Here is my version of the traditional Mexican sauce, mole rojo using a variety of chili peppers, spices, and other ingredients. The rich, flavorful, complex sauce is a great vessel for many dishes including enchiladas, braised meats, or on tortillas topped with a fried egg.
- ¼ cup oil divided
- 6 dried pasillo chiles
- 5 dried guajillo chiles
- 4 dried Anaheim chiles
- 3 cups hot water
- 3 medium tomatillos husked and rinsed
- 5 garlic cloves peeled
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup roasted pepitas
- ¼ cup roasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon anise ground
- 1 slice white bread darkly toasted and broken into several pieces
- 1 ounce Mexican chocolate
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the chilies, frying them in batches until puffed, about 30 seconds. Flip over the chilies and cook on the other side. Remove from heat and place the chilies in a large bowl. Cover with 3 cups hot water, placing a weight on top to keep the chiles submerged. Let sit for 30 minutes or until softened. Blend the chilies with the soaking liquid until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the stem and seeds.
- Place the tomatillos on a baking sheet. Roast until charred and softened, about 15 minutes.
- In the same pot that you fried the chilies in, fry the garlic and almonds, stirring until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Combine the tomatillos with the garlic, almonds, pepitas, sesame seeds, black pepper, anise, bread, chocolate, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepot over medium heat. Pour the strained chilies and continue to simmer until it's reduced by half, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatillo mixture and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 4 cups chicken broth and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer for 2 hours or until mole has thickened. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon when ready. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Watch how to make this:
The great thing about cooking for a group of people is that I get to learn from them. If I attempt to make a Filipino dish, I can seek advice from someone whose mom used to make the dish when they were a kid. I gather the information and make my own version, trying to put a unique spin on the recipe. Today's project is Mole Rojo. I've only made mole once in culinary school and remember it to be tedious but delicious. With the help of several Hispanic ladies, I recreated a version of the original mole Rojo and came up with this absolutely scrumptious sauce. Yes, the directions seem endless long (imagine cooking this for 50 people as I did!) but the end result was absolutely worth it.
From what I gathered from speaking to others who make mole themselves, there are many different variations of mole rojo. Depending on the household, people put different chili peppers, peanut butter, and even add raisins to the mix. My recipe is based on a little bit of each of the ladies I spoke to, resulting in a different but very delicious sauce.
- Pasillo chilies: Dried, dark-colored chili peppers with a rich, smoky flavor and mild to medium heat. If you can't find pasilla chilies you can use ancho chilis instead which have a similar flavor profile.
- Guajillo chilies: Vibrant red dried chilies with a slightly fruity flavor and mild to moderate heat level. If guajillo chilies are not available, use New Mexico chilies.
- Anaheim chilies: Dried chilies with a mild heat level and slightly sweet flavor with a subtle earthy undertone. If you can't find Anaheim chilies, use New Mexico chilies.
- Tomatillos: Small green tangy fruits with a subtle citrusy flavor.
- Pepitas: Also known as pumpkin seeds with a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
- Bread: White bread is used as a thickener for the mole but you can also use tortillas.
- Mexican chocolate: A type of chocolate made with roasted cacao beans, sugar, and cinnamon. Mexican chocolate has a distinctive flavor that is unlike regular chocolate. If you can't find this ingredient, use regular dark chocolate and add a pinch of cinnamon.
How to Make Mole Rojo
Step 1: Fry Chilies
Start by frying the chiles. I used a combination of dried pasilla, guajillo, and Anaheim chilies but the combinations are endless. The chiles do fry quickly so keep an eye on them. You know they are ready when they puff up and change color. Remove the chilies from the oil and soak them in hot water, placing a weight on top to submerge them. After about 30 minutes, the chilies should have softened nicely.
When you are ready to blend the chilies, include the whole chile, seed, and stems. You're going to strain the mixture so these parts will be discarded.
Step 2: Prepare the Remaining Ingredients
Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Roast the tomatillos in the oven until they are soft and lightly charred. Toast the almonds and garlic in the saute pan and blend those together with the tomatillos, pepitas, sesame seeds, spices, toasted white bread, and Mexican chocolate.
If you purchase raw almonds, pepitas, or sesame seeds, you will need to take an extra step and toast all of them.
Step 3: Cook the Sauce
Now it's time for the actual cooking. Pour the chili puree into a nonstick pot or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. I like to use a nonstick pot because the puree is quite thick so it can burn slightly in a metal pot if you don't consistently stir the puree.
The chiles need to reduce and thicken for about 30 minutes. Be careful when stirring the sauce since it does pop. You know when it has reached the right consistency when you can drag your spatula through it and the sauce leaves a clear trail.
Next, add the tomatillo puree and let it simmer for another 15 minutes. The tomatillo mixture is also very thick so it's important to keep stirring while it simmers.
Add the chicken broth or vegetable broth and let it cook for another 2 hours. Keep the heat on low and stir occasionally to prevent the mole from burning.
Your kitchen should be smelling heavenly right about now. When the sauce is done, the mole will be thick enough to coat a spoon. Give the sauce a taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
You can serve this mole sauce with steak, use it for enchiladas, or serve it with fried eggs for a hearty breakfast as I did. Experiment with different ingredients and make this mole your own!
Can I use different types of dried chilies to make this mole?
Yes, you can experiment with different chilies to adjust the flavor and spiciness according to your preference. New Mexico, mulato, ancho, and puya are all options.
Can I make the mole ahead of time?
Yes, in fact, the flavors tend to develop and intensify after sitting for a day or two. Reheat the mole before serving and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Can I freeze the leftover mole?
Yes, it can be frozen. Allow the sauce to cool completely then transfer it to freezer bags. Freeze for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
For more Mexican inspiration check out these pork tamales!