Turkey in Pipian Sauce

Pipian is a rich, thick kind of green mole—the wonderful sauces that play starring roles in real Mexican food. In Oaxaca, they just call it “mole verde,” but in Puebla, it’s “pipian.” When Americans see “mole,” they usually think of the dark brown version with chiles and a touch of chocolate. While still rich, this version is much fresher and lighter, with pumpkin seeds, herbs, and, in my version, tomatillos. About four years ago, my husband and I went to Oaxaca and Puebla and gorged ourselves on every kind of sauce we could find. Whether red, yellow, green, or brown, all of the moles seem to go particularly well with poultry . . . which brings us to Thanksgiving leftovers.

At this point it’s a little late to be pulling leftover turkey out of the fridge (I made a backup turkey on Sunday, so I’m still in the clear), but this recipe will work perfectly well with frozen cooked turkey. My version jumps off from a Rick Bayless version published in Reader’s Digest (I know! I know! But it’s still Rick Bayless), but adds a jar of homemade tomatillo sauce, since I’ve got a whole bunch of them just sitting in my basement waiting to be eaten. Depending on how many people you’re cooking for, it might make leftovers. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect pipian sauce would make a *spectacular* version of chilaquiles.

Turkey in Pipian Sauce

1 c. unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
12 sprigs cilantro
1 half-pint jar homemade salsa verde/tomatillo sauce
1 T olive oil or canola oil
3 c. turkey or chicken broth
4 c. cooked turkey, cut into pieces or shredded

roasting-pumpkin-seeds1) Toast the pumpkin seeds in a heavy skillet (see picture). Let them toast for quite awhile, until they’re quite brown and popping.

2) Combine the pumpkin seeds, the onion, the garlic, the cilantro, and the jar of tomatillo sauce in a blender. Puree.

3) Heat the oil in a large skillet or pan (say, the one you just roasted the pumpkin seeds in). Add the sauce and 1 c. of stock. Bring to a boil and cook until it’s reduced by about a third (this will depend on the size your pan). Add the remaining 2 c. of stock and cook another 10 minutes.

4) Here’s the judgment part. Figure out how much turkey you want to add and how much sauce you want for that turkey. For 4 c. turkey, you only need about half of the sauce. Put the other half in a jar and store in the refrigerator for later use. Add the turkey to the remaining sauce and cook gently until heated through. About 15 minutes should do it.


5) Toss your turkey with the sauce into a crockpot and cook on low for 4–6 hours. Theoretically, you could use raw turkey, in which case you’d want it on low for 10–12 hours.

Serve with warm tortillas.

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1 comment to Turkey in Pipian Sauce

  • Oaxaca is brilliant! I miss it something fierce. That said, I had a similar sauce in Merida; it was a Mayan speciality. Regardless, it was stunningly rich. This looks delicious!