An authentic mole negro or black mole sauce made with dried chiles, sesame seeds, garlic, raisins, chocolate, and warm spices. This sultry, complex sauce is traditionally served over chicken but would also make delicious enchiladas.
I first tasted mole negro during an all-girls’ trip to Oaxaca. It was an interesting time to visit because tourism was at an all-time low due to 2006 teacher protests that called for the removal of Oaxaca’s governor. When I returned in 2012 to conduct thesis research, cooking school instructors informed me that the tourism industry never fully recovered from this event. Despite these challenges, the area’s rich culinary culture continues to flourish and I was fortunate to learn this mole negro recipe from one of Oaxaca’s great traditional cooks, Reyna Mendoza, owner and instructor at El Sabor Zapoteco.
This recipe is a labor of love and the process includes A LOT of steps. Some of which are things you’ve probably never done before, but I will walk you through each one and offer short cuts when possible. Just take it one step at a time, don’t rush, and you’ll be fine.
WHAT IS MOLE NEGRO MADE OF?
The ingredients are also a bit complicated. For instance, the chilhuacle chile pepper (or black chile), can only be found in Oaxaca or in Latin markets that specialize in Oaxacan products or for a pretty penny online. Other items like mulato chiles and avocado leaves might also be difficult to track down depending where you live. For these reasons, mole negro is reserved for special days of reverence including Day of the Dead and wedding celebrations. It would even be amazing with turkey at Thanksgiving. Whenever you choose to make it, just know all your efforts will not go to waste. This sauce is intense, rich, and deeply flavorful. It is a little sweet and very savory with a hint of heat at the end.
- Dried guajillo chiles
- Dried chihuacle chiles or cascabel chiles (which is what I use to make this at home)
- Dried mulato chiles or black ancho chiles
- Sesame seeds
- Whole nutmeg
- Whole allspice
- Whole cloves
- Cinnamon stick
- Fresh ginger or ground ginger
- Dried thyme
- Dried oregano
- Avocado leaves
- Bay leaves
- White onion
- Chicken broth
- Vegetable oil or lard
- Bolillo roll
- Mexican chocolate
FOR THE CHICKEN
- Chicken thighs
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
Toast the chiles. Heat a comal or a large dry skillet over medium heat. Add chiles and toast until they are fragrant and become darker in color. Do this in batches if your comal is too small to hold them all in a single layer. Set them aside.
Toast sesame seeds. Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Toast, stirring frequently, until they begin to pop and turn golden. Pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Caramelize the raisins. Heat the comal again over medium heat and add the raisins. Cook, stirring frequently until they are plump and caramelized on the outside. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Toast nuts and spices. Now add the almonds, walnuts, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon stick, and fresh piece of ginger (if using) to the comal. Cook until the nuts are darker in color and the spices are fragrant, stirring frequently. Set aside in a small bowl. If using ground ginger, add to the blender later.
Toast herbs. Finally place the oregano, thyme, avocado leaves, and bay leaves on the comal and cook just until they start to release their aromas, about 10-15 seconds, then move to a bowl.
Char the onions and garlic. The first step is to turn the ventilation hood over your stove to high. If you have a gas stove, remove the grate on the stove top and heat the flame to low. Place the onion and garlic directly on the flame and cook, turning frequently, until they are blackened on the outside and the garlic cloves are tender enough to slip out of the skins. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove to cool, then peel from their skins.
NOTE: If you don’t have a gas stove or want a simpler technique, heat the broiler to high and arrange a rack at the top of the oven. Place the onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, and chiles on a large baking sheet. Place under the broiler and cook until all the vegetables are blackened on the outside. Keep checking and turning them so they blacken on all sides, removing the vegetables as they are ready.
Alternatively, you could also blacken them over a grill outside.
Char the tomatoes and tomatillos. Now place the tomatoes and tomatillos over the flame and cook until charred and blackened on the outside. Turn frequently to blacken all sides evenly. Set aside.
Blacken chiles. Lastly, place the toasted chiles on the comal (if it has high sides) or a large frying pan (if it does not). Eventually you are going to add water, so it will need to hold that. Place the pan over high heat (make sure your vent is on high and your windows are open, maybe even wear a face mask) and toast the chiles until they are completely blackened, turning frequently, about 15 minutes. You want them all to be black and very dry.
Okay, here’s where things get wild. Carefully take the pan of blackened chiles outside to a heatproof space, like on a concrete patio, on top of a grill and away from anything flammable. Have a cup of hot water close by. Using a kitchen torch, light the chiles on fire and let them burn until they are carbonized shells of themselves, about 1-2 minutes. The flame can get big and there is a lot of smoke, so make sure you have a clear space. Carefully pour the hot water over the chiles to put out the flames. Let the chiles sit in the water for 5 minutes to soften, then drain.
NOTE: These burnt chiles are the essence of the mole. It is the ash flavor you are going for. You can skip this step but it won’t be the same.
Blend. Combine 1 ½ cups of the chicken broth with the sesame seeds, raisins, nuts and spices, oregano, thyme, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, and burnt chiles. Blend on high until very smooth. Do this in batches if you have a small blender.
Fry the mole. Heat the oil (or lard) in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until very hot. Add chile puree and cook, frying in the oil. Stir frequently, until it darkens in color and becomes very thick.
Add chocolate. Add 2 cups chicken broth, chocolate, avocado leaves, bay leaves, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until chocolate dissolves.
Blend the bread. While the mole is cooking, place the toasted bolillo halves in the blender (you don’t need to clean it first) along with ½ cup of chicken broth and blend until smooth.
Add bread mixture. Pour this bread mixture into the mole sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, allowing the flavors to meld together, about 15-20 minutes.
Taste and thin. Taste the mole and add more salt if necessary. The mole should easily drizzle off the spoon. If it is thick or gloppy add more chicken broth to thin it out. Let simmer, covered, over very low heat, stirring occasionally, while you cook the chicken.
Make garlic paste. Begin the chicken by making a garlic paste in a molcajete with the garlic cloves and salt.
NOTE: You could also do this in a food processor with a little bit of water if you don’t have a molcajete.
Heat garlic. Add ¼ cup of water to the molcajete to transfer all the garlic mixture to a skillet large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Fry chicken. Add chicken to the pan, skin-side down and simmer until liquid reduces and chicken starts frying in its own fat. Reduce heat to low and cook, turning every 10 minutes or so until chicken is golden and fully cooked, about 45 minutes.
Serve. Place a piece or two of chicken on each plate and cover with warm mole sauce. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds and serve with rice and warm tortillas.
LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION?
- Enmoladas Con Papa
- Fideo Seco
- Grandma Lola’s Tacos Dorados
- Malteada de Mole
- Mole Enchiladas
- Mollete Recipe
- Slow Cooker Frijoles de Olla
INGREDIENTS (MOLE SAUCE)
- 8 guajillo chiles remove stems and seeds
- 4 dry chilhuacle chile peppers or cascabel chiles, remove stems and seeds
- 4 mulato chile peppers or ancho negro, remove stems and seeds
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 7 almonds
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/8 piece whole nutmeg
- 2 allspice berries
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½- inch piece fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 avocado leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 onion unpeeled
- 2 whole heads garlic unpeeled
- 1/2 pound tomatoes about 2 medium
- 1/4 pound tomatillos about 2 medium
- 4 cups chicken stock divided (plus more for thinning)
- 3 tablespoons lard or oil
- 1 bolillo cut in half and toasted
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup chopped Mexican chocolate 6 ounces
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- 12 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
PREPARATION (MOLE SAUCE)
- Toast all chiles over medium heat on a comal or flat griddle, moving them frequently until they release their aromas and become darker in color. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Next, quickly toast sesame seeds until they darken slightly and begin to pop. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Then, toast raisins until they begin to darken and swell, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Continue to toast the almonds, walnuts, nutmeg, allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon, and fresh ginger (if using), all at once, moving frequently. Remove from heat and set aside once they begin to release their aromas.
- For the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and avocado leaves, quickly toast on the comal just until their aromas are released (about 10-15 seconds), and then remove from heat.
- Turn the ventilation hood over your stove to high. If you have a gas stove, remove the grate on the stove top and heat the flame to low. Place the onion and garlic directly on the flame and cook, turning frequently, until they are blackened on the outside and the garlic cloves are tender enough to slip out of the skins. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove to cool, then peel from their skins. See notes below on how to do this in the oven.
- Now place the tomatoes and tomatillos over the flame and cook until charred and blackened on the outside. Turn frequently to blacken all sides evenly, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Lastly, place the toasted chiles on the comal (if it has high sides) or a large frying pan (if it does not). Eventually you are going to add water, so it will need to hold that. Place the pan over high heat (make sure your vent is on high and your windows are open, maybe even wear a face mask) and toast the chiles until they are completely blackened, turning frequently, about 15 minutes. You want them all to be black and very dry.
- Carefully take the pan of blackened chiles outside to a heatproof space, away from anything flammable, like on a concrete patio, on top of a grill, etc. Have a cup of hot water close by. Using a kitchen torch, light the chiles on fire and let them burn until they are carbonized shells of themselves, about 1-2 minutes. The flame can get big and there is a lot of smoke, so make sure you have a clear space. Carefully pour the hot water over the chiles to put out the flames. Let the chiles sit in the water for 5 minutes to soften, then drain. *See notes for more details
- Mix softened chiles with the sesame seeds, raisins, nuts and spices, thyme, oregano, tomatoes, tomatillos, and the ground ginger (if using).
- Working in batches and using a high-powered blender if possible, blend ingredients until very smooth with 1 ½ cups chicken broth.
- Prepare a large pot like a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add lard or oil and heat until it becomes very hot.
- Add chile mixture to pot and fry, stirring frequently as it thickens for approximately 10 minutes.
- Add 2 cups chicken broth, avocado and bay leaves, chocolate, sugar, and the 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring to melt the chocolate.
- In the meantime, blend toasted bread with ½ cup of chicken broth. Add this thickener to pot with chile mixture, and lower to low heat. Cover and simmer over very low heat while you prepare the chicken. Lift the lid and stir every once in a while to make sure nothing is burning on the bottom.
- Grind garlic with salt into fine paste in a molcajete (pestle and mortar) then add ¼ cup of water to transfer garlic mixture into a large skillet big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Alternatively, you may blend garlic with salt and water in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add chicken, skin side down and simmer until liquid reduces and chicken releases its own oils. Once liquid is almost dissolved completely, reduce heat to low and fry chicken in its oils until completely cooked, about an hour, flipping and turning every 10 minutes or so.
- Once chicken is ready, taste mole sauce and add more salt as needed. Remove bay leaves and avocado leaves.
- Serve mole over a piece or two of chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with a side of rice and warm tortillas.
A Note from Lola
Originally published November 1, 2013
Lola’s Cocina is a small business that earns various revenue streams. This includes sponsored posts and affiliate commissions from linked products, which I use and love. This commission is an agreement between Lola’s Cocina and retailers, with no extra cost to readers.
Lola Wiarco Dweck
Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.