Citizens, mole sauce is one of the most famous recipes from Mexico, and certainly the most complex! The best mole sauces use up to 25 or more different ingredients, including nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and chocolate!
Three states in Mexico claim to be the origin of mole: Puebla, Oaxaca, and Tlaxcala. The states with the best known moles are Puebla and Oaxaca, but other regions in Mexico also make various types of mole sauces.
Moles come in various flavors and ingredients, with chili peppers as the common factor. However, the classic mole version is the variety called mole poblano, which is a dark red or brown sauce served over meat. The most infamous variety is today’s recipe of choice – the famed black mole, or mole negro!
The dish has become a culinary symbol of Mexico’s mestizaje, or mixed indigenous and European heritage, both for the types of ingredients it contains, as well as the legends surrounding its origin.
Mole is a mixture of ingredients from North America, Europe and Africa, making it the first international dish 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.
In the book General History of the Things of New Spain, Bernardino de Sahagún says that mollis were used in a number of dishes, including those for fish, game and vegetables.
While chili pepper sauces existed in pre-Hispanic Mexico, the complicated moles of today did not. They did not contain chocolate, which was used as a beverage, and in all of the writings of Sahagún, there is no mention at all of it being used to flavor food.
Most likely what occurred was a gradual modification of the original molli sauce, adding more and different ingredients depending on the location.
This diversified the resulting sauces into various types. Ingredients that have been added into moles include nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, or pine nuts), seeds (such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or squash seeds), cilantro, seedless grapes, plantains, garlic, onions, cinnamon, and chocolate. What remained the same was the use of chili peppers, especially ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle, and the consistency of the sauce.
The true story of how mole developed may never be truly known as the first recipes did not appear until after the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. The Nahuatl origin of the name probably defines its Mesoamerican origin.
These are the famous mole varieties of Oaxaca state:
Mole Amarillo uses Ancho, Costeño, and Chilcoxle or Guajillo chillies, green tomatoes and tomatillos, onions, garlic, cloves, cumin, black pepper, coriander, and hoja santa (Mexican aromatic heart-shaped leaf) or pitiona (Native Oaxaca vine).
Mole de Cacahuate
Mole de Cacahuete is less popular and made from ground, raw peanuts and chillies, typically served with poultry.
Mole Chichilo is also one of the less common moles, with an interesting ash flavour. It contains Chilguacle Negro, Mulatto, and Pasilla chillies, tomatillos and tomatoes, cloves, black pepper, and corn dough and avocado leaves, which add a hint of anise.
Mole Coloradito has a brick red colour and is the least complex. It uses Ancho and Padilla or Guajillo chillies, almonds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, and white sugar.
Mole Mancha Manteles
Mole Mancha Manteles is made from chicken stock and Ancho chillies, then reduced to a thick, gelatinous sauce and has a strong Ancho chilli flavour and is often used to dress plantains (cooking bananas) and pineapple.
Less popular, Mole Blanco is made from chilli powder, white raisins, white chocolate, sesame seeds, almonds, and white sesame seeds. It is important that the mole remains really white and it’s generally served with poultry.
Mole Poblano’s name comes from the Mexican state of Puebla, and it is a popular sauce in Mexican cuisine and is the mole that most people associate with mole. Mole Poblano is prepared with dried chillies (commonly Ancho, Pasilla, Mulato and Chipotle chillies), ground nuts (not groundnuts!) and seeds (almonds, indigenous peanuts, and sesame seeds), spices, Mexican chocolate (cacao ground with sugar and cinnamon and occasionally nuts), salt, and a variety of other ingredients including charred avocado leaves, onions, and garlic. Dried herbs such as ground oregano are also used. In order to provide a rich thickness to the sauce, breadcrumbs or crackers are added to the mix.
Mole Rojo is lighter red and spicier than Coloradito. It uses Ancho and Guajillo chillies, onion, tomatoes, pecans, peanuts, sesame, garlic, oregano, and chocolate.
Mole Verde achieves its distinctive green colour from the toasted pumpkin seeds that form the sauce’s base as well as using ingredients such as Romaine lettuce, coriander, epazote (Mexican herb), and tomatillos (green tomatoes)
Last but definitely not least of Oaxaca’s moles is mole negro, which is darker than mole poblano and just as thick and rich. It also includes chocolate, as well as chili peppers, onions, garlic and more, but what makes it distinct is the toasting of several ingredients to achieve a black color to the sauce. It is by far the most complex and difficult to make of all the mole sauces.
My version of mole negro is unspeakably authentic with nearly *40* different ingredients, Citizens! You can buy dried mulato chiles from here, dried chilhuacle negro chiles from here, Hoja Santa leaf from here, Mexican chocolate from here, avocado leaves from here, and you can buy piloncillo sugar from Amazon.
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