Chicken With Mole Sauce

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Chicke with Mole Sauce – did you know there is such a thing? Did you know it’s pretty delicious? And it has its origins in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s a very popular dish there that is also exported all over the world (you can get it in restaurants there and here, in the US). It is made by grilling chicken, roasting peppers and onions, and adding pumpkin seeds, almonds, ancho powder and cocoa (among other things) to create mole sauce.

Chicken with Quick Mole Sauce

Rich, dark and delicious, mole is a signature sauce in Mexican cooking. There are many variations, but the basic ingredients include plenty of chiles and nuts along with a touch of chocolate to tame the heat of the chiles. Traditional recipes can take several hours to prepare–this quick version takes a few shortcuts by using chili powder, nut butter and chocolate chips. Serve with rice and a medley of sautéed zucchini, pepper and onion.

Gallery

Chicken with Quick Mole Sauce

Recipe Summary

Total:

35 mins

Servings:

4

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see Note)

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1Season chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  • Step 2Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, chile powder, cumin, cinnamon and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt to the pan. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, broth, chocolate chips and almond (or peanut) butter; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, return the chicken (and any accumulated juice) to the pan and turn to coat with the sauce. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Tips

Note: Look for toasted sesame seeds at the supermarket near other Asian ingredients. Or toast regular sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Mexican Mole Sauce Recipe (Chicken Mole)

Mexican Mole Sauce is made with layers of complex and bold flavors, simmered together over a long period of time before being blended until smooth. Learn how to make this delicious chicken mole and serve with warm rice, beans, wrapped in tortillas, or drizzled over your favorite tacos, nachos, and veggies.

Mole sauce served with shredded chicken over rice with avocado and fresh lime.

Mole Sauce Recipe

Comforting, complex, and extremely versatile, Mole (pronounced moh-lay) is one of my very favorite Mexican cuisine classics. A labor of love to prepare, making your own homemade mole sauce is a million times worth the effort. 

This recipe, while not 100 percent traditional, isn’t exactly fast and easy either. While one may expect to spend at least a day, if not days, to make the most traditional and authentic mole, you can expect to spend approximately 2 to 3 hours to get this awesome chicken mole recipe ready and on the table for you and your family to enjoy.

Aside from chicken, leftover mole sauce tastes fantastic with tostadas, chicken or veggie enchiladas, tacos, and burritos.

Homemade mole sauce cooking in a large pot before being blended into a smooth sauce.

What is Mole Sauce?

Mole is a Mexican chile sauce. While the exact origin of mole sauce unknown, some argue that its origins date back to pre-hispanic Mexico to the time of the Aztecs. Others argue that mole sauce originated in Puebla or Oaxaca, Mexico.

Regardless of its origin, over the years mole has been highly influenced by family tradition and local preference. Found in countless versions and varieties, mole sauce ranges in color, ingredient type and amount of ingredients (some have well over 30 ingredients!), and consistency. 

Mole poblano, native to the state of Puebla, is the most well-known of all mole varieties. Considered the national dish of Mexico, it comes packed with approximately 20 ingredients, including chocolate, and is often served over turkey.

Travel to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and you’ll find seven different types of mole: negro, colorado, amarillo, verde, chichilo, coloradito, and mancha manteles. 

Regardless of origin, however, most mole sauces contain fruit, chili peppers, nuts, several different spices, and (sometimes) chocolate. And though it is thought that mole was originally made without chocolate, the addition of a rich, dark, Mexican chocolate is the new normal.

Jars of leftover mole sauce ready for storing.

What Does Mole Sauce Taste Like?

What does mole sauce taste like? Is it spicy? sweet? sour?

The taste depends on what mole sauce your eating. Mole Verde (made with ingredients such as pepitas, parsley, green chilis like tomatillos, and jalapenos) will be much different from mole negro (which contains well over 30 ingredients including chicken, beef, pork head, and chocolate).

This particular mole sauce is made with chicken as the base and is loaded with different kinds of chilies, nuts, seeds, spices, dried fruit, and chocolate. The taste is best described as somewhat spicy, and bittersweet with earthy undertones. I would not consider this recipe to taste sweet.

Glass bowl filled with mole sauce and shredded chicken.

Ingredients in Mole Sauce

So, the ingredients- there’s a lot of them. I know, you guys. And I know that the list may look totally intimidating. But DON’T RUN! If you love Chicken Molé, you’ll be so super happy you made your own sauce. And this recipe makes extra, so you can easily make several different dishes out of it.

It has been explained that the ingredients required to make mole can be grouped into 5 distinct classes – chilies, sour, sweet (fruits and sugar), spices, and thickeners (nuts, seeds, tortillas).

  • Olive oil (or lard)
  • Chicken
  • Chicken broth or chicken stock
  • Orange juice
  • Garlic cloves
  • Onions
  • Pumpkin seeds and Almonds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Whole anise seeds
  • Cloves
  • Dried pasilla chiles
  • Dried negro chiles
  • Dried ancho chiles
  • Dried chipotle chiles
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Bay leaves
  • Raisins
  • Dried marjoram
  • Dried thyme
  • Dried oregano
  • Tomato paste
  • Dark Mexican chocolate (or just dark chocolate)

Where can I purchase all the ingredients to make homemade mole sauce?

Most major grocery stores will have most of the ingredients on this list, but probably not all of them. For me, I had to order several of the dried chilies online. However, if you have access to a Mexican market, you should be able to find everything you need there.

Is this recipe spicy?

This particular mole sauce can be quite spicy. Simple ways to mellow out the heat is by using fewer pasilla and chipotle chiles, or by cutting the pepper open and removing the seeds and the white ribs (wear gloves is strongly recommended).

Dried chili substitutions

  • Ancho chile pepper: substitute with Mulato chile or Pasilla chile
  • For added heat: add 1-2 dried guajillo chiles
  • Pasilla chile: the Pasilla chile is long, black, wrinkled, and a standard ingredient in nearly all mole sauces. Substitutes include ancho chile or Mulato chile. Note- it is common for ancho chiles to be mislabeled as pasillas.

Can you freeze mole sauce?

This recipe makes a generous amount of mole sauce. Thankfully, it freezes really well. Simply transfer leftovers to freezer-safe jars or containers and freeze for up to 4 months.

Chicken Mole

This mole by chef Ofelia Barajas at La Guerrera’s Kitchen in Oakland is inspired by her grandmother Jovita Vargas’ recipe from her restaurant in Guerrero, Mexico. It’s rich, warm, and well balanced, with a variety of chiles adding layers of heat, fruitiness, sweetness, and smokiness. As you fry the individual ingredients, Barajas recommends smelling and tasting each one, including the chiles, to create a connection with each—and to learn how to build the flavors that make a great mole. The payoff is a luscious and complex sauce that drapes over tender chicken. Serve with fresh tortillas to swipe up every drop of sauce.

Gallery

Chicken Mole

CREDIT: PHOTO BY VICTOR PROTASIO / FOOD STYLING BY TORIE COX / PROP STYLING BY LYDIA PURSELL

Recipe Summary

Total:

2 hrs 5 mins

Active:

1 hr 15 mins

Servings:

8

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken quarters (about 3 1/4 pounds)
  • 3 ¾ cups vegetable oil, divided
  • 12 garlic cloves, divided
  • 4 ½ cups diced plum tomatoes
  • 3 ½ cups diced yellow onion
  • 8 dried guajillo chiles (1 3/4 ounces), stemmed
  • 6 dried chiles de árbol (1/8 ounces), stemmed
  • 4 dried ancho chiles (2 1/2 ounces), stemmed
  • 3 dried pasilla negro chiles (3/4 ounce), stemmed
  • 2 dried mulato chiles (1 ounces), stemmed
  • ½ cup sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup pepitas
  • 3 6-inch corn tortillas, plus more for serving
  • 1 (3 1/2-ounce) bolillo or demi baguette, torn into pieces (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (about 3-ounce) Mexican chocolate disk (such as Dandelion or Ibarra)
  • Cooked long-grain white rice, for serving

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1Bring 8 cups water and 1/2 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large stockpot over high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add chicken. Cook until chicken is tender and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meat registers 155°F, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken; set aside on a large plate. Reserve 4 cups chicken cooking liquid in a large heatproof bowl; discard remaining cooking liquid.
  • Step 2Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Add 8 garlic cloves; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, onions, and 1/2 tablespoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a kitchen towel over opening in lid. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, and set aside.
  • Step 3Wipe skillet clean. Add 3 cups vegetable oil; heat over medium-high. Working with a few different types of chiles at a time, place in a spider, and submerge in hot oil for 2 seconds per batch. Remove from oil using spider, and place in a large heat-proof bowl. Repeat with remaining chiles and remaining 4 garlic cloves.
  • Step 4Place sesame seeds and pepitas in a medium metal strainer; submerge in hot oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook, stirring mixture inside strainer and shaking occasionally, until seeds are golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer seed mixture to bowl with Chile mixture.
  • Step 5Working with 1 tortilla at a time, add to hot oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer fried tortillas to a plate lined with paper towels; let cool 5 minutes. Break into 2-inch pieces. (Strained and cooled oil may be reused for frying.)
  • Step 6Add chile mixture, tortilla pieces, and bolillo pieces to reserved 4 cups chicken cooking liquid in bowl. Let stand until liquid is almost absorbed and bolillo has softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender; process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Step 7Heat remaining 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large pot over medium. Add tomato mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 1 minute. Add blended chile mixture and chocolate disk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted and mixture is well combined, about 20 minutes. Add cooked chicken and remaining 1 tablespoon salt; stir to submerge in mole. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with rice and tortillas, and garnish with additional sesame seeds.

Make Ahead

Chicken mole can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

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