The term “mole” (MOE- lay) encompasses a wide variety of sauces used in Mexican cooking. Many have over 20 ingredients with flavors that range from bittersweet to spicy; and consistency that can be soupy or thick like barbeque sauce. Most mole sauces are brown and combine unique flavors such as hot peppers and chocolate.
Legendary Origin of Mole
The origin of mole symbolizes Mexico’s blend of European and indigenous Aztecan culture after the Spanish conquest.
The most popular legend takes place 300 years ago in Puebla, Mexico in the poor convent of Santa Rosa. The nuns prayed as they scrambled to prepare for the visit of the archbishop. They killed an old turkey and threw together scraps of chili peppers, spices, stale bread, nuts, and chocolate to season the meat. (In some versions, the chocolate or spices were accidentally knocked into the dish, but the nuns had no time to fix it.)
Delighted and curious after the meal, the archbishop asked for the name of the dish. The nun said, “I made a mole,” – a Spanish pronunciation of the Aztecan word molli or mulli, meaning sauce/mix – the first international dish created in the Americas.
Types of Mole
- Mole Poblano – The Most Popular
In this dark sauce, called the national dish of Mexico, the bitter-sweetness of the chocolate subtly counteracts the spiciness of the peppers.
- Mole Manchamantel – The “Tablecloth-Stainer”
This bright red sauce contains spicy chorizo (sausage), tomato, ancho chiles, pineapple, and plantain. It tastes sweet, spicy, and fruity.
- Mole Amarillo: Simple
This yellow sauce contains no chocolate, more similar to an Indian curry.
The following simple recipe for traditional mole comes from About Food.
- 12 guajillo chiles, roasted, skinned, stemmed and seeded
- 3 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
- 1/4 cup lard
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon torn into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts or unsweetened peanut butter
- 1 clove
- 1/4 cup masa
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
- 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in water to soften (optional)
- 3 peppercorns
- 4 cups chicken broth
Note: The traditional way is to mash all of the ingredients except the broth, with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) but a blender will also do the job just fine.
Heat the lard in a large saucepan. Add in the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. In a blender, puree the peanuts then add in the oregano, cinnamon, anise, peppercorns, thyme and cloves and blend with the tomatoes. Puree to make a smooth paste. Add in the onions and garlic and puree again. Finally, add chiles to blender to puree into a smooth paste.
Add the chicken broth to the pot and add the pureed ingredients. Make a roux, by mixing the masa with a 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. Mix the roux into the broth and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add the pureed ingredients and simmer for 1 hour, covered and then simmer uncovered until sauce has thickened.
This diverse and iconic dish can be catered to whatever flavor you’re craving once you learn the basics. More importantly, modern recipes can recreate the culinary experience without using tons of ingredients or spending hours over the stove – sure to impress whoever is coming to visit.
If you’re interested in exploring more authentic Mexican cuisine, visit any of Ixtapa Mexican Grill and Cantina’s locations in Groton, Lexington, Lunenberg, or Woburn, Massachusetts, today! We offer a number of dishes with our delicious mole sauce.