This Mole Sauce (Mole Poblano) is an explosively flavorful, velvety, savory, chili and chocolate sauce – a must-have recipe for the Mexican food lover!
This Mole Poblano is a rich, ridiculously flavorful, velvety sauce, layered with earthy, tangy-sweet, spicy, smoky, fruity, notes. This Mexican staple is complex yet seamlessly balanced, made by toasting dried chili peppers, spices, nuts and sesame seeds, then pureeing with tomatoes, tomatillos, and chocolate. Mole sauce is a little time consuming to make, but the spectacular end result is definitely worth the effort. This Mole Poblano can be drizzled on everything from tacos to enchiladas, burritos, nachos, proteins, rice, veggies, beans and more, or combined with chicken and used in all your favorite dishes. Thankfully, this Mole recipe makes a generous amount – so you can do both!
Sauces are the best way to add flavor to any dish! Don’t miss adobo sauce, chipotle sauce, guacamole, avocado crema, roasted red pepper sauce, barbecue sauce, tzatziki and chimichurri.
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How to Make Mole Sauce with Chicken Video
WHY YOU’LL LOVE This Mole Sauce Recipe
It’s balanced. While this Mole Poblano uses a wide range of seemingly odd ingredients, it’s difficult to pinpoint any one ingredient. Instead, everything comes together in a complex, harmonious balance of earthy, lightly smoky, spicy, fruity, nutty, sweet, with perks of acidity, and a hint of bitterness.
It’s authentic. This recipe uses four types of dried chili peppers, chicken drippings, reserved chicken broth and whole spices to create a range of authentic depth that’s nothing short of spectacular.
You can use ground spices. While I don’t suggest using chili powder instead of dried chilies, you may substitute the whole spices if needed.
It’s streamlined. The spices and nuts are all toasted together then combined with the toasted chilies and simmered together to intensify the flavor and to speed up the process.
It makes Chicken Mole! If you’re going to trouble of making Mole from scratch, you better make it worth your time! This recipe makes a total of 8 cups or sauce. 4 of those cups are combined with shredded chicken to make Chicken Mole and the rest can be used for enchiladas (coming this week!) or saved for later.
It freezes well. Just freeze whatever you don’t use, so you can have Mole Poblano at your fingertips at a moments notice!
It does it all. The deeply flavored smoky richness of the Mole Sauce elevates sauces, braises, soups, rice, beans, etc. or make Chicken Mole by combining with shredded chicken to use in enchiladas, tacos, burritos, etc.
What Is Mole Sauce?
What is Mole Sauce? Mole is essentially Mexico’s national dish, and refers to a family of sauces originating in the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of Mexico. However, each region of Mexico boasts its own unique version from red (mole rojo) to green (mole verde) to yellow (mole amarillo or amarillito) to black (mole negro) each characterized by a complex, layered flavor derived from intricate blends of dried chiles, spices, nuts, fruits, and seasonings. However, when most people think of “mole,” they think of Mole Poblano, which is the recipe I’m sharing with you today. It is an earthy, rich, dark, reddish-brown sauce from the state of Puebla defined by its use of Mexican chocolate.
Why is it called Mole Sauce? The word “Mole” comes from the Nahuatl world “molli,” meaning “sauce.” The pronunciation of the word is ‘MOH-lay’, instead of ‘mole’. The term Mole is mostly used in the U.S for describing a certain sauce that has been spiced with rich, and earthy flavors.
What does Mole taste like? Mole Poblano is the best-known variety of Mole Sauce in the U.S. It is a complex sauce layered with sweet, spicy, smoky, fruity and bitter flavors from a blend of dried chiles, spices, fruits, and seasonings. Its smooth and velvety in texture by blending in a blender until smooth and deep brown color. It is typically on the thick side, but can vary depending on the amount of nuts and seeds used.
What is Mole Sauce made out of? Each region of Mexico has its own unique type of mole sauce, and therefore different ingredients are used. However, each are made with a combination of pureed dried chili peppers, namely, ancho, guajillo pasilla, mulato and/or chipotle peppers. For this Poblano Mole recipe, we will be using ancho, guajillo and pasilla peppers. These chiles do NOT make the sauce spicy, they just add layers upon layers of FLAVOR. Spices like peppercorns, cumin seeds, and cinnamon add depth to the sauce, nuts or seeds add earthiness and are used as a thickener, fruit (fresh or dried) add sweetness and tomatillos add sour notes. Mole Poblano gets its signature brown color from the addition of bitter Mexican chocolate or cocoa powder.
How is Mole Sauce made? The spices and chiles are first toasted to enhance their smoky flavor, then combined with sautéed onions and garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomatillos, raisins and broth, then simmered together for about 20 minutes. Once the chilies are softened, Mexican chocolate is added before everything gets transferred to a blender and pureed until smooth.
What is Mole Sauce used for? Mole sauce can be spooned over just about anything. Tacos, eggs, grilled chicken, beef, pork, enchiladas, burritos, you name it. This particular recipe explains how to make Chicken Mole using homemade Mole Sauce and shredded chicken.
What are the different types of Mole Sauce? There are at least 40 different types of mole sauce, characterized by their different ingredients and therefore distinctly different flavor profiles, however, arguably the most popular is Mole Poblano (Red Mole). It is distinguished by its use of sugar and cocoa or Mexican chocolate.
Mole Sauce INGREDIENTS
The ingredients for this Mole Sauce with Chicken may look a little intimidating at first glance, but there is nothing difficult about this recipe. If you don’t usually cook with whole spices or keep them stocked, you may substitute with ground instead. Additionally, if you want to skip the chicken, that’s fine! You’ll just need 6 cups chicken broth to add to the chilies to simmer.
Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):
For the chicken:
For the whole spices and nuts:
The whole spices and nuts are toasted to unlock their flavor, then stewed with the chilies and blended into the scratch Mole Sauce. I have included dried and granulated substitutions in the recipe card, but go whole if you can because their toasted aroma adds a complex depth to the mole sauce. Many of these seasonings can be picked up at the grocery store, but you may need to order some online. I’ve linked the seasonings below to Amazon for easy purchasing if need be:
For the mole sauce:
In addition to the nuts and whole spices, Mole Poblano is made with dried chiles, onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, and chocolate for its signature richness and earthiness. I’ve provided more information on the dried chilies further down this post, but here’s an overview of these ingredients:
WHAT IS A SUBSTITUTE FOR MEXICAN CHOCOLATE?
Mexican-style chocolate is the best choice for authentic Mole Sauce and is widely available on Amazon or specialty stores. However, you may substitute with semi-sweet baking chocolate and ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
What Kinds of Chiles Are in Mole Sauce?
Mole sauce is made with Mexican dried chili peppers — namely guajillo peppers, pasilla peppers and ancho peppers. I also like to add one chile de arbol for heat, or you can add chipotle chili peppers. Here’s what to know:
Guajillo chiles: These chilies are considered mild-medium in terms of heat, with a heat rating of 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale (SHU), compared with jalapeño peppers — which can reach 8,000 SHU. Guajillo chiles are known as mirasols or “sun gazers,” because the peppers grow upright, tipped toward the sun. The ripened chilies are dried and smoked until they reach a deep garnet and boast a sweet berry-toned heat (think cranberries) and mild smokiness.
Pasilla chiles (or chile negro): These chilies are known for their dark, wrinkled skin (literally “little raisin”), and are long (6 to 8 inches) and narrow. They are a mild chili at 250 to 2500 SHU with a smoky richness and fruity raisin or berry-like flavors.
Ancho chiles: These are dried poblano chiles with sweet, earthy, rich flavor. They are considered some of the mildest chili peppers, measuring between 1,000 – 2,000 (SHU).
Arbol chiles: These chilies are also known as bird’s beak chili and rat’s tail chili. They are very spicy with a heat rating between 15,000 – 30,000 SHU. I recommend one arbol chili to bring a little heat to the Mole Sauce. It won’t make it super spicy, but rather add a medium kick for a more rounded flavor. If you know you love spicy, then you can add two.
Where to Buy Dried Chiles?
If you’ve never purchased or cooked with dried chilies before, don’t be intimidated! Dried chilies can be found at any Mexican market as well as many grocery stores (and many super Walmart’s depending on your location) in either the Mexican aisle or produce section. Many produce stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods also carry packages of dried chilies. If you can’t find them or simply want a one-click option, then you can purchase a three pack here on Amazon or individual packages: pasilla chiles, ancho chiles, guajillo chillies, arbol chiles.
Each package of chili peppers contains quite a few and they last for at least a year, so don’t worry about them going to waste. You can also use them in this Birria recipe, Chicken Birria Tacos, Chile Colorado, Adobo, or my Pozole Rojo recipe.
How to cook chicken for MolE
As discussed earlier, you can skip the chicken if you wish, and use 6 cups chicken broth in the mole sauce. Here’s an overview of the cooking process (see full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):
- First, season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. This ensures the chicken is independently seasoned and flavorful.
- Next, sear the chicken in batches until lightly browned, then remove it to a bowl (we want all of those juices!). The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point.
- Once all the chicken is seared, return it to the pot, along with the juices, water and orange juice. Bring to a simmer, then add the chicken bouillon and bay leaves.
- Simmer until the chicken is tender enough to easily shred with two forks. Meanwhile, you can start making the mole sauce. Once the chicken is tender, remove it from the pot, but reserve the broth.
How to Make Mole Sauce:
Making Mole Sauce from scratch is pretty straightforward, but it does take some time – but it’s SO WORTH IT! Basically, all you’re doing is: 1) toasting the spices, 2) sautéing the aromatics, 3) simmering everything together, 4) blending everything unto smooth to create the sauce. In the end, you’re rewarded with an exciting complexity of flavor that will have everyone singing your praises! Let’s take a closer look at how to make it (see printable recipe card at the bottom of the post for the full recipe):
Step 1: How To Remove Seeds From the Chiles
- The seeds need to be removed from the chilies before using because the seeds contain most of the heat – if you leave them in, your mouth will be on fire and the sauce will be inedible.
- The easiest way to remove the seeds is to cut the tops off of the chilies with kitchen shears. Next, cut the chilies along one edge and open them like a book to expose the seeds inside. Finally, scrape out all of the seeds.
Step 2: Toast the Whole Spices and Chiles
- Working in two batches, toast the chilies for just a couple minutes in a dry skillet until fragrant.
- Next, toast the sunflower seeds, almonds, and spices in the now empty skillet. Set aside until ready to use.
Step 3: Sauté the Aromatics
- Sauté the chopped onions in the pot you used to cook the chicken, scraping up all of those golden drippings for an unbeatable complexity of flavor. Once softened, add the garlic and sauté for one minute.
Step 4: Simmer the Sauce
- Add the toasted spices, chilies, raisins, tomatoes, tomatillos, smoked paprika, dried thyme, salt and 6 cups of the reserved chicken broth to the pot to the pot with the onions.
- Bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft, stirring occasionally.
Step 5: Add the Chocolate and Blend
- Remove the pot from the heat before adding the Mexican chocolate.
- Once the chocolate has melted, transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender and puree until smooth.
Step 6: Combine the Chicken and Mole Sauce
- Shred the chicken and combine it with half of the Mole Poblano.
- Add more sauce, if desired. Reserve the remaining sauce for another use.
- I like to serve my Chicken Mole with rice, warm tortillas, cilantro, fresh tomatoes, avocados, pickled red onions and plenty of sour cream.
Can Chicken Mole Be Made in Advance?
Yes! You can prepare the entire recipe up to 5 days in advance or prepare individual components of the recipe in advance.
-Chicken: can be trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper and stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Or, proceed to cook and shred the chicken up to 3 days in advance. Reserve the broth to use in the Mole Sauce.
-Spices, seeds and nuts: can be toasted and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
-Chilies: can be deseeded and stored in an airtight container indefinitely, or go one step further and toast the chiles.
-Mole Sauce: can be prepared in its entirety up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 months.
HOW Long is Mole Poblano good for?
The Chicken Mole and Sauce should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You may also freeze for up to three months.
How do I reheat Mole with chicken?
To reheat in the microwave: Heat individual portions of Chicken Mole for 60 seconds, stir, then heat at 20-second intervals until warmed to your liking.
To reheat on the stove: Heat larger portions in a covered saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed through.
Can Mole sauce and Chicken Mole be Frozen?
Absolutely! You can freeze the chicken in Mole Sauce or the plain sauce for up to three months. You can freeze in an airtight freezer friendly container or portion into many freezer bag(s)/containers to use as needed.
Looking for ways to use your fabulous Mole Sauce? The options are endless! Mole can be used in any number of Mexican dishes, such as enchiladas or burritos or to season beans, stews, etc. Here are a few ideas:
This Chicken Mole is fabulous with cilantro lime rice or just plain rice along with flour tortillas, pico de gallo or a fruit salsa like mango salsa or pineapple salsa, pickled red onions, sour cream and either avocados or guacamole. If you’re looking for some side dishes, it’s delicious with:
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Mole Sauce with Chicken
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CHICKEN (Optional, see Notes)
- olive oil for searing
- 5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (may use less, see notes)*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 ½ tablespoons chicken bouillon (granulated, cubes or base)
- 2 bay leaves
SPICES (WHOLE OR GROUND)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (may sub 1 teaspoon ground black pepper)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (may sub 1 tsp ground)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (may sub 1 tsp ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon whole anise seeds
- 4 whole cloves (may sub ¼ teaspoon ground)
- 1 cinnamon stick smashed/broken (may sub ½ teaspoon ground)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds (not roasted)
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 pasilla chilies, stems and seeds removed
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 4 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 1 chili de arbol, stems and seeds removed (may sub chipotle pepper)
- 4 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tomatillos, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried thyme, salt
- 3.1 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped
FOR SERVING (pick your favs)
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Cilantro lime rice
- Warm flour tortillas
- Pico de gallo
- Pickled red onions
- Sour cream
- Pat the chicken dry and season both sides with the salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the chicken on each side until lightly browned, approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding additional olive oil as needed.
- Return all of the seared chicken with juices back to the pot. Add the water and orange juice. Cover and bring to a boil, then add the chicken bouillon and bay leaves and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until the chicken easily shreds with two forks, approximately 20 minutes. (Meanwhile, deseed chilies/start sauce below).
- Using tongs, transfer tender chicken to a large bowl; pour broth into a separate bowl to use part of later. Shed the chicken when cool enough to handle; set aside.
- Working in two batches, add the peppers to a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and dry roast for a minutes or so per side (DON'T BURN); remove from the skillet.
- Add the WHOLE spices (skip if using powders), almonds and sesame seeds to the now empty skillet. Dry roast over medium heat until toasted, shaking the skillet occasionally. They’re done once they smell super fragrant. Transfer to a bowl or plate; set aside.
- Add the toasted chilies and spices/nuts followed by all the remaining Sauce ingredients EXCEPT chocolate (tomatoes through salt). Add 6 cups of the reserved broth including the bay leaves (or canned reduced sodium chicken broth if skipping chicken). Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid.
- Remove from heat; stir in the chocolate and let stand 5 minutes or until melted.
- Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender and purée until smooth, leaving a corner of the lid open and covered with a paper towel so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode. (NOTE: If you don’t have a high-powered blender, then strain the chili sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, using rubber spatula to push the mixture through.) Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and/or sugar to taste. For a thinner sauce, add additional chicken broth.
- Combine the shredded chicken with about half of the sauce (4 cups), or more or less as desired. Freeze the remaining sauce for a future use. Use in enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, etc. or make bowls with rice, flour tortillas, pico de gallo, pickled red onions, sour cream, avocados/guacamole etc.
Tips and Tricks
- Quantity: This recipe makes 8 cups mole sauce, half of which will be used in the chicken (optional). You can freeze the rest for later or use to make Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
- If omitting the chicken: You will need 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth to add to the sauce instead of using the reserved broth from the chicken.
- Chicken: You can use as little as one pound of chicken if you like, and reduce the salt/pepper accordingly. Still use the same amount of broth, orange juice, bouillon and bay leaves.
- Dried Chilies: Dried chilies can be found at any Mexican market as well as many grocery stores (and many super Walmart’s depending on your location) in either the Mexican aisle or produce section. Many produce stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods also carry packages of dried chilies. If you can’t find them or simply want a one-click option, then you can purchase a three pack here on Amazon or individual packages: or individual packages: pasilla chiles, ancho chiles, guajillo chillies, arbol chiles.
- Mexican chocolate: Mexican chocolate is earthy, rustic and bitter and very grainy in texture because it’s minimally processed. My favorite brands are Abuelita and Ibarra, but use whatever you can find. Note, that the chocolate is often advertised as Mexican Hot Chocolate Drink Tablets. Just be sure to get the “tablets” or discs (solid chocolate) and not the powder. You may substitute with semi-sweet baking chocolate and ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
- Ways to serve: See the post for LOTS of ways to serve Mole Sauce and Chicken Mole.
- Storage: Store Mole Sauce and Chicken in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Prep AheadYou can prepare the entire recipe up to 5 days in advance or prepare individual components of the recipe in advance.
- Chicken: can be trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper and stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Or, proceed to cook and shred the chicken up to 3 days in advance. Reserve the broth to use in the sauce.
- Spices, seeds and nuts: can be toasted and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
- Chilies: can be deseeded and stored in an airtight container indefinitely, or go one step further and toast the chiles.
- Mole Sauce: can be prepared in its entirety up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 months.
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