This pollo en pinol is the traditional dish in El Salvador to celebrate feast days—like Independence Day on Sept. 15 or the Christmas holidays. This stewed chicken is made with onions, diced potatoes, green pepper, cilantro and the defining ingredient—ground, roasted corn flour. The remains a family favorite in the home of one of our favorite Salvadoreñas Estela Medrano Benitez of Maryland.
Her mom, Carmen, is the official familia cocinera. She prefers to use prepackaged roasted yellow corn flour in bags she brings in bulk from her El Salvador when she visits. But in a pinch, she says, just place yellow corn flour on a sheet pan and bake in a 350°-degree oven for about 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the flour begins to turn deep gold and gives off a delicious aroma with a hint of popped corn kernels.
This classic El Salvadorean dish is typically served with white rice (Estela uses medium grain). Her family always prepares a side salad of sliced cabbage, tomatoes and raw beets, dressed with vinegar and lemon—and a pinch of salt, to taste.
“My whole family loves pollo en pinol,” says Estela. “It makes us feel like we are back home with my sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles in El Salvador.”