Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Jan

Mexican Mole Sauce

This particular recipe is a cross between red and black mole (pronounced MOLE-lay); the flavor and color influenced by a blend of dried chiles, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate. This is the type of mole people outside of Mexico tend to be most familiar with and unfortunately, many versions are overly sweet and heavy, especially store-bought versions. When made well, the sweetness in mole is balanced by the spicy, smoky flavor of chiles, and the toasted and slightly bitter flavor of roasted nuts and seeds.

There’s no denying that mole is a labor-intensive sauce, but we’ve done our best to make this version as straightforward as possible. Although it takes effort to gather and prepare the ingredients, the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when it all comes together into an amazing Primal meal is worth it. Also, a little bit of mole goes a long way, so it’s likely you can make a batch and freeze half for another meal.

Mole is usually served with chicken or turkey, which can be cooked any way you please then topped with mole, or simmered in the sauce as it cooks.


Makes about 2 cups of sauce

  • 6 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles
  • 2 dried mulato chiles
  • 1/2 cup oil or lard
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds
  • 3 tablespoons raisins or dried, unsweetened blueberries
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (use Mexican cinnamon if you can find it)
  • 3 tomatillos, husked and roughly chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (look for brands with 70-80% cocoa)


Pull the stems out of the chiles and open the chiles (a scissor works well for this) so you can pour or scrape out the seeds. Reserve one tablespoon of seeds and set aside. The seeds will make the sauce spicier; if you prefer a less-spicy sauce, then simply discard all the seeds. If you prefer a really spicy sauce, set aside two tablespoons of seeds instead of one.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil or lard in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Quickly fry the chiles for 30-40 seconds, until they unfurl a little and become slightly darker. Turn once or twice while frying so the chiles don’t burn.

Set the chiles on a paper towel so some oil drains off then put the chiles in a bowl, cover with hot water (about 6 cups) and set aside for 30 minutes.

While the chiles are soaking, add the reserved tablespoon of chile seeds and the garlic cloves to the heated skillet. Fry until noticeably browned, 3-5 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

Add the pumpkin seeds to the skillet and cook until they pop and begin to brown, about 1 minute. Combine with the chile seeds and garlic.

Add the sesame seeds to the skillet and cook until golden, 2-3 minutes. Combine with the seeds and garlic.

Add the almonds to the skillet, cooking until golden, about 3 minutes. Combine with the seeds and garlic.

Add the raisins or dried blueberries to the skillet until they puff up, about 1 minute. Combine with the seeds, garlic and almonds and set the bowl aside.

Now remove the chiles from the soaking water, reserving 3/4 cup of the water. Put the chiles in the blender with the 3/4 cup of soaking water. Blend into a smooth puree. You’ll probably have to stop the blender and scrape down the sides several times.

Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil or lard in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the chile puree and simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat down to medium-low if the paste begins to burn.

While the chile puree is simmering, pour the bowl of seeds, garlic and almonds into the blender. Add the cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and tomatillo plus 1 cup of chicken broth. Puree until smooth, stopping the blender as needed to scrape down the sides.

After the chile puree has simmered for 15 minutes, add the puree of seeds, nuts and tomatillos and simmer another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chocolate and remaining broth and simmer at least 20-25 minutes. Finish by adding salt to taste.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Mole is amazing. I spent an evening making it from fresh tomatoes once. Chocolate + chile + nuts + tomatoes seems like an unlikely grouping but it is so, so, good.

    Matt Brody wrote on January 15th, 2011
  2. I grew with kids whose grandmothers made authentic moles – this one looks like a keeper! Can’t wait to make it!

    Tiki Jane wrote on January 15th, 2011
    • This does sound like a keeper and highly authentico. Anyone want to try it?

      Seems well worth the effort for the product.

      Beth McKenzie Castaneda wrote on May 29th, 2011
  3. Looks great. I love mole. Going to make a shopping list and try making it since it is a long weekend. We’ve got a bunch of good Mexican grocery stores.


    TrailGrrl wrote on January 15th, 2011
  4. I Admit that I have never made a mole before, but it looks like I am going to start soon! I am going to put thi on a bistro menu. What a better way to start it off?

    Jason Sandeman wrote on January 15th, 2011
  5. YES! I love mole sauce! I was always a little skeptical when ordering it from a restaurant, not knowing what was put in it exactly. I can’t wait to make my own. This is gonna take a lot of work but soooo worth it.

    Kornelia wrote on January 15th, 2011
  6. That looks SO GOOD Mark. I’ll make it and keep it on hand for chicken and burgers, yum.

    I made a version of “No-atmeal” inspired by your reader’s recipe and mentioned you in my blog post. :) My site’s pretty popular with the low carb crowd, and you can always sub coconut milk in for the cream in my recipes. Thanks for inspiring me to stay primal (or at least close to it).

    Lauren B wrote on January 15th, 2011
    • I would like to look at your blog.
      Please give me the address. I am a
      senior lady trying out low carb as I would like to feel better and lose weight. Thanks.

      Barbara wrote on January 19th, 2011
  7. Wow that’s a lot of ingredients, but well worth the effort if you ask me. I know you didn’t ask me but I’m going to make this sauce for myself. Anything else it goes good with, anyone?

    Matt Maresca wrote on January 15th, 2011
  8. This looks fantastic. We’re going to try soon. Will post back with how it comes out!

    The Primal Palette wrote on January 15th, 2011
  9. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Great post! keep up the good work Mark! wrote on January 15th, 2011
  10. OMG! I’ve always wanted a straight forward Mole Recipe, thank you *excited*

    quotidianlight wrote on January 15th, 2011
  11. Or, you can buy already made mole paste in the grocery store and doctor it up a bit like I do. Sooo much easier and still tastes great.

    cathyx wrote on January 15th, 2011
  12. I don’t believe I have ever heard of mole until now… sounds like a winner in my book!

    Primal Toad wrote on January 15th, 2011
  13. the first look at some of the ingredients made me iffy, but after i read the cooking descrption it came together really well.
    sauces are tricky, but we should have more, or an entire selection of sauces on the recipe page.
    because, ya know, sauces can move mountains 😀

    Zac wrote on January 15th, 2011
  14. Yum! Thank you! That stuff is certainly going on the list for my next shopping run. What a great winter sauce.

    slacker wrote on January 15th, 2011
  15. I’m married to a displaced Texan, so he would LOVE a homemade mole. The different chiles kinda scare me (can’t recall ever seeing them at the store before…would the be in the Mexican foods aisle?) but I’ll do my best to find them!

    kennelmom wrote on January 16th, 2011
  16. Have it all the time, because I live in Mexico, the real stuff. It is good once in a while for a change of taste. I call it Mexican poo poo.

    Jaques wrote on January 16th, 2011
  17. I’ve never even heard of Mole before- what exactly do you do with it?!

    alley cat wrote on January 17th, 2011
    • It’s great on chicken or carnitas!

      Kevin wrote on January 17th, 2011
    • use as a condiment to meats or veggies, too thick for a sauce category

      Beth McKenzie Castaneda wrote on May 29th, 2011
  18. Hmm, wonder if typical Mole (found at a Mexican Restaurant) would be a good primal choice when eating out? Or do you think it might have wheat or gluten??

    Tracey wrote on January 17th, 2011
    • Traditional Mexican mole usually has bread in it as a thickener… it’s definitely glutenous and non-primal!

      primalwino wrote on January 19th, 2011
      • Okay, thanx for the tip!

        Tracey wrote on January 20th, 2011
  19. Hm…would love to make this and have my parents over, as my mom loves mole & it’s hard to get her to eat anything sans carbs (she’s a bread/pasta addict). Only problem is that my son’s sensitive to tree nuts…do you think I could just sub extra pumpkin/sesame seeds? Any ideas anyone? (Side note: all the yummy looking paleo recipes feature almonds or coconuts…bummer!!)

    Leah wrote on January 18th, 2011
  20. I love(d) mole. 33 years ago,I shared some with my now wife of 30yrs. I did not know it contained nuts and did not know she had a nut allergy. Off we went to the ER. Is there a nut substitute? More seeds perhaps.It would be different, but maybe that’s OK. I’d like to try it again.Restaurants should list ingredients when nuts are used.

    Jim wrote on January 22nd, 2011
  21. Heard about it, made some up from dried chilli, cocoa powder & vegetable shortening. still gets added to the pan, for eggs, or sprinkled onto baked root vegetables…adding nuts means gathering nuts locally, to me: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts. Rose hip could be interesting. { yes locally grown chilli, ten minutes walk to the Orchard up the road.}

    Raven_Glance wrote on February 11th, 2011
  22. Made it tonight. Really good mole. Thank you!

    Samantha Moore wrote on May 10th, 2011
  23. I call this “Faux-lay”…I whipped it up one night when I was Jones-ing for the Mole’ Poblano at Red Iguana restaurant.

    In a saucepan I put a can of tomato sauce, and eye-balled the rest….
    about 2-3 T Chile powder, 2-3 T ground cumin, 2-3 T cocoa powder, some agave (you could use stevia) a couple T’s of light olive oil and a little salt to taste, simmered it a bit, and voila’! It satisfied that craving, and was actually pretty tasty.
    So easy and all in one small pot. I used it over shredded roast beef and sauteed onions topped with melted cheese. It would be great over anything.

    Pam Johnson wrote on May 15th, 2011
  24. I made this recently and have to say that it is outrageously good. I didn’t have the specific chiles mentioned in the recipe because they aren’t available where I live, but I substituted with other dried chiles and the results were absolutely incredible! Am going to make again this again and again! Thank you for posting the recipe.

    girlcookinparis wrote on October 2nd, 2011
  25. While you do try to be very traditional with your recipe, the one beef I have is with the pronunciation… its not pronounced MOLE-lay, its pronounced Moh-leh. Other than that, it looks just like my grandmother used to make.

    Mexican ancestry wrote on November 26th, 2011
  26. Could you make this ahead of time and freeze it? or would it need to be eaten fairly quickly? thanks

    vanessa wrote on March 8th, 2012
  27. The is a disgrace to humanity and is disgusting in every aspect. I like the rain.

    Mike Jenkins wrote on April 26th, 2012
  28. this is awful what about the local moles? They might get jelous of the moles that are jared and want to be lazered of its host.

    Jake Ashton wrote on April 26th, 2012
  29. Great recipe. I’ve made it three times now with slight variations of ingredients but it’s always good. My only beef (so to speak) is the perpetuation of the spicy chilli seed myth. The main source of capsaicin in a chilli is in “veins” that run through the flesh. The seeds and pith actually have very little capsaicin. I’m afraid the red pepper shakers at pizza places have given people the idea that the seeds are spicy but it’s simply not the case.

    Bob Smith wrote on May 5th, 2012
  30. I definitely want to give this recipe a try and then pass the knowledge on to some of my clients. I do have one question though, do you know about how long the sauce will last in a sealed container in the fridge, and do you recommend making large batches and freezing them for storage or will that affect the taste?


    Lisa wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Was curious about the say thing. Did you hear any responses about refrigeration/freezing?

      Laura wrote on December 22nd, 2013
  31. I don’t know why people in the US insist it’s pronounced mo-lay, if you pronounce it that way here in mexico people won’t know what you are talking about. It’s mo-leh.

    Toltepeceno wrote on January 13th, 2014
  32. I just made this and omg. I almost didn’t put the chocolate in because just the toasted nuts and pepper purée was amazing. (I did end up adding the chocolate, and am very happy about this…)

    Wonderful recipe. Totally worth the time. It’s the mole I read about but had never tasted from a jar or a restaurant.


    Elisabeth Shoup wrote on May 4th, 2014
  33. I’m confused by parts of this recipe. I used a 12″ steel skillet, and I couldn’t figure out how to get the small ingredients, e.g., chile seeds, sesame seeds out of the skillet. I ended up leaving some of the chile seeds in the pan, and then adding the other ingredients at 30-second intervals until they sopped most of the lard and looked toasted.

    Also, the recipe says it yields about 2 C of sauce. But if my math is right, 3/4 C of chile soaking water + 3 C of chicken broth + the water absorbed by the chiles yields about 4 C. I thought the sauce looked like the proper consistency with about 2 C of liquid.

    Did anyone else have these issues?

    jake3_14 wrote on October 6th, 2014

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