Rabbit (Chicken) in Pasilla and Tomatillo Sauce

I personally do not cook with, or eat rabbit, but my previous posts about the Mexican legend of the Rabbit on the Moon, and my garden herbs, made me think of this recipe from Central Mexico, for rabbit in a spicy sauce of pasilla peppers and tomatillos, which also works well with turkey, or as in this case, with chicken.

Rabbit (Chicken) in PasillaConejo (Pollo) en pasilla

Printable recipe:  Rabbit (Chicken) in Pasilla


2 lb (1 kg) rabbit or chicken pieces; skinless, rinsed, and patted dry
4 pasilla peppers; washed in cold water
2 lb (1 kg) tomatillos; husks removed, and washed
¼ white onion; peeled
2 cloves garlic; peeled
1 bundle hierbas de olor (fresh marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf) OR 1 tsp each dry
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Water, as needed

Place meat, onion, one garlic clove and herbs in a pot with enough water to cover ingredients (photo below, left).  Bring to boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer; skim and discard foam (photo below, right):

Cover and simmer just until meat is fully cooked (I used boneless breast so it took around ten minutes, but bone-in and rabbit could take thirty to forty five). Uncover pot, and remove and discard fresh herb bundle (photo below, left, or bay leaves, if dry). Add tomatillos and whole peppers (photo below, right):

Allow to cook until tomatillos start to change to a darker green tone, and pasilla peppers are soft. Turn off heat and allow to cool down for a few minutes. Remove and discard seeds and stems from peppers, and transfer to a blender jar, along with the tomatillos, onion, and garlic from the pot; add half a teaspoon of salt, the second clove of garlic (raw), and one cup of broth from the pot (photo below, left). Process for around one minute, until smooth (photo below, right):

Warm up oil in a pot over medium heat, then add sauce from the blender, straining through a sieve (photo below, left). Add another cup of broth to the blender jar, to collect any sauce, and pour through the sieve, into the pot, as well (photo below, right):

Cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until the sauce thickens and starts to gently bubble (photo below, left). Add cooked meat pieces (photo below, right):

Cook for another few minutes, adjusting the seasoning with salt and black pepper, to taste:

Pasilla peppers have a smoky and rich flavour, and their hotness level is usually between 1,000 and 2,500 in the Scoville scale (as a comparison, jalapeño peppers start at around 2,500, up to 10,000.)   By a fluke, I got a particularly spicy batch of pasilla; for a more reliable, lighter and milder sauce, ancho peppers may be used instead.  Also, my tomatillos were not very acidic, so a sprinkle of fresh lime juice helped balance the flavours in this batch.

This dish is served with corn tortillas or bread, and some suggested side dishes could be Mexican Style Rice, Chayotes with Cream, or my next recipe, from Estado de México, Broad Beans in Pulque – Habitas Empulcadas.

In pre-Hispanic cultures, the rabbit appears as a strong symbol, such as in the Mexica (named tochtli) and Maya (named t’ul); rabbit depictions appeared on scrolls, and graciously adorned pottery and carvings, often related to characters of their calendars and deities, particularly the Moon.  Rabbit hair and skin were precious materials for making shawls and other pieces of clothing, and rabbit meat consumption is confirmed from archaeological evidence, although there was an apparent reduction of this practice over time; without going too deep into a vortex of information down the rabbit hole (pun intended), there is a correlation of definite decline in rabbit consumption after regions were conquered by the Aztec (Mexica), and some authors attribute this to the reverence that this culture had for the animal, and its connection to ceremonial rituals, such as offerings of pulque (fermented agave sap drink.)  More practical reasons could have been in play as well, for example, bigger game such as deer being available.   After the Spanish conquest, although rabbit has always been consumed in large quantities in Spain (the name even means “land of rabbits”), the interest in Mexican rabbit was not considerable, perhaps simply because of flavour and size; Mexican rabbits are lean and small, making the meat gamier and less abundant compared to European species.  In addition, the introduction of cattle, pigs, and other large meat sources, definitely contributed to the gradual change from wild to farmed meat in the Mexican diet.

In Mexico, there are ten native species of rabbits (conejos), nine of the genus Sylvilagus, and a unique species Romerolagus diazi, called conejo zacatuche (grassy rabbit) because it feeds exclusively on the grassy bushes of the sub-alpine regions around Central Mexico’s volcanoes, namely, the Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl, Pelado and Tláloc. All Mexican wild rabbits, and also hares, are currently protected, and hunting commercially is prohibited, although some people might still trap a few wild rabbits locally, for personal consumption; the impact of this activity is limited, and the real threat for preservation of these species is the loss of habitat due to over-exploitation and urbanization of natural regions.

Nowadays in Mexico, farmed rabbits for pets, hair and meat, are all from European species, through businesses operated at the family and medium-size level. There are traditional rabbit dishes from all over the country; from Northern states, such as rabbit in pasilla sauce from Coahuila, or in red sauce from Tamaulipas, or from Southern states, for example, in garlic and annatto from Oaxaca, or conejo en sihuamonte from Chiapas. In Central Mexico, especially the states of Querétaro, Hidalgo and Estado de México, there are many recipes for rabbit, such as conejo ranchero (ranch style, marinated in vinegar and spices),  conejo en pulque (in fermented agave sap and chile sauce), conejo enchilado (spicy rabbit, in tomatillo and serrano sauce), picadillo de conejo (shredded rabbit),  and the recipe shared in this post, with many regional variations (orange juice, vinegar, tomatoes, etc.)

For your convenience, click on the highlighted text below for products available on Amazon™. DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you. Thank you to readers who have bought any other products starting with a click from my links!

I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #642 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #610, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.

I am joining Fiesta Friday #486  with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

I am sharing my recipe at What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #421 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.


3 thoughts on “Rabbit (Chicken) in Pasilla and Tomatillo Sauce

  1. Another of I wonder how Irene is going to get something in a post. I thought of a good stirring or a blender whizzing something up. Yes I did go down a rabbit hole 😂 Thanks for joining in 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s