Chenchén (Cracked Corn Pilaf)

Savoury cracked corn (Chenchén)

I’ve mentioned this many, many times: For such a small country this one has so many regional variations in its cuisine that it’s entirely possible to reach adulthood without trying something that is a staple on the other side of the country.

Meet exhibit one: Aunt Clara.

Chenchén (Savoury cracked corn)

I was born in the northwest of the Dominican Republic, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I even heard of this dish. What a shame!

Chenchén (cracked corn pilaf)

This dish hails from the southwest, the opposite point of my family’s place of origin, and although northwestern cuisine has been influenced by neighboring Haiti (notably the use of thyme in our cuisine, which seems very rare outside the region), the Haitian influence in the southwest is even stronger. Chenchén is a dish that the Dominican Republic has in common with Haiti (with some differences in ingredients, I believe, and a different name, mais moulu).

Please do not confuse it with chacá, a corn-based dessert, also from the southwest.

Savoury cracked corn (Chenchén)

If I had a penny for every time someone wrote to me requesting we added this recipe, I’d have… exactly 13 cents. Not a lot, mind you, but the point is: this recipe, although unknown to me for a long time seems to be very popular among our readers. And I can see why.

In the photo above I served it with Bacalao a la criolla (Codfish a la Dominicana), a staple of Lent cuisine in our country.

Buen provecho!

Aunt Clara
Chenchén (Cracked Corn Pilaf)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Chenchén (Cracked Corn Pilaf) originates from the southwest provinces of the Dominican Republic and is a delicious substitute for rice in our diet.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 3 cups peeled, cracked corn
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth, salted to taste (see notes)
  1. Rinse the corn in abundant water to get rid of stray peels and excess starch.
  2. Soak the corn in abundant water for two hours. Drain all the water before cooking.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil or butter over low heat.
  4. Add the cracked corn and cook and stir until it changes to a darker yellow color.
  5. Add broth and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Remove from the heat and cover. Let it settle for 5 minutes.
  7. Fluff with a fork and serve (it should be "al dente")
  8. Serve with chivo guisado or meat or fish dish of your choice.
I have encountered several variations of this dish, probably due to different family traditions. Most people add milk to it, some add coconut milk. You can try these by substituting milk or coconut milk for half the broth.

Cracked corn is available under different names. For example, the type used for chacá is a bigger grain than the one used for this dish. You can find the finer one needed for this dish under the names "crushed corn" and "coarse cornmeal" or "coarse ground cornmeal".
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{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Johanna April 8, 2015, 10:07 PM

    Thank you for this recipe. I had never heard of it and lived half my life on the island and in different regions. Would you say that this is what is made in the Cibao with milk and sweetened called maiz en crema o maiz caquiao? Will be trying this for sure!

  • deisy June 28, 2014, 3:16 PM

    hi i’m from a little town of San Juan called EL CERCADO and this is a very popular dish there but we cook it very differently;your version sounds good too and much simple to prepare.

  • Venecia February 17, 2014, 4:17 PM

    My family is originally from San Juan but though your version looks good I havent seen it done this way. Our version is creamier, seasoned, and has coconut. Have you tried that version? Almost like grits.

    • Aunt Clara February 28, 2014, 6:53 PM

      Yes, I have tried it with coconut. It has complex tastes, and I loved it. For this I decided to go with the simpler version, because it just didn’t go well with seafood otherwise.

  • MARIO PENA March 30, 2013, 1:29 PM


  • Elizabeth G. September 7, 2012, 9:16 AM

    Can I make Chenchén with coarse corn meal?

  • Swati May 1, 2012, 5:41 AM

    Aunt Clara, never imagined that cracked corn can be used to make pilaf! How exciting! Was the corn you used dry (since you soak it). I mean it's not the soft fresh variety, right? I love your bamboo utensils.. but a question.. :) How do you maintain them daily.. keep them shining and all.. dont they absorb the water?

    • Aunt Clara May 1, 2012, 8:06 AM

      Yes, it is dry (like in the second picture).

      Bamboo utensils have to be hand-washed with cold water and air dried ASAP after use. Eventually they don't look so shiny but are still fully functional.

  • Hunval March 27, 2012, 4:09 PM

    .I'm from San Juan de la Maguana and when I was a kid my mother made chen-chen at least once a week. I left my home town almost 60 (sixty) years ago and live in the U,S for about 45 years, it is two years, more or less, that I ate chen chen when a lady friend of mine, marry to a haitian, cooked it and invited me for diner, it was delicious and I enjoyed it, I also love majarete and chaca'.

    Thank you aunt Clara, keep the good work.

    • Aunt Clara March 27, 2012, 5:14 PM

      Well, maybe you can now have it more often, it is a very easy dish to make. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Erni January 17, 2011, 1:34 PM

    I love chenchen, Me being dominican ; can relate to many typical foods. I ♥ chenchen as i said before and i woul love if you put the ingredients of the cake tres leche and more food.

    • Aunt Clara January 17, 2011, 2:08 PM

      These recipes are already here. Just do a quick search and delight yourself. :)