Mole verde is a classic Mexican sauce that is known for its unique herbaceous flavor. Often referred to as “green mole” in English, mole verde gets its distinctive green color from fresh herbs, seeds, spices, and tomatillos. The taste of mole verde is complex but can be described as savory, slightly sour from the tomatillos, a bit spicy from chiles, and very aromatic from all the fresh green ingredients.
Here are some quick answers to common questions about the taste of mole verde:
- It has a bright, fresh flavor from herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint.
- Tomatillos give it a tart, tangy taste.
- Peppers like serrano and poblano add mild spice.
- Pumpkin seeds bring nutty, toasted notes.
- Spices like cumin, garlic, and pepper provide depth of flavor.
- The overall taste is complex, savory, and a little sour.
Sour and Savory Flavor
The predominant tastes in mole verde come from fresh tomatillos and a blend of savory ingredients. Tomatillos resemble green tomatoes and have a tart, citrusy flavor. When cooked down into the sauce, they give mole verde a signature sour taste. The savory depth comes from ingredients like cumin, garlic, onion, chili peppers, pumpkin seeds, and herbs. The combination creates a taste that is both bright from the tomatillos and warmly aromatic from the spices and seeds.
Tomatillos are part of the nightshade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. Sometimes called a “Mexican green tomato,” they look like small green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk. When the husk is removed, the fruit is bright green and firm with a citrusy, herbal flavor. Tomatillos have high acidity, which gives mole verde a sour kick. They also have a subtle sweetness that counters the tartness. When cooked down, tomatillos create a sauce base with complex sweet-tart flavors.
Savory Spices and Seeds
The savory depth of mole verde comes from aromatics like garlic, onions, and cumin. Chili peppers like serrano and poblano also provide a mild heat. Spices like black pepper, cinnamon, and clove add warmth. Pumpkin seeds give mole verde a nutty crunch and toasty flavor. Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint, and oregano lend bright, grassy notes. Together these ingredients create a rich, savory taste that complements the sour tomatillos.
In addition to tomatillos and savory spices, mole verde relies on abundant fresh herbs for its distinctive flavor. Cilantro is essential for providing bright, citrusy notes. Parsley and mint add a fresh green taste. Oregano contributes earthiness. These uncooked herbs give mole verde vibrancy.
Cilantro is a defining ingredient in mole verde. The leaves have a strong citrusy aroma and flavor. Cilantro contains aldehyde chemicals that give it a soapy, herbaceous taste, which adds brightness to the mole. Cilantro also has subtle undertones of licorice and mint, increasing the complexity. When blended into the sauce raw, cilantro maintains its full vibrancy and flavor.
Parsley and Mint
Parsley and mint work synergistically with cilantro to make mole verde taste fresh and herbaceous. Parsley has a mild green flavor with subtle peppery notes. It adds an earthy component that contrasts with the citrusy cilantro. Mint gives mole verde a cool, refreshing taste and aroma. Using both mint and cilantro makes the mole doubly bright and herbaceous.
In addition to the brighter herbs, mole verde also utilizes oregano. Oregano has an earthy, woodsy flavor with some subtle bitterness. A little bit of oregano adds an herbal savoriness to balance the tart tomatillos and bright cilantro. Using a blend of herbs creates a mole verde with herbaceous depth.
Mole verde gets a touch of heat from fresh chili peppers. The most commonly used peppers are serrano and poblano. These provide a mild spiciness that complements the tart, savory, and herbaceous flavors.
Serrano peppers are small, thin chili peppers that pack a lot of heat. They have a crisp, fresh flavor that adds a fiery kick to mole verde. Though serranos are very spicy, cooking tones down their heat and brings out their vegetal flavors. This gives mole verde a gentle spiciness.
Poblano peppers have very mild heat. Uncooked, they have an earthy, herbal taste. Adding poblanos to mole verde provides a subtle spiciness and an extra layer of fresh green flavor. Together with serranos, poblanos make mole verde gently hot without overpowering the other flavors.
A Mild Spice
The small amount of chili peppers adds the right amount of heat to mole verde. Too much spice would overwhelm the delicate tomatillo and herb flavors. Serranos and poblanos give just enough punch to keep mole verde interesting without making it too hot.
In addition to dried chiles, mole verde derives warm, nutty flavor from toasted pumpkin seeds. Toasting brings out the full savory potential of the seeds.
Raw pumpkin seeds have a very mild, nutty taste. When toasted, their natural oils are released, intensifying the nuttiness. Toasted pumpkin seeds add texture and richness to the sauce. Their oil helps carry the other flavors and unifies the mole verde.
Toasting the pumpkin seeds properly is vital for flavor. They are toasted without oil or butter, allowing their full essence to develop. The seeds are cooked in a dry pan over medium heat. They are stirred frequently until lightly browned. This enhances the nuttiness without burning the seeds or making them bitter.
When blended into the mole verde, the toasted pumpkin seeds provide a fatty mouthfeel and warm, nutty undertones. They balance the brighter tastes and add depth of flavor. The mole would taste one-dimensional without this toasty, savory element.
Balance of Flavors
When combined in the right ratios, all the ingredients in mole verde produce a remarkably complex, balanced taste. No one flavor dominates the others. Instead, each component complements and reinforces the rest.
Balancing the ingredients properly is key to good mole verde. Too much of any one ingredient would throw the others off. The tomatillos, herbs, spices, and seeds work synergistically to create a unified flavor. Their quantities have been perfected through generations of Mexican cooking.
Sour and Savory
The primary balance is between the sour tomatillos and the savory garlic, onion, cumin, pumpkin seeds, and chilies. They provide yin and yang flavors that keep the mole from being too one-note. The tomatillo tartness is offset by the warmer spices and chilies.
Herbs and Spices
The fresh herbs and earthy spices also balance one another. Spices like oregano would taste too strong without the bright cilantro and mint. The cumin and chili peppers prevent the herbs from tasting too grassy. This harmony underlies the complexity of mole verde.
Mole verde is smooth in texture, while still retaining body. The seeds and chili peppers provide a subtle thickness.
Though they are blended into the sauce, the toasted pumpkin seeds keep mole verde from being watery. Their natural fat thickens the mole ever so slightly while emulsifying the ingredients.
Chilies like poblanos have a waxy flesh that gives mole verde more viscosity. The chilies are also softened before blending rather than left raw and crunchy.
Mole verde has a luxurious, velvety texture. It is smooth enough to coat the back of a spoon, with a subtle weight. The mole should never be watery or thin. The balanced thickness comes from smart ingredient choices.
Mole verde is traditionally served with chicken or turkey, which soak up the flavorful sauce. The mild taste of poultry works well with the moles green herby flavors. Mole verde also pairs nicely with pork, beef, or eggs.
In vegetarian preparations, mole verde can be served over roasted or sauteed vegetables. Favorites include cauliflower, potatoes, chayote squash, mushrooms, and plantains. The mole verde accents and livens up the vegetables.
In Mexico, mole verde is served over the protein or vegetables, with sides of rice and beans. The sauce can also be adapted into a dip, salad dressing, marinade, or sandwich spread. Burritos, enchiladas, and tacos are elevated by incorporating mole verde.
Mole verde has a bright, herbal taste punctuated by tart tomatillos and a gentle spice. The sauce strikes a perfect balance between sour and savory, with a touch of heat. Abundant fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint give it vibrancy. Toasted pumpkin seeds add nutty depth of flavor. While complex, the tastes are balanced so no one ingredient dominates. Mole verde has a silky, medium-thick texture and pairs deliciously with many foods. This versatile green mole is a cherished staple of authentic Mexican cuisine.