Mole Sauce: Mole Rojo

Mole enchiladas

Mole rojo makes a tasty topping for black bean and cheese enchiladas.

Illustration by Anni Betts

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This mildly spicy mole requires a little more work than some recipes, but it’s worth the effort: You can’t eat food like this in many places other than Mexico.

We use a 60 to 70 percent organic bittersweet chocolate and add a little cinnamon and sugar. If you use Mexican chocolate, omit the cinnamon and sugar and use 4 ounces chocolate instead.

Mole rojo makes a delicious sauce for black bean and cheese enchiladas, grilled meats, seafood or vegetables, and makes extraordinary huevos rancheros. For a superb stew, add cooked vegetables, cooked fowl or meat to the finished sauce and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes. MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS

• 4 dried ancho chiles
• 4 dried guajillo chiles
• 4 dried chile colorado or mulato chiles
• 1 dried habanero OR 2 or 3 dried red serrano chiles
• About 5 cups vegetable broth
• 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
• 1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
• 6 tablespoons safflower or olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
• 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
• 6 garlic cloves, peeled
• 1 slice whole-grain bread, cubed (about 1½ cups)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried epazote leaves, crumbled
• 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves, crumbled
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons masa harina
• 3 1/2 ounces 60 to 70 percent chocolate, broken into pieces
• 1/2 teaspoon canela or cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Prepare chiles: Follow the directions for handling the chiles under "Cook’s Notes" at right. After you drain the soaking liquid from the chiles, place half of them in the blender with 1/2 cup broth and puree. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the chile puree into it. Repeat the pureeing process with the remaining chiles and another 1/2 cup broth, then pour puree into strainer.

2. Add another 1/2 cup broth to blender to remove residual puree, then pour into the strainer. Using a spoon, press puree through strainer, extracting as much as possible. Discard what is left in the strainer and set puree aside.

3. Cook onion and seasonings: In a sauté pan or skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cinnamon stick, stir, and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic cloves and bread cubes and sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add epazote, oregano, salt and black pepper; stir another minute or two.

4. As onion mixture cooks, put toasted almonds and sesame seeds in a blender with 1½ cups broth. Blend until smooth. Add nut puree to chile puree.

5. Puree onion mixture: Remove cinnamon stick from sautéed onion mixture. Blend half of mixture with 3/4 cup broth until smooth, scraping down sides of blender if necessary. Add onion puree to chile and nut purees. Repeat with remaining onion mixture and another 3/4 cup broth. Add to other purees and stir well.

6. Heat purees: Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in sauté pan over medium-low. Carefully add combined purees; stir and partially cover. Cook at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

7. Finish: Put masa in a small bowl. Rinse blender with final 1/2 cup of broth and pour it into masa, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add masa to mole and stir well. Add chocolate, canela and sugar, stirring to melt chocolate. Cook another 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

8. If mole becomes too thick, add a bit more broth. For stew, add vegetables and/or meat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes more.

This recipe first appeared in The Chile Pepper Book by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger (Interweave Press, 1994). 

Click here for the main article, Mole Sauce: The National Dish of Mexico.