Pipián sauce is a piquant Mexican sauce traditionally served over roast chicken or enchiladas. It is part of a larger family of ground sauces known as moles, and it has a very distinctive, nutty, earthy flavor which some consumers find quite enjoyable. Mexican restaurants sometimes have dishes on offer served with this sauce, and it is also possible to find it packaged in Mexican grocery stores. The best pipián sauce, however, is made fresh at home, as needed, to preserve the flavor.
The key ingredient in pipián sauce or pipián verde, as it is sometimes called, is pumpkin or squash seeds, which may be roasted or simply dried. The seeds are ground before being seasoned with spices like cumin, pepper, garlic, and cilantro, and dried hot chilies are also thrown into the sauce to give it a distinctive and rather fiery kick. Ingredients like lemon juice may also be added, turning the mixture more runny, and less like a paste.
Pipián sauce is often paired with a tomatillo salsa for extra texture and flavor. It may be used to rub meats before cooking, or served over meats after they have already been cooked; a crust of this sauce can be especially great for seared and roasted meats, helping to preserve the flavor of the meat while keeping it from becoming too dry.
Like other Mexican sauces, pipián is designed to be tasty enough to eat on its own, and it can potentially be served with a wide variety of foods. Individual cooks often like to adjust the flavor and spicing levels in their sauce, as some people like chilies more than others, and cooks can also play with the spices used, adding things like cardamom, anise, and other ingredients to send the flavor in a slightly different direction.
People who make pipián sauce at home should try to make only as much as they need. The flavor will start to grow weak if the sauce sits, and the chilies will quickly overwhelm all of the other spices, creating a very unbalanced taste. If a cook makes too much, he or she can freeze it to slow the breakdown of the spices in the sauce, and the cook may want to consider freezing it by the serving, so that he or she will not have to thaw a large amount just to get what is needed. People who purchase storebought pipián should be sure to check the expiration date to make sure that it is as fresh as possible.