If a random person approached you on the street and asked you to name Mexico’s national dish, what would you say? If you said tacos, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, or even tamales, you’d be wrong. Crazy, right?
We’re not lying, no matter how much it hurts to admit we’re wrong. The national dish of Mexico is actually mole (pronounced mo-LAY), a thick, rich chocolatey sauce that is often served over a bed of rice and different types of meat.
The term mole has its roots in the word “molli,” meaning “sauce” or “concoction,” but the sauce as we know it today has its origins in the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of Mexico, though the exact origin is still something of a mystery and is still contentious even to this day.
Just like the stories of its origin, there isn’t just one mole sauce. In fact, there are as many as 40 known variations of the sauce that have taken Mexico, and the world, by storm.
What Is Mole Sauce?
The term “mole” isn’t reserved for just one particular sauce; in fact, the word itself comes from the Nahuatl word for sauce — molli — and is essentially a blanket term used to describe a wide variety of sauces.
There are as many as 40 different styles of mole found throughout the different regions of Mexico and abroad, with each offering something a little different than the rest. There are yellow, red, black, and green moles; there are sweet and spicy moles; there are even moles that include chocolate as a primary ingredient.
1. Mole Negro
Mole Negro, or black mole, is what most people picture when they think of a mole sauce. This sweet and savory sauce is heavily featured in Mexican restaurants throughout the United States and consists of a combination of onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cumin, dried chiles, pumpkin, hoja santo, and dark chocolate…lots and lots of dark chocolate.
2. Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano, also known as red mole, is quite similar to black mole, the difference being the amount of chocolate and a few different ingredients in the sauce. These changes help create a sweeter, yet spicier, sauce.
3. Mole Colorado/Coloradito
Mole Colorado gets its signature brownish-red color from the dried chiles, sweet fruits, and other sweet and savory ingredients that make up this sauce. One of the key differences between Colorado and the other types of mole is the addition of mashed, ripe plantains, which serve as both a thickening and sweetening agent.
4. Mole Amarillo
Mole Amarillo differs from most moles as it gets rid of the chocolate and dried fruits that often counteract the heat. Free of restrictions, there is nothing hold back the spice in this popular variation of mole.
5. Mole Verde
You’ve probably seen the green Mole Verde at any number of Mexican restaurants over the years. Full of spice from ingredients like jalapeños, cilantro, and tomatillos. Salsa verde, as it’s typically called, will bring life to your favorite dish.
How To Make Mole Sauce
No matter how much they differ, all mole sauces start by frying or sauteeing each of the ingredients before they are put to use. You can either cook the ingredients one at a time or all at the same time, it just depends on how much time you want to dedicate to the recipe.
After the fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and spices are all cooked, combine and simmer in a large pot along with water or broth and puree the mixture before returning it to the heat to cook further.
Once all of the ingredients are combined (this could hours depending on the choice of ingredients), you sauce is ready to be served with your favorite dish.
If you want to try your hand at making your own mole sauce but don’t know where to start, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few of our favorite mole recipes split up by the style of sauce.
This mole negro recipe is going to take some time — to find the ingredients and to cook — but if you don’t mind the effort and have a great deal of time on your hand, then this is the recipe for you.
Those looking for looking for a mole poblano that doesn’t take all that much time have found their perfect sauce with this recipe. It’s going to take some work, however, as many of the ingredients need to be cooked on their own before combined.
This mole colorado recipe will go perfectly with chicken, but it can be used to add a mouthful of flavor to just about anything you want to eat. This recipe has a quite a few steps, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you make a wrong turn along the way.
This recipe is more than just a step by step process of making the mole amarillo sauce as it also includes the proper way to prepare the chicken that will be served along with the sauce. There’s quite a bit going on here, but if you have a few hours and appetite for new dishes, then this is something worth exploring.
This final recipe contains a great mixture of flavors with everything from pork country style ribs to tomatillos and just about every spice found in a Mexican kitchen. It doesn’t take as much time or effort as some of the previous recipes, so it wouldn’t hurt for those not yet comfortable on their feet in the kitchen.
Now that you have a basic understanding of mole sauce and all the different variations, go out and try it out sometime.