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Mole Sauce

Mole Sauce

According to one legend, the nuns of El Convento de Santa Rosa en Puebla de los Ángeles panicked when they learned that the archbishop was coming for a visit. They were wholly unprepared for such a distinguished guest and they worried about what food they could possibly serve him. They prayed desperately and then inspiration came. They mixed chilis, spices, and whatever else they could find—even a little chocolate—and let it boil down into a thick, rich sauce.

The only meat they had was an old turkey, which they slaughtered and cooked in the sauce. With great trepidation, they served the archbishop this strange concoction upon his arrival. To their great surprise and delight, the archbishop loved their invention and the fame of their new sauce spread throughout Mexico.

Although not widely known outside of Mexico, mole is one of the most representative dishes of Mexican cuisine. While most popular in central and southern Mexico, nearly every region of the country has its own version of mole. Ninety-nine percent of Mexicans have tried at least one type of mole. Many regions host mole festivals to celebrate the dish’s local heritage. The city of Puebla—home of the convent in the legend—made the world’s largest-ever pot of mole in their 2005 festival.

Our mole is based on the most widely-known variety, mole poblano. We call for already-prepared chili powder as it is readily available and simplifies the recipe considerably. Ancho chiles are poblano chiles that have been dried and are the preferred source of the chili powder in this recipe. If you prefer, you can purchase the ancho chiles themselves, roast them, chop them into small pieces and substitute those pieces for the chili powder called for in the recipe.

Yield

About 2 cups of sauce.

Time to Make

45 minutes

Shopping List

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 14½ ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1½ ounces vegetable oil
  • ½ ounce natural cocoa powder
  • ½ ounce ancho chili powder
  • ¼ ounce ground cinnamon
  • ¼ ounce ground cloves
  • 1 pound low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ ounces raisins
  • 1¼ ounces smooth peanut butter
  • table salt
  • ground black pepper

Equipment List

  • colander
  • 12-inch heavy skillet
  • blender

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  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 14½ ounces canned diced tomatoes
  •  
  • colander

Peel and mince the onion. Separate the garlic cloves from the garlic head, if necessary, and remove the peels. Drain the tomatoes in a colander.


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • prepared onion from step 1
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • prepared garlic from step 1
  •  
  • 12-inch heavy skillet

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer slightly. Add the onions, cocoa powder, and spices to the skillet and cook until the onions are softened, 5–7 minutes. Press the garlic in a garlic press into the skillet and cook for 30 seconds.


  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • prepared tomatoes from step 1
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

Add the broth, tomatoes, raisins, and peanut butter and stir to combine. Continue cooking until thickened, about 20 minutes.


  • table salt
  • ground black pepper
  •  
  • blender

Purée the sauce in a blender until completely smooth, about 1–2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately for enchiladas, a marinade, or a dip; or let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days for later use.