This chicken mole recipe reminds me of my childhood home where aromas of spices, onion, and garlic wafted out from the kitchen daily. While this recipe calls for numerous toasted ingredients, adapting the recipe to suit your own tastes is part of the fun.
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Why Make Mole from Scratch?
This chicken mole recipe was prepared with love by my mother and me. Over the years, my mother (who is known for her traditional Mexican dishes) has tried countless variations of mole recipes.
We finally perfected the sauce we’re sharing with you today.
If you can buy premade mole sauces, why should you go through the effort to make your own?
Well, in our opinion, the store-bought sauces don’t seem to deliver the same quality anymore. If you need shortcuts, though, I’ll offer a few substitutions.
What is “mole” and how do you pronounce it?
Mole (pronounced “moh-leh”) is a rich, reddish brown sauce that originated in Mexico and can vary greatly in styles and preparation. Our recipe is modeled after the classic style of mole called mole poblano.
Common Mole Ingredients
As you’ll see in the recipe, these ingredients are first toasted to draw out the flavor of each ingredient before being blended and combined with water or chicken broth.
As told in my family, the “legend of mole” involves a group of nuns preparing a special meal for the arrival of church dignitaries. The sisters used what they could find to concoct a new dish, hence the wide range of ingredients found in authentic mole recipes.
(Wikipedia seems to back up this legend.)
There are competing claims between Mexican states (Oaxaca and Puebla) about when mole entered the scene. Mole from Oaxaca tends to have a darker color (mole negro), and many other colorful varieties exist in that region. In the Texas border region (where my family originated), the more common style is mole poblano from Puebla.
One thing is clear: the name mole means “concoction” or “mix” (archaic), and the recipe combines a smorgasbord of ingredients. That’s why I love it!
How to Prepare Chicken Broth for Mole
For an easier chicken mole recipe, you can skip the step of making broth and buy a rotisserie or shredded chicken. However, going through the effort usually pays off in the end with enhanced flavor.
To begin, boil 8-9 cups of water in a large stockpot or dutch oven. Then, add chicken pieces and continue boiling on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Skim away any foam as the chicken boils.
Tip: For two chicken fryers (about 3 lbs each), you’ll need 8-9 cups of water. You can adjust this amount based on the amount of chicken you plan to serve.
Next, add cut vegetables to your soup. We recommend using celery, cilantro, bell pepper, yellow onion and crushed garlic. Boil the soup for another 15 minutes. Then remove the chicken pieces and set them aside.
Strain some of the veggies out of the broth and retain the liquid to serve as the base of the mole sauce.
Chicken Broth Variations
You can easily make chicken soup by following the same steps and adding more ingredients of your choice, like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, rice, or pasta. Then, season the soup to taste.
How to Make Chicken Mole Sauce (with Variations)
Dried Chile Peppers
The heart of mole sauce lies in the peppers.
This chicken mole recipe has mild spiciness and uses three types of dried peppers: guajillo, pasilla, and ancho peppers.
(You can also find ancho peppers in my red enchiladas recipe.)
Other pepper options include chiles de árbol (fairly spicy) and mulato chiles (mild). To get a sense of a pepper’s spiciness, you can reference this chile heat scale.
Always start by removing the stems and seeds from your chile pods. Rinsing the chiles in cool water also helps to release seeds that stick to the skin.
Dry Roasting and Toasting Mole Ingredients
Next, you’ll gradually roast or toast each of the ingredients in a skillet or saucepan, except for the chocolate tablet.
By dry roasting the peppers, citrus fruits, seeds, raisins, vegetables, and spices in a greased skillet, you enhance the flavor of the mole.
For the breading (bolillo and tortillas), you will need to add a bit of oil for browning. You can then lightly toast the crackers in the remaining oil.
After roasting, blend the seeds, nuts, and peppercorns/cloves in a grinder or molcajete, one by one.
Then, add all of your ingredients into the chicken broth with the chocolate. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Tip: If you skipped making homemade chicken broth, simply bring your water (or premade broth) to a boil first. You can also add chicken bouillon (consommé) to water for a quick and easy broth.
Blending the Mole Sauce
Once the ingredients have steeped, begin blending the mixture in a food processor. Take care not to overfill the processor, and blend the mole sauce in batches if necessary.
After all ingredients are blended, add 1-2 teaspoons of salt and sugar (or as much as you like) to taste. You can then freeze portions of the sauce if desired.
Before adding your chicken, add a tablespoon of oil to your pot and cook the sauce down slightly on medium heat. Then add the chicken pieces and coat well before plating. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top for a finishing touch.
Now, enjoy your delicious chicken mole with tortillas de maiz, arroz, frijoles, and maybe even a margarita. You’ve earned it!
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Thanks for following along, and please tag @firstdayofhome on Instagram if you try this recipe!
- 2 small fryers (about 3 lbs each), cut in pieces
- 2 sticks celery, sliced
- 3-4 sprigs cilantro
- 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small yellow onion, quartered
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 guajillo chiles, deseeded, stems removed, and rinsed
- 8 pasilla chiles, deseeded, stems removed, and rinsed
- 8 ancho chiles, deseeded, stems removed, and rinsed
- 1/2 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 roma tomato
- 1 tomatillo, quartered
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 4 tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons pepitas
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 bolillo (small pan frances)
- 1 corn tortilla
- 8 Ritz crackers (or similar)
- 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil (for toasting)
- 1 tablet (3.2 ounces) Mexican chocolate
- Salt and sugar to taste
- In a large stock pot or dutch oven, bring 9 cups of water to a boil. Then, add the chicken pieces.
- Continue boiling the chicken on medium heat for 15 minutes. Skim off any foam that surfaces.
- Add all vegetables to the soup, and continue boiling for 15 more minutes.
- Remove the chicken pieces, and set them aside for later.
- Strain most of the vegetables from the soup, and retain the broth for the mole sauce.
- Begin dry roasting each ingredient (one at a time) in a greased skillet or saucepan, except for the chocolate and breading (bolillo, tortilla, and crackers). The peppers, onion, tomato, and tomatillo may take 2-3 minutes, while the seeds and spices may only require 1-2 minutes of roasting. Take care not to heat the peppercorns too long, as this can cause bitterness.
- Add enough oil in the skillet to make the corn tortilla crisp and brown the crust of the bolillo, pressing it flat if needed. In the remaining oil, lightly toast the crackers.
- Blend the sesame seeds in a grinder or mortar and pestle (molcajete). Reserve a small amount to sprinkle on top of your mole as garnish. Then, separately, grind the pepitas and peppercorn/cloves.
- Add all mole ingredients to the chicken broth, including the chocolate disk, and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Do not add the chicken at this step.
- Once the ingredients are well steeped, blend the mole sauce in a food processor, working in batches if necessary. As a final step, add more salt or sugar to taste.
- You can freeze some of the mole sauce if desired. Otherwise, add a tablespoon of oil to a pan before adding the mole sauce and cooking it slightly before adding your chicken pieces.
- Once the chicken is well coated, serve it with a garnish of toasted sesame seeds on top.
For a smaller batch, reduce the broth, chicken, and mole ingredients by roughly half.
In place of homemade chicken broth, you can substitute store-bought broth (preferably low-sodium). You can also mix a small amount of chicken bouillon (consomme) or vegetable bouillon with water.
The mole sauce freezes well. After defrosting, simply reheat the sauce with a small amount of oil before adding the chicken pieces or another protein of your choice.
Feel free to experiment with other types of chiles, seeds, or thickeners (breading).
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 204Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 96mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 5gSugar: 8gProtein: 6g
Frequently Asked Questions
The spiciness of mole depends on two ingredients: chile peppers and peppercorns. The hotter the dried pepper and the more peppercorns you use, the spicier the mole.
The chile peppers used in this mole have a spiciness of 2-5 on a scale of 8 with guajillo peppers being the mildest.
Chicken mole is perhaps the most common entree using mole sauce, but you can substitute just about any protein, including turkey, duck or fish. You can also add mole sauce to tamales or enchiladas.
For a vegetarian option, try pouring mole sauce over poblano peppers, and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth as the base.
Chicken mole pairs well with Mexican rice, cilantro rice, or white rice.
In the Tex-Mex tradition, mole is often served with refried beans or frijoles a la charra (charro beans). In some regions, black beans may be served as an alternative.
If your mole sauce is thin or runny, try adding more breading by increasing the number of corn tortillas, crackers or bolillos. For best results, toast the ingredients slightly in a greased skillet before blending them into the sauce.
You can make gluten-free mole by substituting more corn tortillas for the bread (bolillo) and Ritz crackers.
The nuts and seeds in this recipe are naturally gluten-free.
Adobo is a dish that originated in the Philippines and has the properties of a marinade with higher acidity. Since it contains vinegar, it has more of a tangy flavor and bears little relation to mole sauce.
To make a nut-free mole, replace the almonds in the recipe with more sesame seeds or pepitas.
As always, read the labels of other packaged ingredients to check for potential nut allergens.