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Chicken Cooked in Avocado and Banana Leaves: Pílte de Pollo by Karen Hursh Graber © 2004

This dish, which I first had at a wedding in Atzompa, Oaxaca, is sometimes called barbacoa de pollo. It is flavored with either avocado or hoja santa leaves, both of which have an anise-like flavor.


  • 8 banana leaves
  • 10 guajillo chiles, seeded and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • ½ medium white onion, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup chicken broth, or as necessary
  • salt to taste
  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds) cut up into 8 pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 8 avocado or hoja santa leaves


Pass the banana leaves over a flame to soften or, if they are old and thick, boil until softened. Set aside.

Soak the chiles in hot water until soft. Meanwhile, heat the oil, add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is transparent. Remove them from the oil, reserving the oil, and place them in a blender with the softened, drained chiles. Add enough chicken broth to allow movement of the blender blades, and puree.

Heat the reserved oil, add the chile puree, and fry 10 minutes. If the mixture seems too thick, add a bit more chicken broth. Add salt to taste.

Pour the chile puree over the chicken pieces in a bowl and marinate for ½ hour.

Place a banana leaf on a flat work surface, put an avocado leaf or hoja santa leaf in the center and a piece of chicken with marinade on top. Fold in all four sides of the banana leaf to make a packet. Wrap the packet in aluminum foil. Repeat with all remaining pieces of chicken.

Place packets on a rack in a stockpot or steamer with water in the bottom and steam, covered, for 1 hour. Remove foil and serve banana leaf wrapped packages.

Serves 8.

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Published or Updated on: January 1, 2004 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2008
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Follow Karen as she travels through the Central Mexican state of Puebla, meeting local cooks, tasting the food, and collecting recipes. With over 75 recipes, plus sections on ingredients and cooking techniques, the book takes the reader on a journey through one of Mexico's oldest and most renowned culinary regions. It can be ordered online.

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