Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe

Updated on January 10, 2020
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Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home". She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated".

Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe
Sweet and Smoky Mexican Molé Sauce Recipe | Source

Sweet and Smoky Molé Recipe

Molé (pronounced moh-lay) has increased in exposure and popularity all over the world thanks to the culinary genius of chefs such as Rick Bayless, the "King of Mexican cuisine." But what is molé?

Basically, molé is a Mexican sauce with a complex flavor that makes a great complement to both meat and vegetarian dishes. Similar to BBQ sauce, it can be brushed onto grilled beef, pork, or poultry. Although dried chiles are a main ingredient, this sauce is not necessarily spicy. Rather it is rich, silky, and slighty sweet with nuances of smoke, fruit, and chocolate.

In contemporary Mexico, recipes abound for black, red, yellow, green, almond, and pepian molé. Ingredients are toasted, ground, and mixed for special occasions. The process is elaborate and can take days. The Oaxaca region is famous for the coveted molé negro, or black molé. Rick Bayless, whose version of this sauce contributed to his title of Top Chef Master, made his Oaxacan black molé for one of Obama's White House state dinners. His sauce had upwards of 20 ingredients and took three days to prepare.

For home cooks short on time, simpler versions can produce equally delicious results. See the Scoville chart when choosing dried chiles for your sauce. Because of availability, I use Peruvian "marisol" chiles and "colorado" chiles for my red molé and throw in a chipotle for extra smokiness. Please see "tips" section for suggested chile combinations.

Don't trust "quick" recipes which require only half an hour of cooking time. This sauce must be simmered for at least two hours, until thick and pungent. But beware: it is extremely addictive!

Dried Chiles

Chile Pepper Variety
Alternate Names
Scoville Score
narrow, long and dark/spicy flavor
aji marisol
aji amarillo, Peruvian guajillo, marisol chile
orange and wrinkled/fruity, grassy flavor
smoked jalapeno
reddish-brown to brown/smoky flavor
smooth, shiny and reddish-brown/bright, fruity earthy flavor
New Mexico
New Mexico red chile
smooth, shiny and red/crisp, earthy flavor
California chile
dried Anaheim
smooth, shiny, red/crisp, mild flavor
mulatto chile
dark and wrinkly/sweet, smoky flavor
dried Poblano
dark and wrinkly/sweet, raisin-like flavor
aji colorado
aji panca, colorado chile
smooth, shiny, reddish-brown/smoky, berry flavor
costeño amarillo
shiny and amber/crisp, citrus flavor
chilhuacle negro
shiny, dark and fat/deep, intense and fruity flavor
rattle chile, bola chile
small and round with noisy seeds/intense nutty flavor
chile negro, pasilla negro, dried chilaca
long, black and wrinkled/grapey, earthy flavor


  • Choose fragrant, flexible dried chiles. See Scoville chart for help in choosing chiles by flavor and/or heat.
  • If you'd like a dish similar to Rick Bayless's sauce, use 6 mulato chiles, 3 chihualces, 3 pasilla and 1 chipotle chile. If you can't find chihualces chiles, a very respectable substitute would be 7 mulato chiles, 5 pasilla chiles and 3 guajillo chiles.
  • For red molé, choose 6 mulato chiles, 3 ancho chiles and 5 pasilla chiles.
  • If Mexican chocolate isn't available, choose another good quality chocolate. If using Ghiradelli or Lindt, you'll need 3 squares for my recipe.
  • Don't use more than one chipotle unless you like it spicy.
  • Carefully watch chiles while toasting them. Burnt chiles make bitter sauce.
  • Before simmering, try your sauce. The flavor will be raw, sharp and spicy. Simmering will transform your sauce into a mellow, complex sauce.
  • Use a thick-walled pot so the molé doesn't burn. Simmer on medium-low to medium heat.
  • As the molé simmers, check periodically. Add more water as necessary and stir to keep sauce from scorching.
  • Leftover sauce will keep 3 days in the refrigerator. Molé also freezes well. Pour it into labeled freezer containers and store for up to six months.
  • Use leftover sauce in burritos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, as a substitute for BBQ sauce, etc. It will infuse your meal with incredible flavor.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Toast and rehydrate chilesThen blend.......and strain the chiles
Toast and rehydrate chiles
Toast and rehydrate chiles
Then blend....
Then blend....
...and strain the chiles
...and strain the chiles

Red Molé With Chicken

Adapted from Rick Bayless's red molé recipe. Yield: 9 servings.


For chicken and broth:

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pound chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 whole onion, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves

For molé:

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • vegetable oil
  • 14 chiles, about 6 ounces total weight
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 slice white bread, darkly toasted and broken into pieces
  • 1 ounce good quality chocolate, preferably Mexican
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Photo Tutorial

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Toast the nuts, seeds, raisins, garlic, etc.Blend and strain seed and nut mixtureNotice how mole's color changes from beginning.......to end of simmering process (after 2 hours)
Toast the nuts, seeds, raisins, garlic, etc.
Toast the nuts, seeds, raisins, garlic, etc.
Blend and strain seed and nut mixture
Blend and strain seed and nut mixture
Notice how mole's color changes from beginning...
Notice how mole's color changes from beginning...
....to end of simmering process (after 2 hours)
....to end of simmering process (after 2 hours)


  1. Fill a stockpot with 12 cups of water. Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour or until chicken is tender.
  2. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Discard onion and spices. Reserve the broth for the sauce. When the chicken has cooled, remove meat from the bone and shred or chop it. Set aside.
  3. Wipe any visible dust from dried chiles.
  4. Place chiles, sesame seeds, almonds and white bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. Remove chiles and raisins when they are fragrant and puffed, 5 to 6 minutes. Sesame seeds and almonds will need 10 or 15 minutes to turn golden brown. Leave white bread on baking sheet until toasted dark brown.
  5. Seed, devein and stem cooled chiles. Cover with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate, about 30 minutes.
  6. In hot oil, saute garlic cloves until golden brown and soft, about 5 minutes. Set garlic cloves aside with other toasted ingredients.
  7. Pour off and discard water from chiles.
  8. Scoop chiles into a blender jar and, with 3 cups of water, blend until smooth. Press through a strainer and into a large bowl.
  9. Return chile puree to pot with hot oil. Stir every few minutes, simmering for about half an hour or until it reduces and reaches the consistency of tomato paste.
  10. Toss into blender jar the toasted ingredients: sesame seeds, almonds, garlic and raisins. Also add cinnamon, pepper, coriander, cumin, anise, cloves, bread, chocolate and 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth. Blend thoroughly, strain through mesh strainer and add to reduced chile paste.
  11. Add rest of the broth and the tomato paste to the pot and stir. Simmer over medium heat for about 2 1/2 hours, or until flavors marry and mellow. If the sauce has reduced beyond the consistency of cream soup, stir in more water. Season with salt (about 2 teaspoons) and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Serving Ideas

Serve with corn or flour tortillas and shredded chicken. Garnish with crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro. Accompany with margaritas and Mexican rice.

Rate This Recipe

4.1 stars from 14 ratings of Sweet & Smoky Mexican Mole


Submit a Comment
  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    5 years ago from Peru, South America

    Angela Robertson, this mole is delicious on shredded pork! It makesmy mouth water just thinking about it.

  • Angela Robertson profile image

    Angela Robertson 

    5 years ago

    I made this mole this past summer. It was excellent! Could I use it on shredded pork as well? Or do you recommend a different sauce?

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    7 years ago from Peru, South America

    Moonlake, although making mole is a process, you can then freeze and store in batches for future meals. It's one of our favorite sauces and dresses up anything. Enjoy and thanks for paying me a visit!

  • moonlake profile image


    7 years ago from America

    This looks very good. Will have to try this recipe. Voted up.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Dancilla, it's nice to meet a fellow mole lover! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Dancilla profile image


    8 years ago from El Paso

    This hub made me want to eat some mole. Mole is my favorite food. Great hub.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, happyexplorer. Mexican Mole is quite delicious nd addictive, too!

  • happyexplorer profile image


    8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere

    This looks delicious, and excellent photos to go with the hub!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thanks for your feedback, Felina Margetty. I love mole and can never seem to get enough of it!

  • Felina Margetty profile image

    Felina Margetty 

    8 years ago from New York, New York

    I tried this recipe and it turned out fabulous. Thank you very much F.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Nice to know you're also a mole lover! Sometimes the mole seems too spicy at first, but after the long simmering process the spiciness is tempered and it's just right. Of course, you can also cut down on the dried chiles. Thank you for dropping by, alocsin!

  • alocsin profile image

    Aurelio Locsin 

    8 years ago from Orange County, CA

    I love mole and we have a big Mexican community here, so I can try this out at several venues. I'll take mine without too much spiciness though. Voting this Up and Useful.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Yes, anglnwu, it's sooo worth the effort! You can make a double batch and freeze part so it can be used for several meals. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  • anglnwu profile image


    8 years ago

    Wow, this would be a labor of love--it's quite time consuming from the steps but I bet it must be worth every bit of effort. I've to bookmark this for a time when I feel adventurous. Yours looks so delicious. Voted up.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Mole is in a category all its own. If you have enough room in the freezer, I'd make a double batch...it's addictive stuff. Thanks for commenting, WD Curry 111!

  • WD Curry 111 profile image

    WD Curry 111 

    8 years ago from Space Coast

    I lived in Tucson for a couple of years growing up. We went on a vacation to southern Mexico. We had a mole dish and were shocked, "Hey, this isn't Mexican food!"

    Your recipe sounds great. It looks like I need to make a big batch and freeze some. I am a lazy cook, but a decent one.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you, Peggy W, for your kind words. Putting together the Scoville chart was interesting and I learned a lot about different varieties of dried chiles. Thanks for sharing, too!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    8 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Beautiful hub with the directions and photos. The table with all of those chilies and the scoville factor figured in is very interesting. I would call making this recipe a labor of love! Voted interesting, useful and will tweet and share with my followers.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    You asked a great question! So you've had Oaxaca's black mole? That means you've had the best mole in the world! I hope you have access to chihualces chiles as they're the Mercedes Benz of the chile world. If not, the other chiles I list are good substitutes. Please tell me how the recipe works out for you. Thank you for dropping by and commenting, MarkRFox.

  • MarkRFox profile image


    8 years ago

    Good job and useful information. Thanks for answering the question I had asked with this Hub. I will be trying this one of these weekends when I get back home. I am sure my fiancé will love one of the Moles with Chicken. I used to go to Saltillo in Coahuila at least once per year several years back and had some of the mole negro made by a person originally from Oaxaca. It was great.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for your kind words, but I don't think it puts your interesting hub to shame! I'm glad you liked the info.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Def. puts my hub to shame, such a well balanced hub, with uber amounts of valuable info for the mole recipe. Awesome!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you so much, eye say, for dropping by and commenting. Once I had mole, I was hooked!

  • eye say profile image

    eye say 

    8 years ago from Canada

    This is jam packed with everything you need to know about mole sauce. Well written, I appreciate the information you gathered, well done! Needs to be shared and voted up!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for being my first visitor to this hub, LadyLyell!

  • LadyLyell profile image


    8 years ago from George, South Africa

    I am always keen to learn new ideas for cooking, how exciting is this!

    Voted useful!


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