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Mole Poblano

Mole Poblano

Yields: 3 quarts

Time: 4-6 hours

Stage 1: Prepare spice powder

To prepare the chile peppers, step them and shake the seeds into a small bowl. Tear the peppers into pieces and set aside.

12 dried mulato chiles (poblano)

12 dried guajillo chiles

12 dried ancho or pasilla (chile negro) chiles

2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped

Toast in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown (~2min). Once toasted, transfer to a mortar or spice grinder.

4 T reserved chile seeds

4 T sesame seeds

Add to the cast iron skillet and toast until fragrant (~1min). Once toasted, add to the toasted seeds.

1 t whole aniseed (or 2 star anise)

1 t black peppercorns

2 t cumin seed

1 t fennel seed

1/2 t whole cloves

2 t coriander seed

5 allspice berries

Add to the toasted nut and spice mixture, grind into a find powder, and transfer to a large bowl.

1 t dried thyme

1/2 t dried marjoram

1 t dried Mexican oregano

3 dried bay leaves, crumbled

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

1/4 fresh whole nutmeg, grated on a microplane

Stage 2: Prepare the Chile Purée

Heat 2 cups peanut oil or lard in a medium skillet to 350°F over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the dried chiles until slightly darkened, about 20-45 seconds per batch. Transfer chiles to a plate lined with paper towels as each batch is finished.

When the frying is done, remove the skillet from the heat, but do not discard the oil. Transfer chiles to a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the peppers steep for 30 minutes. 

Then strain the chiles and reserve the soaking liquid.

Prepare a large bowl and fine mesh strainer. Working in 3 batches, place into a blender and purée until as smooth as possible. Strain each batch, using a rubber spatula to push through as much mixture as possible.

1/3 of soaked chiles

1/3 cup soaking liquid

1/4 cup chicken stock 

Stage 3: Fry Ingredients

Return skillet with oil to 350°F over medium-high heat. One at a time, fry each ingredient and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

1/2 cup skin-on almonds, fried for ~1 minute

1/2 cup raw shelled peanuts, fried for ~45 seconds

1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), fried for ~20 seconds

1/3 cup raisins, fried for ~15 seconds

2 tortillas, preferably stale, fried ~1 minute per side, then broken into small pieces

Transfer fried ingredients to the bowl with the spice mixture.

Stage 4: Prepare Aromatic Base

Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and strain the oil from the skillet. Place 2 T strained oil into an empty skillet (you can use the same one you used to toast spices, if sufficiently large). Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering.

Add and cook until browned (~10min), stirring occasionally:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

Stir in and cook until fragrant (~1 min):

10 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 10 teaspoons)

Transfer onions and garlic to bowl with spice mixture, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Return the skillet to medium-high heat until oil is shimmering.

Add and cook until softened (~10min), stirring occasionally:

2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered

1 large tomato, quartered (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)

Transfer tomatoes and tomatillos to a bowl with spice mixture.

Stage 5: Blend Spice Mixture and Aromatics

Add to the spice mixture bowl:

2.5 cups chicken stock

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.

Step 6: Cook the Sauce

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 (~10 minutes). Use a splatter screen so the sauce doesn’t make a mess.

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 1 cup finely chopped Mexican chocolate. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Season mole with salt (and optionally sugar) to taste. 

Remove from heat, use immediately or transfer to airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a month. The sauce freezes well.


  • The chocolate in this recipe will yield a complex sauce that is not identified as chocolate-y. You may add more chocolate to suit your preferences.

  • Less oil works for a shallow fry

  • If the components are too thick to pass through your strainer, try a food mill

  • The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, thin it with a little broth.

  • A blender works better than a food processor

    • Don’t purée more than half a blender full at a time.

    • Don’t add more liquid than is necessary to keep the mixture moving through the blades; if it’s too thin, the entire mixture won’t be drawn through the blades.

    • Stir the ingredients, blend on low until everything is uniformly chopped, and then blend on high until the purée is smooth when rubbed between your fingers.

    • If the sauce looks coarse or gritty after simmering, re-blend it until smooth.

  • Always strain the mixture

  • Spread the mole making out over three days for maximum flavor (and ease)

    • Before starting mole: make stock, if there is none on hand

    • Day 1 - Prepare ingredients and make the purées

    • Day 2 - sear the purée and combine to complete the sauce

    • Day 3 - cook the meat in the sauce


Serve mole over:

  • Turkey (traditional)

  • Chicken

  • Pork

  • Lamb

Leftover mole sauce is excellent for making enchiladas, tamales, brunch eggs, or using as a condiment for rice, eggs, and other foods.

You can garnish mole dishes with:

  • toasted sesame seeds

  • chopped mint

  • chopped cilantro

  • chopped scallions


Chiles that work well in mole (use 6-12 of each):

  • chipotle meco

  • mulato (poblano)

    • Technically, it distinguishes mole poblano from most other moles

  • ancho

  • pasila (chile negro)

  • chipotle

  • New Mexico

  • California

Easy-to-find pepper mix:

  • 12 dried ancho-pasilla chiles

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles

  • 6 dried california chiles

  • 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped

Kenji's pepper mix:

  • 12 dried ancho chiles

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles

  • 6 dried pasilla chiles (also called chile negro)

Other ingredients to try:

  • 1/4 cup Walnuts - toasted

  • 1/4 cup Pecans - toasted

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts - toasted

  • 1/2 small ripe (brown or black) plantain, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

    • Fry the plantain slices, turning over once, until golden, about 3 minutes.

  • 2 avocado leaves, dried

  • Shallots (instead of onions)

Variants for ingredient preparation:

  • You can toast the ingredients instead of frying

  • Tomato and Tomatillo

    • Broil or roast at 500F in an oven.

    • Core the tomato and cut a small “X” through the skin on the opposite end. Roast the tomato, cored side up, and tomatillos on a foil-lined pan, turning the tomatillos over once halfway through, until their tops and bottoms have blackened and they are a khaki-green color and cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes

    • The tomato (without turning) should be cooked until its top is blackened and it’s cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes total. 

    • Slip the skin off the tomato.

  • Using tongs, hold the tortilla directly over a burner set to medium, turning it over frequently, until it’s dark, golden brown, and some burned spots appear on both sides. Crumble it into the soaking fried chiles.


On Concentration Camps, from Maps of Meaning

Long live the weeds!

Long live the weeds!