Mole: The Delicious Mexican Sauce

mexican-food-1Mole is as old as antiquity. Today this wonderful sauce continues to be as popular as ever. Moles are found across Mexico but especially in the marketplaces of Mexico City, the capital, and Oaxaca where historic pre-Aztec ruins are visited by tourists. Not surprisingly Oaxaca is the home of modern day moles which satisfy even the most discerning food critic.

The Town of Oaxaca, which was part of the Zapotec civilization, who spoke the language of Nahuati, is located in this area of southern Mexico. In fact, mole is a Nahuatl word that simply means “mixture.” But not necessarily one that contains chocolate, as is often presumed.

In Oaxaca the moles come in seven varieties. Their subtlety and taste bring a beauty and virtual spirituality to the dishes they complement—used as a braise, marinade or sauce.
The Oaxacan red mole recipe below is particularly delicious with fowl—like chicken, duck or turkey. I also like it with brown rice or egg noodles. The sauce keeps up to a week and can be frozen up to three months.

Oaxacan Red Mole

Yields 2 cups


1 inch baguette
1 corn tortilla, torn into 1-inch strips
2 plum tomatoes, cut in half crosswise
2 tomatillos, husked and rinsed

2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
½ cup peanut oil
1 ½ cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
½ head garlic, peeled and sliced
⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
⅓ cup raw, unsalted almonds
¼ cup raisins
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
3 allspice berries
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp whole cloves, ground
2 Tbsp chocolate

1. Stem and seed the chiles in a large pot, tear them into small pieces.

2. Toast guajillos, anchos, pasillas and chipotle chiles in a dry pan over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Avoid burning.

3. Fill the pot with water at medium high heat. Place all the chiles in the pot stirring constantly, until warm and aromatic, about 15 minutes. Discard the water and transfer the soft chiles to the blender with all the chicken broth for about 5 minutes.

4. Dry roast the pumpkin seeds in a sauté pan until they are finished popping. Again avoid burning.

5. In a skillet sauté the almonds over medium heat for 5 minutes in half the peanut oil until browned, not burned.

6. Purée the tomatillos, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, almonds, tortilla strips and bread slices in a food processor or blender. Add the rehydrated chiles, raisins, garlic, 1½ cups of water, spices, salt and sugar and puree together until very smooth. Cook this mixture together in a saucepan at medium heat for 30-35 minutes at low temperature and strain through a sieve.

7. Heat the remaining peanut oil in another skillet until almost smoking. Add the sauce and fry for 10-15 minutes longer—stirring constantly.

8. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Blend into the sauce at the last minute.

9. If sauce gets too thick, add ¼ cup water and stir for 3-5 minutes. Set aside and cover until ready to use.

If you prefer, you may wish to braise the chicken in the red mole instead of saucing after cooking your main dish.


Chef Allan Zox

Check out Zox’s Kitchen on for more recipes. Visit for details about past columns.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *