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Mole Poblano

June 20, 2013

Mole Poblano with chicken, pinto beans, and Spanish ricePin it!

Paula told me once that she pretty much wanted to marry me the first time I made her bulgogi chicken.

I’ve never even told her this—until now, but I think I knew she was the one the first time she made me chicken mole. (And that mole wasn’t even from scratch!)

There’s something about being cooked for… it’s intimate and infinitely better than being taken out to dinner (even though that’s nice, too). Not only does someone care enough to spend the time and energy preparing a meal for you, they are also nurturing you in a very real sense, by feeding you: food as a tangible expression of love.

Ingredients for Mole Poblano

And if the dinner is delicious? That’s just icing on the cake.

Paula has now made mole for me too many times to count.  She always used to used the Doña María mole sauce from the grocery store, breaking it up in a saucepan and dissolving it in generous amounts of chicken broth before serving it over baked chicken or enchiladas.

Seeding and deveining the chiles

Since the very first time she made it, though, each of these occasions was accompanied by the refrain “someday I want to make mole from scratch!” (Be warned: this is what happens when you—or someone you love—has a food blog!)

Mole Poblano with chicken, pinto beans, and Spanish ricePin it!

Several months ago, she even ordered a Mexican cookbook off Amazon: Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez. The cookbook is jam-packed with salsas, moles, pipianes, and adobos, and has no shortage of serving suggestions for all of the amazing sauces contained within. The gorgeous photos in this cookbook make us weak with hunger each time we page through it (so far: many times).

Dried ancho chiles for Mole Poblano

Our next step would be finding the right ingredients.

From left: dried chipotles, pasillas, and ancho chiles

I finally took Paula’s inclination as an excuse to go wander around a Mexican grocery store; without having consulted a recipe in advance, I bought about nine kinds of dried chile peppers (only three of which made it into this particular mole).

Chile puree

We took on the mole-making just as I’d shopped for the chiles—somewhat spontaneously. As it turned out, just the very fact of having (almost) all of the ingredients for the cookbook’s Mole Poblano recipe under our roof at one time was enough impetus for us to finally take on mole from scratch!

Ingredients for Mole Poblano

Leaving out only the raisins, plantains, and anise seed, we had all the other ingredients—or good substitutes for them.

Frying the chiles

The cookbook called for mulato chiles—seemingly the one kind of chile pepper I had failed to buy. Luckily I’d picked up more than enough ancho chiles, so we substituted extra anchos to make up for that. We were also too gung-ho about cooking (slash lazy about leaving the house) to go out and buy tomatillos, but I always have tomatoes on the counter, so we substituted extra tomatoes instead.

Roasted charred tomatoes

I think it goes without saying that this was no romantic occasion of one of us cooking for the other; this was a team effort.

Toasted seeds, spices, and baguette for Mole Poblano

Time consuming as it was, we were both quick to agree that it was worth all the trouble. For one thing, this recipe (uses 8 cups of chicken stock and) makes over 10 (!) cups of mole sauce, so you can feed a crowd and still freeze enough to feed another crowd later on.

Ingredients for Mole Poblano

The sauce is velvety smooth, and is both redder (from the chiles) and more chocolatey than the storebought kind we were used to. It’s much spicier, too! (But you can adjust that with the amount of chile seeds in step #4 below. The storebought stuff isn’t really spicy at all.)

Mole Poblano with chicken, pinto beans, and Spanish ricePin it!

This is a weekend project that pays off big time with stacks of mole-filled tupperware in your freezer and the satisfaction of having made something crazy delicious from scratch.

Abuelita chocolate disks

With such spectacular results from cooking together, who needs to be cooked for?

Mole Poblano with chicken, pinto beans, and Spanish ricePin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Mole Poblano
(Barely adapted from Truly Mexican.)

(Makes about 10 cups for 10-15 servings; freezes well)

~ 6 oz. tomatoes (2 large or 4-5 small)
~ 5 cloves garlic, peeled
~ 1½-inch thick, round onion slice
~ ⅔ cup olive oil, divided
~ 6 oz. dried ancho chiles (about 15), stems removed, deveined, and seeded (reserve seeds)
~ 2 oz. dried pasilla chiles (about 4), stems removed, deveined, and seeded (reserve seeds)
~ ½ oz. dried chipotles (2-3), stems removed, deveined, and seeded (reserve seeds)
~ 1 corn tortilla
~ 3½ Tbsp. green pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
~ ½ cup blanched almonds
~ 1 thick slice baguette
~ ¼ cup sesame seeds
~ 1 cinnamon stick
~ 6 whole cloves
~ ¼ tsp. coriander seeds
~ ¼ tsp. whole allspice (5-6 berries)
~ ¼ tsp. whole black peppercorns
~ 6-8 cups chicken broth or stock
~ 2 disks Abuelita chocolate (6 oz.)
~ 1 Tbsp. sugar
~ 1½ tsp. salt
~ chicken drumsticks
~ salt, pepper, and olive oil to season chicken

Seeding and deveining the chiles

How to make it:

1. Slice an ‘X’ through the peel on the bottom of each tomato. Using an oven broiler, or an oven pre-heated to 500 degrees, roast the tomatoes upside-down (on tin foil or parchment) until they’ve charred and fully cooked (15-20 minutes for small tomatoes; up to 30 minutes for larger ones). Remove and discard the peels.

Meanwhile, heat a thick comal or skillet over low heat and toast the onion and garlic cloves until charred and cooked. (Turn the garlic several times for 8-10 minutes; flip the onion over once when the garlic is done and toast for an additional 8-10 minutes.)

Charring the onion

2. Set a large bowl next to the stove to hold the fried chiles. In a large, deep skillet, heat ⅓ cup of olive oil until it begins to simmer. Use tongs to fry the chiles in small batches until they change color, then transfer them to the bowl: 30-45 seconds for ancho chiles, 45-60 seconds for pasilla chiles, and 1½ minutes for chipotles. (Discard any remaining oil.)

Add enough cold water to the large bowl to cover the fried chiles, and let soak for 30 minutes. Use tongs to char the corn tortilla directly over a burner, then crumble it into the water with the soaking chiles.

Fried chiles about to soak in cold water

3. Prepare a medium bowl and a metal colander/sieve set over a small bowl. Heat the other ⅓ cup olive oil in the skillet until hot, then separately fry the pumpkin seeds for 1 minute; fry the almonds for 2 minutes if whole (1½ min. if slivered); and fry the bread for 3 minutes, turning it.

Fried pepitas and almonds

(To easily remove the pumpkin seeds and almonds from the oil, pour the contents of the skillet through the sieve, transfer the fried ingredients to the medium bowl, and transfer the oil from the small bowl back to the skillet.)

Transfer 2-4 Tbsp. of the remaining oil to a large stockpot and set aside.

4. Wipe the skillet clean and toast 2-3 Tbsp. of the reserved chile seeds in the skillet about 2 minutes or until fragrant (adjust amount to taste, based on spiciness preference). Transfer toasted chile seeds to the medium bowl. Toast the sesame seeds, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, allspice, and peppercorns in the skillet, stirring continuously for 1½ minutes; transfer to the medium bowl.

5. Drain the chiles and puree them in a blender with 1½ – 2 cups of the chicken stock. Heat the oil in the large stockpot over medium, then cook the chile puree until slightly thickened for about 10 minutes. (Stir frequently and use a splatter screen.) Meanwhile, combine about half of the ingredients from the medium bowl with some of the tomatoes, onions, and garlic and another 2 – 2½ cups stock in the blender, and blend until smooth. Add the mixture to the chile puree in the stockpot, and repeat with the other half of the ingredients.

Mole Sauce chile pureeAdding the pureed spices, tomatoes, and onions to the chile puree

6. Add the chocolate, sugar, and salt to the sauce, stirring it until the chocolate melts. Simmer, partially covered, and stirring occasionally for 45-60 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.

Meanwhile, if serving with baked chicken drumsticks: place chicken in an oven-safe skillet and season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Chicken drumsticks

7. Add the cooked chicken to the mole sauce to heat it through, or serve just-baked warm chicken drumsticks on a plate with the sauce ladled over them.

Serve with pinto beans, Spanish rice, and warmed corn tortillas. The sauce (without meat) can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, or will freeze well for up to a month; defrost in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water or broth.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Mole Poblano with chicken, pinto beans, and Spanish ricePin it!

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Layered Chicken Enchiladas Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole Christmas Tamales with Chicken and Poblanos Chilaquiles Verdes with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
37 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2013 7:05 am

    Oh my gosh! What a fantastic post. I love a well made mole and it appears yours is off the charts! It’s only 7am and I would warm this up and enjoy right now.

  2. June 20, 2013 8:08 am

    Love love love this post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. June 20, 2013 8:40 am

    Seeing these mouthwatering chilies makes me want to make a mole right away. Mole is such a unique and delicious sauce…Love your step by step instructions for making it:)

  4. June 20, 2013 9:40 am

    Wow that’s a lot of ingredients! Way more than I thought. But this looks fabulous.

  5. June 20, 2013 10:38 am

    That looks DIVINE. Wow, definitely got to try this one. Yum.

  6. June 20, 2013 11:59 am

    When we are having ‘something crazy delicious’, sometimes we don’t think of the number of ingredients and an unusual one (i.e. chocolate) is in it. I had mole a few times, but I’m certain none have been as delicious as this one on yours, made diligently, and haven’t spared anything. Bravo Allison!

    • June 28, 2013 1:22 pm

      Thanks, Fae! You’re right– it’s amazing how some dishes can be crazy delicious in their simplicity of ingredients (like only having several ingredients total), and some in their complexity of many many different elements that blend very nicely together. Mole is definitely in the latter category, and the amazing thing is that I think you can really taste the complexity and all of the individual flavors. (Actually, my friend’s mom tried a bite of this mole sauce, and the first thing she said was “Ooh, is there sesame in here?!”)

  7. themondaybaker permalink
    June 20, 2013 12:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I recently had chicken mole on holiday for the first time and thought it was fantastic. I look forward to trying this once I’ve tracked down all the different types of chillies (my local supermarket doesn’t have much of a choice).

    • June 28, 2013 1:26 pm

      Thanks for your comment! It’s too bad you don’t have much choice in the way of dried chiles, but it’s possible you could get them online (?) or else see if there’s a specialty Mexican market around, or ask your supermarket if they’d consider stocking some of those ingredients. You can also substitute other types of chile peppers if necessary, but it’s nice to use a mixture of several different types.

  8. walgenbe permalink
    June 20, 2013 12:17 pm

    OOh, so I see you have the recipe for the rice, but any advice on the beans too?? I’m always looking to add more lentils to my diet, and love mexican beans. Also, yay!

    • June 28, 2013 1:41 pm

      Pinto beans! This is really Paula’s territory, but she’s had me start the pinto beans soaking, etc. while she’s at work on more than one occasion:

      To make pinto beans:

      1. Soak 1-2 cups dried pinto beans in plenty of cold water in a large stockpot (uncovered is fine) for at least 3 hours or overnight.

      2. Use the lid to drain the beans and pour away the soaking water, then cover the beans with fresh water (8-10 cups, or enough to almost fill the stockpot).

      3. Bring to a boil then add 1 – 1.5 tsp. salt and lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 – 2.5 hours, checking on it occasionally and adding more water if necessary. (You can also add either a sprig of epazote– a Mexican herb– or a dash of asafoetida while simmering if you want.)

      4. When the beans are done, let cool before transferring to storage containers for the fridge or the freezer. (Keep about 1/2 cup of the liquid to store along with the beans, but if there’s extra liquid, you can drain away the rest.)

      [If you want to make re-fried beans: heat a little vegetable or olive oil in a frying pan, and warm the cooked beans in the oil for about 5 minutes, using a potato masher to smash them up as they fry.]

  9. June 20, 2013 1:23 pm

    This is one of the most innovative chicken recipes I have ever seen :)

    Choc Chip Uru

    • June 28, 2013 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Uru! I can’t take any credit for the innovation because we barely adapted this recipe from the Truly Mexican book (which, by the way, has TONS of different complex sauce-like dishes and preparations for chicken, including several different kinds of mole). Mole is such an amazing dish– I especially love that it combines chile and chocolate in such an elegant way, and it’s neither too sweet nor too spicy.

  10. June 21, 2013 8:52 am

    I love this dish! I enjoyed it so much when I was travelling in Mexico. Thanks for the recipe!

    • June 28, 2013 1:45 pm

      Oo, lucky! I am extremely jealous of anyone who’s (from Mexico or) gotten to travel/eat their way across Mexico. At least I’m living in southern California now, so I can find slightly better Mexican food than anywhere else I’ve lived, but really I can’t believe that’s one of the countries I’ve still never visited!

  11. June 21, 2013 11:22 am

    Amazing and skilful! I love to try this.

    • June 28, 2013 1:48 pm

      Thanks! Well, it doesn’t take as much skill with a (mostly-)working blender as if we’d had to grind all of the ingredients by hand (which is the traditional way to prepare mole!), but it does take some planning and some time. Still really worth it, though; I hope you do get to try it! :)

  12. June 24, 2013 10:39 am

    i am not as familiar with mexican food as i’d like, admittedly it’s not my favorite cuisine. however, i do really enjoy vegan/vegetarian taco night and we’re thinking of expanding the dishes beyond just the usual taco stuff and including rice and even venturing into stuff like this mole sauce, which looks much easier than i would’ve expected.

    out of curiosity, in lieu of stock, would water be ok to use?

    • June 28, 2013 1:55 pm

      Hm, good question! I’d use vegetable stock/broth instead of water if I were you (though maybe a homemade one or a no-sodium one if you want to control the salt factor… that’s one thing I hate about all pre-made broths). The recipe just calls for so much liquid as a base to hold up all of the other blended ingredients… it might feel like it’s missing something with just water, but then again the other flavors are all so much stronger than any hint of celery/carrots/whatever that would be in the broth, so it could still be worth a try!

      Also, it’s a great idea to try to vegetarian-ize/vegan-ize this sauce, since it’s practically vegetarian already, once you swap out the chicken stock. The only thing I’m not sure about is whether the Abuelita chocolate is vegan or not…

  13. June 24, 2013 10:00 pm

    Wow, this looks awesome! I made a much simpler mole sauce recently but it wasn’t even close to this. Love all the type of peppers involved.

  14. June 30, 2013 10:13 am

    Bravo! I’m Mexican and have never made mole Poblano from scratch. You did an amazing job, and gotten my mouth watering. The cookbook sounds great! Thanks for being a part of the YBR this month:)

  15. July 21, 2013 6:14 am

    This looks so delicious. Your photos are perfect. :)


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