Mole sauce comes in many guises, from the richly dark poblano style embellished with bittersweet chocolate to savory green mole made from pumpkin seeds. There are probably as many mole recipes out there as there are abuelas. Although it hails from Mexico, the origins of mole are unclear, with both Oaxaca and Puebla claiming ownership. Regardless of where it comes from, mole is a labor of love. At its most complex it is a very time-consuming, intensive undertaking. But the reward is a richly nuanced sauce unlike any other.
For this version, which was inspired by Rick Bayless’s incredible recipe found in the Authentic Mexican cookbook, I’ve tried to simplify the process as much as possible. The good news is that you can make this well in advance and either keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days, or store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. It also makes more than you’ll need if you plan to serve it with your Thanksgiving turkey, meaning you can make mole enchiladas with the remaining sauce; I highly recommend this approach.
A few words on ingredients: Nuts, in particular almonds, are often found in mole. I leave them out because my husband is allergic, but if you’d like to add them (they add a lovely toasty flavor), stir in 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds to the tomato mixture before pureeing. You can adjust the amount of spiciness based on the types of chiles you choose. This version has a nice little kick that will grab you in the back of the throat but won’t leave you sweating and running for a glass of milk.
Recipe: Spicy Mole Gravy
Makes about 6 cups
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 6 oz mixed dried chiles, such as ancho, pasilla or other mildly spicy chile, trimmed, seeded, and torn into pieces
- Canola, vegetable, sunflower oil, or lard
- Boiling water
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground anise
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 cups turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%)
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, or to taste
- In a large cast-iron pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring frequently, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, cinnamon, anise, salt, black pepper, and cloves. Set aside.
- Warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in the pan. Add the chiles and fry until fragrant. Using tongs, transfer to a heatproof bowl, and pour enough boiling water over the top to just cover. You can use a small plate to weigh them down. Set aside to soak for 1 hour.
- Wipe out the cast iron pan and place over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion and fry until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the raisins and garlic and fry until the raisins begin to puff and the garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the sesame seeds. Drain the chiles and add to the mixture. Stir until combined, then add the 3 cups broth.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender in batches and puree until smooth (do this in batches if needed). Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the mixture through the sieve, using a rubber spatula to press it through. Transfer to a saucepan or the cast iron pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, then stir in the chocolate and sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and sugar as needed.