Episode 207: Tex Meets Mex

Pipian Sauce

Pipian Sauce

A rich grilled vegetable and pumpkin seed sauce. Serve this with a Whole Grilled Snapper.

Other Recipes from Episode 207: Tex Meets Mex


Pipian Sauce


For the Vegetables

  • 8 fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 3 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeno chile
  • ½ small onion or 1/4 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and skewered on a toothpick
  • 2 scallions, trimmed
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices

To Finish the Sauce

  • 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
  • ½ to 1 cup water, bottled clam broth, or chicken broth (or more as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs epazote, finely chopped (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Recipe Steps

1: Set up your grill for direct grilling and build a hot fire. Brush and oil the grill grate.

2: Make the Pipian Sauce: Grill the tomatillos, poblano, serranos, onion, garlic, scallions, and lettuce leaves until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board to cool to room temperature, then cut into 1-inch pieces. (For a milder salsa, seed the chiles.)

3: Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry cast iron skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until they begin to brown and pop, 3 minutes. Shake the pan as the seeds cook; do not let them burn. Transfer the seeds to a shallow bowl to cool.

4: Set 3 tablespoons of seeds aside for a garnish, then grind the remaining seeds to a fine powder in a food processor, running the machine in short bursts. Work in 1/2 cup of water or clam broth.

5: Place the grilled vegetables in the food processor and puree. Work in the cilantro, parsley, cumin, and lime juice. Work in an additional 1 cup water or clam broth, adding more as needed to obtain a thick but pourable sauce.

6: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and cook until dark, thick, and fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent splattering or scorching.

7: Stir in the tomatillo mixture and continue cooking the sauce until thick and richly flavored, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the epazote (if using). Remove the sauce from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt to taste and/or more lime juice; the sauce should be highly seasoned. Set the sauce aside and keep it warm.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2019 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein.