Mole sauce is a traditional Mexican sauce made from a mixture of chilies, spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate, and more. It has a rich, complex flavor and is used to make various Mexican dishes like mole poblano, enchiladas, tamales, and meats. Mole sauce originated in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca in Mexico. The word “mole” comes from the Nahuatl word “mōlli” meaning sauce or concoction. There are many types of mole sauce but the most common ones are mole poblano, mole negro, and mole rojo. Mole sauce takes time and effort to make but is beloved for its depth of flavor. It can transform simple ingredients into something extraordinary. The sauce has both Mexican and Spanish influences.
What ingredients are used to make mole sauce?
There are many ingredients that go into making authentic mole sauce. The most common ingredients include:
Different types of chilies are used for flavor, spice, and color. Common chilies used include ancho, mulato, pasilla, chipotle, guajillo, and puya chilies. They provide a rich, smoky flavor.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts like peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds are often used. They provide thickness, healthy fats, and nutty flavors.
Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, and plantains add sweetness and complexity.
Common spices include cumin, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and black pepper. They add layers of flavor.
Unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder lends a subtle chocolate taste.
Stale bread or tortillas are used as thickeners. They also provide substance.
Chicken or beef broth is the liquid base that brings everything together.
Onion and Garlic
Onions and garlic provide aromatics.
Other possible ingredients include tomatoes, avocados, bananas, chayote squash, herbs like oregano and parsley. There are many variations based on the type of mole.
Main Types of Mole Sauce
There are numerous types of mole sauce throughout Mexico but the main ones are:
Considered the most famous and complex mole sauce from the state of Puebla. It has over 20 ingredients and a balance of sweet, spicy, and nutty flavors. Common ingredients include ancho chili, mulato chili, pasilla chili, peanuts, almonds, cinnamon, chocolate, and more. It has a dark brown color. Well-known uses are mole poblano chicken and turkey.
A very dark, rich mole sauce from Oaxaca. It relies heavily on chilies like mulato, pasilla, and chipotle for a very spicy, smoky flavor. It also contains chocolate, cinnamon, plantains, onion, garlic, nuts, and broth. It’s black and often served with chicken, rice, and beans.
A red mole sauce made with over 10 ingredients including guajillo, ancho, and pasilla chilies, peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds, cinnamon, cloves, onion, and garlic. It has a reddish-orange hue. Chicken is a popular choice but it also pairs with pork, turkey, and vegetable dishes.
A bright green mole made with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, parsley, green tomatoes, serrano chilies, and onion. It has a smooth, tangy flavor and is less complex than other mole sauces. Great uses include mole verde chicken enchiladas, tamales, and as a sauce for meats.
A yellow mole sauce from Oaxaca. It relies on guajillo chilies, tomatoes, and corn as its base with additions like Plantains, bananas, and potatoes. It is often served with chicken.
How Long Does it Take to Make Mole Sauce?
Mole sauce is very labor intensive to make. On average it takes at least 2-3 days to make authentic mole sauce from scratch. Here is a breakdown of the time involved:
– Day 1 – Soaking and preparing the dried chilies – 4-8 hours
– Day 2 – Simmering and pureeing the mole paste – 4-6 hours
– Day 3 – Simmering the mole sauce – 2-3 hours
The process starts with cleaning and seeding the dried chilies which can take several hours of work. The chilies then need to soak to rehydrate them which takes overnight.
Once rehydrated, the chilies are simmered with other ingredients like tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, seeds, nuts, bread, and broth until everything is soft. This mole paste gets pureed into a smooth sauce which again requires hours of simmering.
On the third day, the mole paste gets combined with additional broth and ingredients to become the final mole sauce. The finished sauce simmers gently to allow the flavors to marry. Total time ranges from 10-18 hours over 3 days depending on the type of mole.
So while mole sauce is worth the effort, it does require dedicating serious time and work to make it right. Many cooks prefer to make big batches and freeze the extra to enjoy for months. Some companies also sell ready-made mole pastes to simplify the process. But traditional mole sauce from scratch remains a labor of love.
Traditional Uses for Mole Sauce in Mexican Cuisine
Mole sauce is a quintessential ingredient in traditional Mexican cooking. Here are some of the most common ways it is used:
– Mole Poblano chicken or turkey: The dish mole poblano features chicken or turkey simmered in a rich mole poblano sauce. It is a specialty of Puebla.
– Enchiladas with mole poblano sauce: Corn tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese, etc, and bathed in mole poblano sauce.
– Tamales filled with mole chicken or turkey: Tamales are made with mole sauce instead of the more common red or green salsa.
– Mole Negro Oaxaqueño: Chicken simmered in a thick, black mole negro sauce. Often served with rice and beans.
– Enmoladas: Enchiladas drowned in mole negro sauce.
– Arroz con pollo: Chicken and rice dish made with mole rojo sauce.
– Tacos de mole: Fried goat meat tacos served with mole rojo sauce.
– Mole verde con pollo: Shredded chicken breast in a herbaceous mole verde sauce.
– Enchiladas de mole verde: Mole verde chicken wrapped in tortillas and baked with cheese.
– Mole Amarillo con pollo: Chicken breasts simmered in a bright yellow mole amarillo sauce.
– Chiles rellenos con mole amarillo: Roasted poblano peppers filled with cheese or meat, covered in mole amarillo.
Modern Uses for Mole Sauce
While mole sauce remains vital in Mexican cuisine, it has also made its way into more modern dishes and fusion cooking:
– Mole burgers or sandwiches: Using mole sauce to add flavor to burgers, pulled pork/chicken sandwiches.
– Mole pizza: Topping homemade or storebought pizza crust with mole sauce, chicken, onion, cheese.
– Stuffed poblano peppers with mole: Filling roasted poblanos with mole sauce and meat/cheese mixtures.
– Mole mac and cheese: Adding mole to classic macaroni and cheese for a Mexican twist.
– Mole glaze on meat: Using mole sauce as a glaze on chicken, beef, pork roasts or chops while cooking.
– Mole shrimp/fish: Sauteeing mole sauce with shrimp, tilapia, or other seafood.
– Queso fundido con mole: Melted cheese dip with mole sauce for chips or vegetables.
– Mole soup: Creating Mexican soups and stews with mole sauce as the broth base.
– Mole tofu: For vegetarian dishes, marinating and cooking tofu in mole sauce.
– Mole hummus/dips: Using mole as the main flavoring for dips, hummus, beans dips.
– Mole vinaigrette: Whisking olive oil, mole sauce, lime juice for bold salad dressing.
– Mole yoli: Using mole sauce in sopes, gorditas, and other masa preparations.
The complex flavor of mole sauce enhances everything from sandwiches to seafood when used creatively outside traditional Mexican recipes. It’s an easy way to add bold Mexican flavor to everyday dishes.
What Meat Goes Well with Mole Sauce?
Mole sauce pairs beautifully with all kinds of meats. The most classic choices are:
Chicken is the most ubiquitous meat used in moles. Its mild flavor soaks up the rich spices and chili flavors perfectly. Chicken breast, thighs, even the whole bird can be simmered or baked in mole sauce for amazing flavor.
Turkey is also prized for its ability to absorb mole sauce flavors. Turkey breast or thighs are excellent choices. The famous mole poblano dish uses turkey.
Pork shoulder, chops, ribs, loin all stand up well to mole sauce. The spices and fruit play off the pork beautifully.
Lamb has a wonderful affinity for the chilies and spices in mole sauce. Lamb shoulder or stew meat becomes succulent and fall-apart tender in mole.
Richer mole sauces like mole negro pair wonderfully with beef. Short ribs, chuck roast, brisket shine when braised or simmered in mole.
Duck has the right amount of fat to match the richness of mole sauce. Duck legs or breast are stellar choices.
Goat meat is popular in Mexico and stands up well to aggressive flavors like mole negro. Goat birria and goat barbacoa are given great depth by mole.
The key is using mole sauce with meats that can handle big flavors. Leaner meats like fish can get overpowered by very spicy, chocolatey mole sauces in large doses. But all kinds of proteins benefit from a splash of mole sauce for extra flavor.
What Foods Go Well with Mole?
Mole sauce pairs wonderfully with many other ingredients beyond meat. Some classic pairings include:
Plain white rice, Spanish rice, or cilantro-lime rice can balance out the intensity of mole and add filling carbs.
Black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans complement the flavors of mole sauce.
Fresh cheeses like queso fresco or cotija add saltiness. Melting cheeses like oaxaca or chihuahua work well in enchiladas.
Sliced raw onion and cilantro is a classic garnish for mole dishes.
The fleshy oval leaves of the nopal (prickly pear) cactus tastes great in mole dishes
Corn tortillas are ubiquitous with mole sauce, used as an edible scooping tool in enmoladas.
Lime juice and zest brighten the rich flavor of mole.
Shredded lettuce lightens up mole sauce when used in tacos, tostadas, sopes.
Thick Mexican soups and stews gain wonderful flavor from mole sauce swirled in.
This mildly sweet squash soaks up the spices and chocolate notes beautifully.
Experimenting with complementary ingredients brings out the best flavors of mole and provides nutrition. The sauce shines when supporting players bolster its richness.
What Drinks Pair Well with Mole Sauce?
With its complex and potent flavors, mole sauce benefits from drink pairings that either provide contrast or align with its spices. Here are some excellent choices:
Beers like Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Victoria pairgreat with the richness of mole. The light bubbles cut through the flavor.
Pilsner like Tecate and Sol also cleanse the palate from the sauce’s intensity.
Darker beers like stouts and porters match the chocolate flavor in mole sauce.
Made with cane sugar, Coke has more balanced sweetness than American Coke to even out spicy mole.
This sweet rice milk drink offsets heat and marries with mole’s cinnamon.
Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)
Tart, floral jamaica refreshes the palate after the rich mole.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Made with spices like cinnamon, hot chocolate plays off mole’s chocolate flavors.
Cooling drinks like hibiscus, tamarind, or pineapple aguas frescas cleanse the palate.
For a spicy pairing, this cocktail of beer, lime, hot sauce, and spices matches mole’s heat.
The key is to pick drinks with enough flavor and sweetness to balance out the mole sauce’s intensity. Cold carbonated beverages work especially well by cutting through the richness.
What Desserts Go Well with Mole?
Mole sauce’s multidimensional flavor profile, including notes of chocolate, chilies, and warm spices, makes it a fantastic pairing for many desserts:
Crispy, fried churro dough dusted with cinnamon sugar plays off the chocolate and spice flavors inherent in mole sauce wonderfully.
This velvety, creamy custard has hints of vanilla and caramel that marry beautifully with mole’s depth of flavor.
Fried dough tossed in cinnamon sugar served with mole sauce for dipping is an amazing combination of sweet and spicy.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Warm, spiced hot cocoa is a mole-friendly dessert, with complementary chocolate and chili flavors.
Tres Leches Cake
The sweet milks in this soaked cake balance out any lingering heat from a mole sauce.
Arroz Con Leche
Rice pudding made with cinnamon has similar warming spices that accentuate mole’s flavor.
Spiced Fruit Compotes
Poached pears, apples, or berries dashed with Mexican spices echo mole’s vibrancy.
Rich chocolate mousse allows the cacao flavors in mole to shine through.
Desserts sharing flavors like chocolate, cinnamon, fruit, and caramel delightfully satisfy the craving after a mole sauce-laced meal. Mole’s notes of spice and sweet marry with these desserts perfectly.
Mole sauce is a cherished, integral part of traditional Mexican cuisine. With ancient roots yet modern appeal, mole brings a richness, depth of flavor, and complexity to any dish. Making mole sauce requires dedication and time, but rewards the cook with an unforgettable eating experience.
The luxurious sauce partners especially well with ingredients sharing its flavors like chicken, chocolate, spices, rice, beans, and more. Both traditional meals and creative fusion dishes benefit from mole sauce’s alchemy of ingredients. Drinks like Mexican beer, aguas frescas, and hot chocolate further complement its bold presence. Finally, mole sauce amazingly satisfies the sweet tooth when paired with desserts like flan, churros, chocolate mousse.
This ancient culinary gift of Mexico deserves praise for transforming the everyday into the extraordinary. Mole sauce may be laborious to craft, but for lovers of sensational flavor, it is more than worth the effort.