I have had mole (moh-LAY) twice in my life. Once was a long time ago at a restaurant back in Calgary – it was a tender breast of chicken served with mole and some veggies. Recently I had it again, only this time it was served in a taco form. When I had it in London, I was immediately overwhelmed with just how amazing the mole tacos tasted. In fact, I licked the bowl clean. The mole was that tasty. I have no shame!
Upon tasting the mole, I knew that once I returned back home to Calgary for the holidays, I had to recreate the recipe. I liked how the restaurant served it in a taco form (with shredded chicken). I decided I would do the same. Playing on my version of salsa verde beef tacos (though I haven’t done a recipe for the tacos, you can check out my recipe for salsa verde here), I would create the mole poblano sauce, add it to chicken and slow cook it for a solid six hours.
The first task was finding a mole recipe that looked tasty but is also easy to make. See mole is notorious for being complicated due to how long the ingredient list is. Some mole aficionados balk at recipes that have less than 15 ingredients. However, I knew that the secret to a good mole came in both the quality and quantity of ingredients involved. That is why my mole poblano recipe has 2o ingredients 😉 . Do not fret! I will break down how easy it is to make mole poblano. Though the recipe looks overwhelming, I promise you I have made it very simple, so that you too, can indulge in this amazing Mexican dish.
I normally do not write in-depth posts to my recipes. I usually just do a quick schpiel and then jump right into it. However, it would be remiss to not explain the beautiful history of mole. According to Wikipedia, mole is a sauce that “contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut, and such spices as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin.” It comes from two states in Mexico – Oaxaca and Pueblo.
Legend has it that the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara in Puebla early in the colonial period prepared thsi dish when they heard , uthe archbishop was going to visit. The convent nuns panicked because they were poor and had almost nothing to prepare. They brought together the little bits of what they did have, including chili peppers, spices, day-old bread, nuts, and a little chocolate. When one of the nuns was asked the name of the dish, she replied, “I made a mole.” Mole was the ancient word for mix; now this word mostly refers to the dish, and is rarely used to signify other kinds of mixes in Spanish.
If the nuns worked diligently to create this dish – then so can you! In fact, this is actually the perfect dish to make for iftar during Ramadan. You can take a couple of hours to cook this dish and then the rest of the magic happens in the slow cooker. I find that during Ramadan, I either like making recipes that take a lot of time (so that the time goes by), or recipes that involve little work (oven or slow cooker recipes).
I was inspired by Scott Myer’s book Authentic Mexican Cooking. However, Scott’s recipe requires a little more preparation than I was willing to do. I made this recipe while I was sick and had less than 5 hours to get dinner on the table! I also tried Scott’s recipe once before, and I ended up with too much mole that did not have a very profound flavor.
My recipe omits a lot of liquid because once we blend the mixture, the vegetables will release their own liquid. I also reduced the amount of chilis needed. Some recipes call for twice the amount of chilis but this leaves you with too much mole. And yes that is a problem even for a foodie like me. Finally, most recipes require you to soak the chilis the night before and then re-roast them. I don’t have that sort of time. I wanted something that- although took a bit of prep work- did not require me to do too many things. Plus re-roasting dried chilis just sounded redundant to me.
As always, I urge you to use quality ingredients. The chilis can be purchased online or from a Mexican/Latin food store. Dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate is fine. But ensure that your nuts have not gone stale! Sometimes we have nuts just chilling in our pantry and we think it’s all fine and dandy. However, stale nuts will impact the flavour of the mole. Overall the flavour should taste chocolatey without being sweet – and there should be that subtle depth from the chilis that is enhanced by the dried spices. You will produce a very dark, very rich looking sauce. The best way I can describe it is that it tastes sort of how your favorite bag of coffee beans smell.
The heat from any chili comes from the seed. The flavour is in the actual flesh of the chili itself. I love heat! But I have a certain someone (my brother) who CANNOT handle any spice. He was already apprehensive about this dish (update: he LOVED the dish. Of course he would – I made it!), so I had to make sure there was no spice.
This is probably the most tedious part of the whole recipe. But bear with me it is worth it. Once the chilis have dried on the sheet pan, take a sharp paring knife and slice the chili down the middle. The chilis aren’t going to be completely dry but that is ok. Spread the chili open and using a spoon scrape away the seeds. Sort of like how you would get vanilla beans from the pod. It will be hard to get all of the seeds but the aim is to remove the majority. Plus a bit of spice is good for your life! As an aside, be sure to read through the entire recipe, including the notes, before starting. The instructions are a bit long as this dish involves multiple steps.
Finally, if you’re feeling in a fiesty mood, you can check out my recipe for chili lime chicken tacos and the perfect classic mojito. Be sure to check them out if you’re feeling like making something else!
chocolate. chili. coffee.
This sauce is renowned for its use of multiple ingredients - including chocolate. The flavour and depth comes from the different types of chili that is enhanced by espresso and chocolate.
In a large saucepan place the dried chilis inside and add water until the chilis are just covered. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let the chilis cook for 1 hour. While the chilis are cooking prepare a sheet pan with a few sheets of paper towel (to absorb water) on top. Once the chilis have cooked remove them from the saucepan and place them on sheet pan to dry. We want to absorb as much excess water as we can. Let them rest for about 30 minutes.
Set your oven on to broil HIGH or 400F. While the chilis dry, place the quartered onions on another cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Add the crushed (but still whole) garlic as well as the tomatoes (cut them in half place them face down). We want to roast these veggies so get them nice and brown - even blistered. We do not want them burnt. Depending on your oven temperature this can take anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes.
At this point you want to de-seed the chilis. This is where the heat comes from and we don't want the mole to be too spicy. Refer to the post to see how this is done. Place the de-seeded chilis as well as the charred veggies into a blender and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat up one tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Add the raisins and stir for a minute before bringing it to low heat. Stir constantly allowing the raisins to swell up. This should only take a few minutes. Set aside to cool for a few moments before adding it to the blender.
To the blender, add the nuts, sugar and all the dried spices. Use a spatula to give the mixture a quick stir. Add the espresso, coffee extract and broth. Pulse the mixture until it is nice and blended. You may need to use you spatula to incorporate the ingredients in between pulses. Add the chocolate. Taste and adjust for salt or more chocolate. See post for more details on flavour profile.
Plug in your slow cooker and add the chicken breast inside. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. From here you will add ONLY half the mole mixture. The other half can be frozen in a freezer safe container for 3 months.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. You can stir the mixture halfway through to ensure an even coating. Once the chicken is cooked, place the chicken on a cutting board and shred it.
Place large frying pan on medium high heat and place the chicken along with the mole sauce that is in the slow cooker inside. Heat the mole and chicken together so that the sauce becomes further embedded into the chicken. Whatever left over sauce can be used to coat the tacos. However I like adding all the sauce to the chicken and cooking it until it dries up.
To assemble, place a bit of the chicken on a tortilla and top with queso fresco and lime coleslaw. Buen aprevecho!
* you can also use peanuts if you'd like!
** if you do not have an espresso machine you can also use 3 tbsp coffee extract or 1 tbsp coffee liqueur like Khalua
*** start with 1/4 cup of chocolate and increase it to 1/2 cup if you want the mole to be a bit sweeter or if you need to combat some of the tartness
*** I just use a bag of these finely sliced veggies that I get from Superstore. You can check it out here. Otherwise, use any coleslaw type veggies just make sure they are thinly sliced!