:

Combine the onion, garlic cloves, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and salt in a heavy pot. Add the giblets (if using), and cover with water, about 4 to 5 cups. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, then simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and cook over low heat for about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and set aside. Strain the chicken broth and reserve.

To Prepare the Ancho Chile and Sesame Seed Sauce:

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast the ancho chiles lightly by flattening and pressing the chiles for no more than 5 seconds, inside down, using a metal spatula. In a large bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and soak for about 10 minutes.

Toast the reserved ancho chile seeds until golden brown. Set the seeds aside to cool. Once cooled, add the seeds to the cinnamon stick, cloves, and peppercorns in a spice grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle. Grind the spices to a fine powder.

Toast the sesame seeds until aromatic and lightly browned. Set the seeds aside to cool before grinding to a fine texture.

Transfer the soaked ancho chiles to a blender. Add the garlic clove and 1 cup of the reserved chicken broth. Blend to a smooth puree.

Heat a skillet or saucepan over low heat. Fry the ground seeds and spices over low heat for 3 minutes while constantly stirring.

Add the blended chiles to the fried spices and cook for about 5 minutes while constantly stirring.

Red Sesame Seed Sauce - Pollo en Pipian Rojo Mixing

Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth and cook the sauce for about 20 minutes until thickened. Season the ancho chile and sesame seed sauce to taste.

To Serve:

Add the cooked chicken pieces to the ancho chile and sesame seed sauce and heat until the sauce and chicken are heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve with warm tortillas.

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17 Responses to “Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce”

  1. noobcook says:

    I’ve never seen or heard about Ancho chiles, but they look like the most amazing spices! The dark maroon hue is gorgeous!~

  2. Jerry says:

    This looks delicious. I wish we could get good dried peppers here in Canada.

  3. Fearless Kitchen says:

    This looks really interesting. I like the detailed instructions.

    last blog post: Recipe: Asparagus and Mushrooms with White Wine and Rosemary

  4. cheryl says:

    That looks delish! and your pictures are so inviting.

    last blog post: Adopt a GF Blogger Roundup-July

  5. kat says:

    Yum, I’ve got some meat braising in an ancho chili sauce right now so the smells go great with this post.

    last blog post: Summer Garden Galette

  6. Katie says:

    Yum! I love a flavorful, thick sauce.

    last blog post: My First Day (The Raw Vegan Way)

  7. Dragon says:

    I love poached chicken and the sauce sounds wonderful.

    last blog post: Citrus Sunrise Punch

  8. grace says:

    oh heavens. i think this might be the perfect chicken dish for me. i can only imagine the bliss created by that blend of nuttiness and spiciness–this is awesome. :)

  9. Natashya says:

    That looks wonderful. Jerry is right though, we don’t see those beautiful chilies here in Canada. Maybe in the big cities.
    I have left an award for you on my site, bring some of your chicken in red sesame sauce when you visit. I’ll open a bottle of wine.

    last blog post: Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Awards!

  10. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen says:

    Wow, that looks real good. I am so all about anything with chilies! Delicious!

  11. Kevin says:

    I like the sesame and chili combo; it sound tasty.

    last blog post: Salsa Verde Turkey Burger

  12. noobcook – should’ve mentioned they’re dried poblanos. Very mild and smells great. Worth seeking out.

    jerry – maybe online sources would be better.

    fearless – gotta be clear so I don’t confuse myself the next time i make it.

    cheryl – thanks!

    kat – anchos simmering away is always welcome in my kitchen.

    katie – hope you try it! worth the bit of extra effort.

    dragon – hope you try it!

    grace – the sauce is rich. very satisfying and great with tortillas.

    natashya – thanks for the award. hope you can find some anchos in canada.

    jenn – gotta have chiles in the pantry at all times.

    kevin – sesame and ancho works great together. Good stuff.

  13. giz says:

    Wow!!! These are flavours entirely unfamiliar to me and very interesting. I definitely need to expand my thinking and give this a whirl. The combinations and intensity look so rewarding.

    last blog post: Magic Blondies

  14. Dee says:

    This is perfect Jude! I have some Anchos in the pantry that I didn’t know what to do with. I’ll have to bookmark this :)

    last blog post: Burning plastic

  15. Tim says:

    The colour and richness of this is amazing. Unfortunately here in Australia it’s hard to get many Mexican ingredients, but this is a reason to search harder.

    last blog post: Spice advice: Coriander seeds

  16. Emi says:

    I just had this at my Moth-in-Laws house. It was divine. She made one dish with chicken and another dish with pork ribs. They were both really good. It was like eating a Mexican Kare-Kare sans veggies. Gonna shop for ingredients tomorrow, as we are lucky to have a Mexican grocer 3 houses away.

  17. RiftGold says:

    Advisable its real a wonderful and category of unique one, I like the way it has shown the things, its reallynice.Thanks a lot for intercourse it. I would love to advise it to others.And my website is:Rift gold Have a nice day!

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