Recipe of the Month: Jocón

by Simone Riddle

Last month we learned how to cook arroz a la chapin. Now it’s time to learn el plato principal. Jocon is not as complicated as you might think. It uses the traditional Mayan method of toasting sesame and pumpkin seeds, blending them to make a paste with bread or tortillas and using this as a base for many typical dishes. Once you’ve got the hang of this process, other recipes like el famoso Pepian will be bien faciles.

What you’ll notice is that the more traditional Mayan dishes like Jocon are in fact résaludables. High levels of malnutrition in the western highlands can be linked to the marginalization of the Mayan people over time to the least fertile lands. This made room for rich landowners to use the best land to grow produce for export. Add to this the influx of cheap processed foods like packet soups and you can see how malnutrition and diabetes are now major health issues affecting rural indigenous communities today.

It’s not all bad; there are projects working hard to establish food security while maintaining traditional methods of agriculture and cooking. One such organisation is Asociacion de Mujeres de Altiplano (AMA), which is setting up a sustainable agriculture school from its organic greenhouse.

This dish serves roughly 4 people.


  • 2 ½ to 3 pounds of chicken, drumsticks and thighs work best
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • ¼ cup of sesame seeds (ajojoli)
  • 2 small pan frances
  • 1 cup of mil tomate (tomatillos) washed, hulled and chopped
  • 1 quetzal of cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of cebollitas, washed and chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno chili.
  • A portion of arroz a la chapin to serve.


1. Place the chicken, water and a couple of large pinches of salt in a large pan over a medium-high flame. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the meat is cooked.

2.Heat a dry frying pan over medium flame. Add the pumpkin and sesame seeds and toast, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. This will take around 8-10 minutes. Make sure you don’t burn the seeds! Let the seeds cool a little and blend to a fine powder (this is easiest in an electric coffee grinder but you can use a blender, in which case I would add a little of the stock to make it easier to blend).

4. Add the ground seeds, pan frances, mil tomate, cilantro, cebollitas and chili peppers to a blender. Add 1 cup of the stock and blend until smooth. If using a small blender you may have to do this step in batches.

5. In another large pan add the chicken, pureed sauce and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth to give it a sauce-like consistency. You can add more stock if you like a lot of sauce or if you prefer a thick paste add a little less water.

6. Heat over medium-low flame and simmer for an additional 15-25 minutes.

7. Adjust seasoning and serve on top of the arroz a la chapin.


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