Chile And Sesame Seed Sauce: Tlatonile

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Karen Hursh Graber

Made as a paste, somewhat like mole paste, tlatonile is most often used in the same way. The following recipe gives directions for using it as a sauce for a chicken main dish. However, do not hesitate to add a dollop to vegetable and bean soups, to taco fillings, and anyplace chile and sesame would compliment the other flavors.

This version is adapted from Carmen Titita Ramirez’ book Alquímias y Atmósferas del Sabor (The Alchemy and Atmosphere of Flavor) winner of the 2002 award in the Latin American category for Best Cookbooks of the World. It can also be made using pork and its cooking broth in place of the chicken.


For the paste:

  • 10 small dried red chiles ( comapeños or chile de árbol)
  • 8 ounces sesame seeds
  • 2 ancho chiles, seeded and soaked in hot water until soft
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped, sautéed in a little corn oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped, sautéed in a little corn oil

For the chicken:

  • 8 serving-size pieces of cooked chicken
  • 2 cups of the broth in which the chicken was cooked
  • salt to taste


Toast the comapeño or árbol chiles on a hot comal or griddle just to the point of fragrance. Do not allow the chiles to burn. Shake out all or some of the seeds, according to the intensity of heat desired. (With the comapeños I usually leave some of the seeds in, but arbol chiles are hotter.) Set aside.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet until pale golden. Do not allow them to brown. Place the toasted chiles and sesame seeds in a molcajete or food processor and grind.

Place the ground, toasted chiles, sesame seeds, softened ancho chile, sautéed onion and garlic in a blender or processor with just enough water (or the ancho soaking water) to move the blades. Puree to a paste, a bit looser than a nut butter. Either refrigerate in a covered container for use as a condiment or use to make chicken in tlatonile sauce as follows:

Place the tlatonile in a large saucepan or pot, add the chicken broth and stir to a smooth consistency. Add the chicken pieces and heat over a medium flame for 20 minutes. Add more broth if a thinner sauce is desired. Add salt to taste. Serve hot with the sauce ladled over the chicken. Serves 8.

Published or Updated on: May 1, 2006 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2008


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