The Curry of Mexico: Mole Sauce

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Stephanie Foley/Gourmet)

These thick, deeply savory sauces aren’t what typically comes to mind when we think of Mexican cuisine. They’re made with unexpected ingredients like chocolate and prunes, and every one we’ve had has been slightly different. They are so very good that we couldn’t end the week without mentioning them. Do you have a favorite?

Just as with Indian curries, there’s no set recipe for mole sauce, though there are some common characteristics. Ground nuts and seeds are often used as thickeners, while spices like cinnamon and cloves balance out the bright chile flavors. We often notice a balance of sweet and savory elements in mole sauces, which accounts for their incredible depth of flavor.

Mole negro is probably the most well-known version of mole here in the States and it’s almost always made with bittersweet chocolate, ground almonds, and charred chile peppers. Mole rojo is similar, but it’s made without the chocolate and has an brighter spicy flavor. Green and yellow moles are made with fresh ingredients like epazote, Mexican oregano, and marjoram.

While we wouldn’t mind eating a big bowl of mole on its own, it’s usually spooned over pulled pork or stewed chicken. We also love it as a condiment on tacos and tostadas.

We’re still searching for that perfect mole recipe to make at home. These are a few recipes that we’ve flagged over the years:

Mole Negro Oaxacueño from Gourmet
Chocolate Mole Sauce from David Lebovitz (a shortcut version that’s nice when we’re not up for a big challenge!)
Red Mole Sauce from No Recipes
Yellow Mole Sauce from Saveur
Green Mole from Epicurious

Have you ever made mole at home? How do you make it?