Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Saturday December 16 2017
Olé to Mole: Recipes and More

Alvin Starkman

View in magazine >
Rate this article: Thank you for your vote!

Some sauces are synonymous with their countries of origin – béarnaise from France, tomato-y Italian marinara, and intriguing curry of India. In Mexico, it’s mole (MOH-le), and Oaxaca is where it has achieved perfection.

Legend has it that in the late 17th century a nun in Puebla, near Mexico City, wanted to honor the Viceroy for building a new convent, so she set about preparing a sauce for the evening’s meat that blended the best, most expensive ingredients she could find. A divine wind gathered and blew many of the spices into the pot she was using, creating the complex combination that characterizes Mexican mole. Today, the savory sauce delights the palates of Mexican food lovers everywhere.

Served over poultry, pork, beef, seafood or vegetables, and often mischaracterized as a chocolate sauce (only one of our recipes includes chocolate), the wide variety of moles incorporates an endless combination of the region’s vegetables, herbs and spices. Some ingredients are indigenous to Mexico, while others were introduced after the arrival of the Spanish. And while the most famous and widely used mole originated in Puebla (mole poblano), the greatest variety is found in Oaxaca, consisting of coloradito, rojo, mancha manteles, verde, amarillo, chichilo and negro – and innumerable variations of each.

Our recipes showcase some of the variety of this amazing sauce, with a negro, a verde, and an amarillo, as developed by three Oaxacan chefs. Most ingredients are available at larger markets in the U.S. and Canada, but some may require a trip to your local Mexican grocer. For the best, most authentic flavor, buy fresh or frozen rather than dried or canned. Chile chilcoxtle is the most difficult ingredient to find, so either bring some back from Oaxaca, omit its use, or substitute with other chiles. The recipes of Pilar Cabrera and Nora Valencia can be served in a more contemporary fashion, with mole poured over the meat once plated, and vegetables served alongside.

Give them a try and learn what has earned mole the title of the national dish of Mexico.

Mole Negro
by Pilar Cabrera

Pilar Cabrera, executive chef and owner of La Olla restaurant and La Casa de Los Sabores Cooking School, has competed internationally at the request of the Government of Mexico.


4 chilcoxtle chiles
2 cinnamon sticks
8 mulato chiles
1/8 t anise
8 pasilla mexicano chiles
3 cloves
4 T lard
1/8 t cumin
¼ C almonds
3 black peppercorns
¼ C raisins
2 plantains
¼ C pumpkin seeds
1 tomato, roasted
¼ C pecans
3 tomatillos, roasted
¼ C peanuts with skins
3 cloves garlic, roasted
4 slices of egg bread (semisweet), torn in pieces
½ medium onion, roasted
¼ C sesame seeds
4 C chicken broth
1/8 t dried thyme
8 pieces boiled chicken
1/8 t dried marjoram
3 T sugar
1/8 t dried oregano
½ C Oaxacan chocolate
4 avocado leaves
Salt to taste

1. Clean dried chiles with a damp cloth. Open chiles by making a lengthwise slit down one side of each. Remove seeds, veins and stems. Reserve seeds.
2. Heat 3 T lard in a saucepan, and then fry chiles. Remove chiles from saucepan as soon as they begin to change color and become crispy, and place in a bowl lined with paper towel.
3. In another pan, heat remaining lard and fry the raisins until they puff up and brown a bit. Remove raisins and then add almonds, pecans and peanuts, frying for 5 min until a dark brown color. Remove from pan. Then fry pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, anise, cloves, cumin and peppercorns in the same pan, until a dark brown. Remove and then add the dried bread pieces to the remaining hot lard for 2 min; then remove.
4. Fry plantains in oil until golden.
5. Roast tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and garlic.
6. Blend the spices, tomatoes, 1 fried plantain and 1 C of chicken broth until smooth. Put in bowl and set aside.
7. Blend fried chiles and 1½ C chicken broth until a smooth paste.
8. Remove remaining lard from pan in which the nuts and spices were fried. Pour into a deep pot, heat, and then add blended chiles. Cook 3 min; then add spice mixture and cook for 3 more min. Add sugar and chocolate, and stir for 5 min. The sauce is ready when, while stirring, the fat rises to the top of the mixture.
9. Add remaining chicken broth, avocado leaves, and salt to taste. Cook for 3 more min over medium heat. Add chicken pieces before serving, garnished with remaining plantain, sliced.

Mole Verde Con Espinazo (Pork Spine)
by Esperanza Chavarria Blando

The late Esperanza Chavarria Blando owned restaurants Quickly and El Mirador. She represented Oaxaca at national cooking expos for three decades.


½ kilo frijoles blancos (small while beans)
1 clove garlic
¼ onion
2 t salt

1 kilo pork spine or a combination of pork
leg or butt with pork ribs (if you can find
pork spine, feel free to add a bit of|
pork leg for more meat)

1/2 kilo masa from a tortilleria, or prepared Maseca from the supermarket

3 yerba santa leaves
12 epazote leaves
1 bunch cilantro
1 small bunch parsley

Spice Mixture:
2 large garlic cloves
¼ large onion
3 cloves
3 allspice nuggets
¼ large onion
12 green tomatoes
2 t salt
9 serrano chiles (buy extra, since heat
depends on season harvested)


Beans: Clean beans, checking for any grit or tiny stones. Soak overnight and cook with stipulated garlic, onion and salt the following day until beans are soft, or cook in pressure cooker for ¾ - 1 hour without soaking.

Meat: Cook meat in water with garlic, onion and salt, covered, for 20 min or until soft.

Spice Mixture: While meat and beans are cooking, roast garlic cloves and onion on griddle or outdoor grill and set aside. In blender cloves, allspice, halved green tomatoes, serrano chilies and grilled garlic and onion, with ½ C water, thoroughly. Strain mixture into a large deep pan with oil already well heated. Add about 1 C water to blender and re-blend in order to completely empty the blender jar; strain this final mixture into the pan as well. Allow green spice mixture to simmer 10 -15 min.

Sauce: Add 2 C pork broth to the above green mixture; continue simmering.
Blend half the masa with ¾ C water. Add masa mixture through a strainer to the simmering spice mixture. Stir so masa doesn’t form balls. For a thicker green mixture, mix more masa with water in blender and add through a strainer.

Herbs: Blend herbs with enough water to blend well.

Add meat (without onion and garlic) to the green sauce, then the strained beans, and finally the blended herbs. Salt to taste.

*Mole should be bright green; if not, blend small equal amounts of the herbs once again, and add to mole.

Serve in individual bowls accompanied by tortillas and lime wedges.

Mole Amarillo

by Nora Valencia

Nora Valencia, of Cocina con Nora, says that this mole is modified in dozens of ways throughout Oaxaca and is used to compliment everything from beef and chicken, to shrimp, rabbit and even deer.



Large chicken or 2 lbs. beef rump or boneless chuck
2 guajillo chiles
1 medium garlic clove
2 pulla chiles (similar to but
1 medium white onion hotter than guajillo)
Salt to taste
4 amarillo costeño chiles
or de árbol

1 t cumin
6 medium red potatoes
1 t Mexican oregano
1 medium chayote
1 cinnamon stick
½ lb green beans
2 black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves

3 ripe tomatoes
Sliced onion
2 T corn oil or lard
Lime juice
1 leaf yerba santa
Salt to taste
1 C masa
Salt to taste

1. Boil meat until tender with onion, garlic and salted water.
2. Remove meat and strain stock through fine sieve.
3. Cut chayote in slices and boil in the stock with potatoes and green beans until tender.
4. Grill peppers on a comal or heavy skillet over high heat. Rinse in water and remove stems. Remove seeds if medium heat is preferred
5. Boil tomatoes for 10 min in 1 C stock. In the last minute add the prepared peppers and cook the extra minute, or until peppers are soft.
6. Blend tomatoes, chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, peppercorns and cinnamon. Strain mixture for a fine purée.
7. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat to fry this purée, then add 6 C stock.
8. Blend the masa with 1 C stock in a bowl and then strain and add this mixture to the pot, stirring constantly.
9. Add cilantro, adjust salt, and lower heat.
10. Add meat and vegetables.
11. Serve with sliced onion vinaigrette and white rice.


Rate this article: Thank you for your vote!
Picture Gallery:

Mexico Gives Flavor to the World
In November 1519, Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma II met face to face for the first time. Ostensibly, México-Tenochtitlan had falle...
Shrimp and nopal tacos
The chunky salsa recipe that goes with these tacos makes more than necessary for the tacos, and is a delicious dip for totopos (fr...
The cuisine of Puebla, cradle of corn
The creative blending of diverse ingredients is the hallmark of Mexican cooking, and in the state of Puebla it is a passion. Every...
Food & Restaurants in San Miguel Allende
There are many wonderful restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, that marvelous Colonial city nestled in the Guanajuato Mountains no...
What is Mexican Muralism?
Mexican muralism is an art movement initiated during the 1930’s, which acquired significant attention from the public. Why does ...