mole sauces - intro

All pictures on this page were borrowed from the internet.


Mole (from Nahuatl mōlli, "sauce") is a traditional sauce originally used in Mexican cuisine. In contemporary Mexico the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar, including black, red / colorado, yellow, green, almendrado, de olla, huaxmole, guacamole, and pipián. Generally, a mole sauce contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut, and such spices as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin.

Outside Mexico it near universally refers to mole poblano.

Modern mole is a mixture of ingredients from North America, Europe and Africa, making it one of the first intercontinental dishes created in the Americas. Its base, however, is indigenous. Nahuatl speakers had a preparation they called mōlli ([ˈmoːlːi]), meaning "sauce", or chīlmōlli ([t͡ʃiːlˈmoːlːi]) for chili sauce.

Preparation and consumption

All mole preparations begin with one or more types of chili pepper.

The classic moles of Central Mexico and Oaxaca, such as mole poblano and mole negro, include two or more of the following types of chili pepper: ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle. Other ingredients can include black pepper, achiote, guaje (Leucaena leucocephala), cumin, cloves, anise, tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, sesame seeds, dried fruit, herbs like Piper Auritum or hoja santa , also known as hierba santa, and many other ingredients.

Mole poblano has an average of 20 ingredients; mole almendrado has an average of 26, and Oaxacan moles can have over 30. Chocolate, if used, is added at the end of cooking. According to Rick Bayless, the ingredients of mole can be grouped into five distinct classes: chiles, sour (tomatillos), sweet (dried fruits and sugar), spices, and thickeners (nuts and tortillas).

The ingredients are roasted and ground into a fine powder or paste.

Mole poblano is most traditionally served with turkey, but it and many others are also served with chicken, pork, or other meats (such as lamb).

A number of mole powders and pastes can be prepared ahead of time and sold, such as mole poblano, mole negro, and mole colorado. Many markets in Mexico sell mole pastes and powders in packages or by the kilogram. These mole mixes are heavy with a strong odor, so much so that security agents at the Mexico City airport once admitted that mole can register a positive when they check for explosives.

Prepared mole sauce will keep for about three days in the refrigerator and it freezes well. The paste will keep six months in the refrigerator and about a year in the freezer.

Leftover sauce is often used for the making of tamales and enchiladas (often called enmoladas) or over eggs at brunch.  



Mole poblano is the best known of all mole varieties. An ancient dish[18] native to the state of Puebla,[19] it has been called the "national dish" of Mexico and ranked first as the most "typical" of Mexican dishes.


Oaxaca has been called "the land of the seven moles". Its large size, mountainous terrain, variety of indigenous peoples, and many microclimates make for numerous regional variations in its food.

From this has come moles negro, colorado, amarillo, verde, chichilo, coloradito, and mancha manteles (or tablecloth stainer), all differently colored and flavored, based on the use of distinctive chilis and herbs.[20] The last, a chicken and fruit stew, is also claimed by Puebla as their own.

The best known of Oaxaca's moles is mole negro, which is darker than mole poblano, and also includes chocolate, chili peppers, onions, garlic and more. Its distinguishing ingredient is the leaf of the hoja santa. It is the most complex and difficult to make of the sauces. 

Mole coloradito is also popular, often simplified and sold as an enchilada sauce.

Mole verde is always made fresh with herbs native to the region.

San Pedro Atocpan

San Pedro Atocpan is an agricultural community in the mountains south of Mexico City (but still within the Federal District). Until the mid-20th century it was similar to those surrounding it, growing corn, fava beans and nopales (prickly pear cactus). Electricity and other modern conveniences were slow to arrive, allowing the community to retain more of its traditions longer.

 The care and tradition that went into the moles from there made them popular and made the town famous in the Mexico City area. Today, San Pedro Atocpan produces 60% of the moles consumed in Mexico and 89% of the moles consumed in Mexico City,[ with a total estimated production of between 28,000 and 30,000 tons each year.  Ninety-two percent of the town's population makes a living preparing mole powders and pastes, all in family businesses. Prices for mole run between 80 and 160 pesos per kilogram, depending on the maker and the type.

A number of moles are made in the town, but mole almendrado (mole with almonds) is signature to the area. Producers in Atocpan have their own versions of the various types of mole, often keeping recipes strictly secret. The production in the town has become very competitive, especially in quality. Twenty-two brands are permitted to print "Made in San Pedro Atocpan" on their labels.


Various types of mole sauces can be found throughout the center of Mexico toward the south.

Another source:

Mole Poblano

Perhaps the best-known mole in the U.S., mole poblano is most popular in the Mexican state of Puebla. Deep brown in color, mole poblano is thick, savory, and made with upward of 20 ingredients. It leans less on chocolate and more on several varieties of chile—often ancho, guajillo, pasilla, and mulato—as well as dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Warming spices such as cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and anise also make appearances, lending this mole an earthy, sweet flavor profile.

Mole Negro

Sweet-savory Mexican chocolate is the focus of this complex mole, which, in addition to smoky brown chilhuacle chiles, gives this mole its almost-black hue. It’s sometimes thickened with bread or plantains. Oaxaca is famous for its versions, at times enriched with the licorice-flavored herb, hoja santa.

Mole Blanco

Where mole negro is dark, Oaxacan mole blanco is light: Skinless peanuts and almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and pine nuts, all lightly roasted, are common ingredients, as is white onion, garlic, and the yellow güero chile.

Mole Almendrado

 Almonds are the central appeal of this creamy, light- to deep-brown mole, though it’s often supplemented with peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more. It’s a specialty of San Pedro Atocpan, a community in Mexico City’s southern Milpa Alta borough, where ingredient lists can stretch toward 30 disparate items.

Mole Verde

Mole verde, popular in Oaxaca, is bright and herbaceous, thanks to fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, lettuce, radish greens, and chard, plus tomatillos and verdant serrano chiles. It’s one of the simplest moles to prepare because it doesn’t need to simmer for hours on end.

Mole Manchamanteles

 Intensely fruity, deep-red mole manchamanteles calls on such sweet ingredients as fresh pineapple, apple, plantains, and yams. Hailing from Oaxaca, mole manchamanteles translates to “mole that stains the tablecloth,” which should serve as a warning. 


Yet another source: The seven moles from Oaxaca:

1. Negro
The “typical” savory-sweet mole mentioned above, and the one most frequently found on American menus. An intricate recipe with a lot of ingredients and steps, you’ll be grinding and stewing the following together: onion, garlic, whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cumin, dried chiles, pumpkin and sesame seeds, herbs like hoja santo (which contributes to the dark color) and cilantro, bread for thickening and sometimes dried fruit for extra sweeteness. Oh, and plenty of dark, bitter chocolate.
2. Rojo
Red mole, also known as mole poblano, is similar to black mole, using many of the same spices and base ingredients and also contains chocolate, but less. Instead, this sweeter, spicier and more versatile version is amped up with several kinds of dried red chile like pasilla, guajillo and ancho as well as pulverized raisins and almonds or peanuts. When the sauce is done, browned chicken, pork or beef is typically added and stewed until tender, although I did seriously enjoy thick slices of queso oaxaca, a stretchy, soft mozzarella-like cheese, floating in mole rojo with fresh tortillas for breakfast.
3. Coloradito
This brew translates to “a shade of red,” or “on the naughty side,” depending on what you’re doing in the kitchen. Somewhere between rojo and negro in color, this brown mole shares the base ingredients of whole spices, onions, garlic, seeds and chocolate and features an awesome secret ingredient for thickening and sweetening: mashed ripe plantain.
4. Amarillo
Leave the chocolate at the door, this mole will have none of that. Picture all the goodness of the first three moles without the sweet stuff and you have a delicious basic sauce to pour over or use as a cooking base for myriad Mexican purposes. It’s not unlike a simple Indian curry sauce, the sky’s the limit.
5. Verde
White on the outside, green on the inside — that’s a pumpkin seed. Extra pepitas or pipian, along with fresh tomatillos, jalapeños and cilantro are the key ingredients in bright green mole verde. It can be diluted with chicken stock when it’s finished and poured over cooked chicken to make a soupy sauce mopped up with tortillas or bread.
6. Chichilo
This one’s a little more intense. Round up all the beef bones you can find, you’re going to need them. This dark, spicy sauce starts with rich, homemade beef stock. The stock rehydrates dried chiles de arbol, anchos and guajillos which you then blend with the usual slow-cooked garlic and onions. Mole chichilo is thickened with either masa harina, lime-cured corn flour, or crushed fresh tortillas. No chocolate here, either. Excellent for braises.
7. Manchamantel
This “tablecloth-staining” mole lives up to its reputation: between the bright red chorizo grease, tomatoes and ancho chiles, you do not want to get this stuff on anything white. Featuring fresh pineapple in addition to plantain, manchamantel is a sweet, spicy, fruity sauce any protein would be lucky to cook in.


This is what you need for mole sauce:

  • see ingredient listings above
Pic1: ingredients for a mole



Pic2: dried chiles
Pic3: fresh chiles
Pic4: ground chiles, nuts, moles


Pic5:  market
Pic6:  powdered fruits
Pic7:  mole market


Pic8:  mole market
Pic9: 7 moles of Oaxaca
Pic10: mole / spice market


Pic11: mole apiñonado
Pic12: best mole ever — smile :-)