Mole Sauce

published Jan 18, 2022
Mole Sauce Recipe

Dark Mexican chocolate give this rich sauce its very distinctive flavor.

Serves4 to 6

Makes6 to 7 cups

Prep30 minutes

Cook50 minutes

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A mole is a very complex dish that combines the use of Mexican dried chillies, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, onion, garlic, spices and perhaps most importantly dark mexican chocolate that give this rich sauce it’s very distinctive flavour. Here we have a mole sauce on a whole chicken, sitting on an orange plate with a fork resting to the side
Credit: Susy Villasuso

Mole is one of the dishes most representative of Mexican cuisine. Its origin lies in the blend of pre-Hispanic and Spanish cultures stemming from colonial times. Mole is considered very special and is commonly served during celebrations such as Day of the Dead or Mexican Independence Day. At home my grandma and mum would also make it whenever there was a birthday, so every time I have mole it feels like a treat.

Mole is a very complex dish that combines the use of Mexican dried chillies, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, onion, garlic, spices and, perhaps most importantly, dark Mexican chocolate that give this rich sauce its very distinctive flavor. Puebla and Oaxaca are regions famous for their moles, with some of the most well-known being poblano, negro, verde, coloradito and manchamanteles.

It takes quite a bit of time to properly prepare, which might be why it is only made during special occasions. But when I have a craving for a nice homemade mole, I always turn to this recipe. It’s prepared with just the essential ingredients, but in half of the time that many other moles would take to prepare. The trick: frying the ingredients in batches using the same pan, which avoids extra dishes.

To further save time, I like to prepare the chili paste then freeze it. When you want to finish the mole sauce, I simply rewarm the thawed paste in a hot saucepan, where I add the chicken stock and Mexican chocolate for a luxurious and rich sauce that’s ready in no time.

Credit: Susy Villasuso

What to Serve with Mole Sauce 

  • Chicken: Although poached chicken is the preferred protein served with mole, I like to serve it with chicken thighs and drumsticks pan-fried in olive oil. The crispy skin tastes delicious covered in the rich sauce. 
  • Mexican Rice: The most traditional side to a nice mole is Mexican rice. It’s prepared with a blended mixture of tomato, garlic, and onion used to cook the rice.
  • Corn tortillas: There’s nothing like a nice warm corn tortilla on the side, ready to scoop mole with rice and chicken into one delicious bite.

How to Store Mole Sauce

Mole is a good dish to prepare in big batches and keep in the freezer.  Once the mole is ready, simply allow it to cool down completely then place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to one month. 

When you are ready to use the mole sauce, allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge. Once thawed, simply warm it up over a hot saucepan, add a bit of water or stock if necessary, then serve piping hot over your cooked chicken.

Substitutions

  • Mexican-style chocolate is better for this recipe and now is widely available online and in specialty stores, but you can also use dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
  • Hazelnuts are used in this recipe, but you can also use peanuts or almonds. 

Mole Sauce Recipe

Dark Mexican chocolate give this rich sauce its very distinctive flavor.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes

Makes 6 to 7 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    dried ancho chillies

  • 3

    dried guajillo chillies

  • 2

    dried pasilla negro chillies

  • 5 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 2

    medium plum tomatoes

  • 1

    ripe banana

  • 3

    stale taco-size corn tortillas

  • 1

    cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon

    black peppercorns

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 3/4 cup

    unsalted blanched hazelnuts

  • 1/3 cup

    white sesame seeds, plus more for garnish

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    raisins

  • 3 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Mexican chocolate, such as Abuelita or Ibarra (1/2 disc)

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4

    bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

  • 4

    bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks (about 1 pound total)

Instructions

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from 4 dried ancho chilies, 3 dried guajillo chilies, and 2 dried pasilla chilies.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chillies and fry lightly on both sides until aromatic, being careful not to burn them, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add enough hot water to cover and let soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients and begin cooking the aromatics.

  3. Peel and coarsely chop 1 large yellow onion. Cut 2 plum tomatoes into quarters. Peel and cut 1 ripe banana into bite-sized chunks. Cut 3 stale corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.

  4. Place 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves in the same pan that you fried the chillies in. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until toasted and very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

  5. Add 3/4 cup blanched hazelnuts and 1/3 cup sesame seeds to the same pan and cook over medium heat until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the toasted spices.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the same pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 3 peeled garlic cloves and cook until the onion softens and garlic is golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the spices.

  7. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the same pan until shimmering. Add the banana and cook until it takes on a bit of color, about 1 minute. Add the tortillas and 1/2 cup raisins and cook, stirring rarely, until lightly fried, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of spices and toss gently to combine.

  8. When the chilies are ready, reserve 1 cup of the soaking water, then drain the chiles. Add half the softened chilies, half the spice mixture, and 1/2 cup of the soaking water to a high-powered blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend or process into a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the blender or food processor as needed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large container or bowl and repeat blending the remaining chillies, spice mixture, and soaking water, adding the second batch of paste to the first batch.

  9. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add all the mole paste and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. It will be hot and fragrant. Pour in 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir until combined and smooth and bring to a simmer, 4 to 5 minutes.

  10. Cut the chocolate into 1/2-inch chunks and add to the simmering sauce. Let it melt into the sauce then stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the chicken.

  11. Season 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken drumsticks with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook, without moving until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Flip and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  12. Taste mole sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer chicken to a nice platter and cover with the mole sauce then garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: The corn tortillas can be substituted with 2 1/2 ounces white baguette.

Storage: Let leftover mole sauce cool completely then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then simply reheat in a saucepan, adding a bit of stock as needed.