Mole Poblano Recipe

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Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Ingredients are prepared individually (ground, toasted, fried) for maximum flavor.
  • Multiple chile varieties are incorporated for depth, layered flavor, and heat.

I made an impulse buy of the largest bag of Halloween chocolates I've ever seen at Costco at the beginning of the month, and, depriving children of their handouts, have spent the last four weeks eating the entire thing almost single-handedly. So what to do when a month's supply of chocolate runs out? Have more! But this time, by the way of the complex, rich mole poblano.

Mole is a term covering many different sauces in Mexico, but it's mole poblano—a thick and savory chile and chocolate sauce from the state of Puebla—that's most synonymous with "mole" around the world. This sauce usually includes twenty or more ingredients, many requiring their own preparation, and the whole thing takes many hours to fully complete.

There are shortcut recipes out there, but I wanted the full-day experience of true mole preparation. I generally like to adjust recipes as I go, but with such a long process to reach a final product, this didn't seem possible. So I opted to turn to my trustworthy source for Mexican cooking, Rick Bayless, to guide me in my mole endeavor.

I got what I asked for, completing the recipe over two days and a total of seven hours. Almost all of this time was active, spent grinding spices, toasting chiles, frying fruits and nuts, straining purées, and slowly simmering the sauce. Arduous, yes, but when I first tasted the finished mole poblano, there was no doubt where that time went.

The range and depth of this sauce was nothing short of spectacular. It was hard to point out any one ingredient, but instead everything came together as one harmonious sauce that ranged from earthy to spicy, fruity, nutty, sweet, and sometimes even bitter. I used only a small portion of the sauce to make chicken mole, and have enough left over to probably keep my chocolate train going for another whole month.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Active: 6 hrs
Soaking Time: 30 mins
Total: 4 hrs
Makes: 2 quarts

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Ingredients

  • 12 dried ancho chiles

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles

  • 6 dried pasilla chiles

  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 1 teaspoon aniseed

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

  • 3 dried bay leaves, crumbled

  • 1 (1 1/2-inch) stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

  • 2 cups canola oil

  • 7 1/4 cups chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup skin-on almonds

  • 1/2 cup raw shelled peanuts

  • 1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

  • 1/3 cup raisins

  • 2 slices white bread

  • 2 stale corn tortillas

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

  • 10 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 10 teaspoons)

  • 2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered

  • 1 large tomato, quartered

  • 1 cup finely chopped Mexican chocolate

  • 4 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste

  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Stem chiles and shake seeds into a small bowl. Tear chiles into large pieces; set aside. Place 4 tablespoons of reserved chile seeds and sesame seeds in a small cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Toast seeds, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a spice grinder. Add aniseed, peppercorns, and cloves to now empty skillet. Toast until fragrant, about 1 minute; transfer to spice grinder with seeds. Add thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, and cinnamon to spice grinder. Grind all seeds and spices into a fine powder. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

    chile seeds

    Serious Eats

  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat to 350°F (177°C). Working in batches, fry chiles until slightly darkened, about 20 seconds per batch; transfer chiles to paper towel-lined plate as each batch is finished. Remove skillet from heat and reserve. Transfer chiles to a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain chiles, reserving soaking liquid.

  3. Working in 3 batches, place 1/3 of the chiles, 1/3 cup soaking liquid, and 1/4 cup chicken stock into blender and purée until as smooth as possible. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain chile mixture, using a rubber spatula to push through as much chile mixture as possible. Discard solids and set chile purée aside.

  4. Return skillet with oil to 350°F over medium-high heat. One at a time, fry almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and raisins until toasted, about 1 minute for almonds, 45 seconds for peanuts, 20 seconds for pumpkin seeds, and 15 seconds for raisins. Transfer each batch to a paper towel-lined plate as it is done. Transfer almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and raisins to bowl with spice mixture.

  5. Fry bread until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side; transfer to paper towel lined-plate. Fry tortillas until golden brown, about 1 minute per side; transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Remove skillet from heat. Break bread and tortillas into small pieces and transfer to bowl with spice mixture.

  6. Set fine-mesh strainer over small bowl and strain oil from skillet. Place 2 tablespoons of strained oil to now empty skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer onions and garlic to bowl with spice mixture, leaving as much oil in pan as possible.

  7. Return skillet to medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add in tomatillos and tomatoes. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer tomatillos and tomato to bowl with spice mixture. Add 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock to bowl with spice mixture.

  8. Working in two batches, purée spice mixture in blender until as smooth as possible. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain spice mixture, using a rubber spatula to push through as much spice mixture as possible. Discard solids and set spice mixture aside.

  9. In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat 3 tablespoons of reserved strained oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in chile purée and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened to consistency of tomato paste, about 10 minutes. Stir in spice mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. Stir in 4 cups chicken stock and chocolate. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar and season mole with salt and additional sugar to taste. Remove from heat, use immediately or transfer to airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Special equipment

Blender, fine mesh strainer

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
4876 Calories
301g Fat
461g Carbs
134g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 4876
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 301g 386%
Saturated Fat 63g 315%
Cholesterol 100mg 33%
Sodium 5585mg 243%
Total Carbohydrate 461g 168%
Dietary Fiber 65g 233%
Total Sugars 237g
Protein 134g
Vitamin C 119mg 594%
Calcium 1621mg 125%
Iron 38mg 209%
Potassium 7072mg 150%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)