Every Mexican cook has his or her own cherished mole recipe. Usually it’s based on one of the familiar mole types, with their own special tweaks to the ingredients, quantities, or techniques. The idea of making mole can be daunting to many home cooks, but although a mole has a lot of ingredients, it is not particularly difficult. And it’s even better when made ahead of time, so the flavors can blend. Mole will keep at least a week in the refrigerator and freezes well.
To better understand what is great about the various moles from around the country, for the past ten years, I’ve been making as many different moles as possible—though some are hard to re-create in the U.S. due to their use of very specific regional chiles. Many moles are too sweet for me; I prefer a balance among sweetness, spice, and nuttiness. This recipe—“Mole My Way”—is perhaps closest to a mole poblano, but with my own mixture of chiles, spices, and nuts. You can use this sauce with any meat, roasted vegetables, in place of enchilada sauce to make enmoladas . . . use your imagination! And by all means, make your own tweaks to this recipe to make mole a tu manera.
When I’m in Mexico City and craving mole without time to cook, I often head to Los Danzantes, a Oaxacan restaurant in Coyoacán’s Plaza Jardín Centenario. Their mole negro is amazing—made with the hard to find chilhuacle negro chile—but they always have at least eight different moles on the menu. It’s the perfect lunch spot for a day spent exploring the charming Coyoacán neighborhood.
3 tablespoons pork lard (or substitute olive oil)
1 white onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 costeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (3-inch) piece canela (Mexican cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup peanuts
2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
5 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raisins
4 ounces dark (semisweet) chocolate, preferably Mexican chocolate, chopped roughly
8 cups chicken stock
Heat a Dutch oven (or other large heavy pot) over medium-low heat and add lard. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, just to soften. Add all the chiles and cook until aromatic, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the sesame seeds, oregano, canela, allspice, cloves, thyme, almonds, and peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes to toast the nuts and blend flavors. Add the tortillas and cook for another 3 minutes, so they soften and absorb the spices. Then add the tomatoes and raisins and cook for about 2 minutes more to heat through. Add the chocolate and chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender, in batches if necessary, and purée until very smooth (be careful when blending hot liquids). You want as smooth and silky a sauce as possible, so if your blender isn’t extra powerful, pass the sauce through a strainer with a rubber spatula.
Return the mole to the pot and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream, so add more stock if the sauce is too thick, or reduce further if it is too thin.
Recipe excerpted from Made in Mexico: The Cookbook | Classic and Contemporary Recipes from Mexico City by Danny Mena with Nils Bernstein. Photography by Brent Herrig and Aaron Adler. Copyright 2019 Rizzoli New York.
When you shop using our links, we earn a small commission. It’s a great way to support public media at no extra cost to you!
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.