The Mexican sauce called mole (pronounced moh-lay), actually refers to a number of different sauces. These are often casually defined as any Mexican sauce that contains chocolate, but such individual sauces or dishes made with it can utilize many different ingredients. The name is a derivative of the Aztec word molli which translates to stew or sauce, or is thought of as a blend of ingredients.
There are many origin stories for mole, most agreeing the sauce was first invented in the late 17th century and was an attempt to blend New World ingredients like chocolate with Old World spices. Many believe it may have been an invention of Sister Superior Andrea of the Santa Rosa convent, as a way of thanking the Archbishop for building the convent at Puebla de Los Angeles, in Mexico.
Mole Poblano may be a dish that many are familiar with. It is made usually with poultry, chicken or turkey, cooked together with sauce. The sauce often comes in a paste form, which when heated becomes smooth. You can actually buy mole paste, though chefs naturally recommend making your own. Spices in it can include pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, coriander and cloves. The spice blend features the mix of sweet and savory that exemplifies any good sauce.
This sauce can come in different colors. Green mole, for example, focuses on adding tomatillos to achieve the green color. This may be called mole verde, and frequently includes pumpkin seeds. Black mole, or mole negro, includes chilhuacle negro chili, which makes the sauce a deep dark brown. Yellow mole often utilizes Guajillo or New Mexican chilies to achieve a yellow to tan colored sauce.
Mole sauce of all types can be added to any soups or stews, and tops many traditional Mexican dishes. Enchiladas slathered with the sauce are quite common in Mexico. Many experts in Mexican cuisine believe that residents of the state of Oaxaca produce the finest varieties in Mexico, offering seven different types. In Veracruz, the verde type differs from other forms because it does not include pumpkin seeds.
Making mole at home can be fun, but the ingredients, especially cocoa beans, may be hard to find. Most chefs suggest the alternative of melting Ibarra chocolate, also called Mexican chocolate. If you’re having trouble finding ingredients, such as specific chilies to make the various types, Mexican or Latino grocery stores are the best places to look.