This Is Everything You Need to Know About Mole Sauce (2024)

Updated: Jan. 23, 2024

Layered with flavor (and labor-intensive!), Mexican mole is a delicious, complex sauce with many varieties. But what exactly is it? Let's talk key ingredients, how to make it and how to use it.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.Learn more.

Rich, layered mole is essentially Mexico’s national dish. Like tamales or barbacoa, mole is one of the many traditional Mexican dishes that’s become popular throughout the United States. So, what is mole sauce? And how do you use it?

On This Page

What Is Mole?

Mexican mole, pronounced MOH-lay, derives from the Aztec word molli(or mulli), which just means “sauce.” It’s generally used in the U.S. to describe a particular type of sauce spiced with earthy, rich flavors. You’ll often hear it as “mole sauce,” even though that’s redundant.

Chocolate is the ingredient that people most associate with mole—but there are more than 40 different forms of the sauce and they don’t all include chocolate. A properly done mole takes hours (sometimes even days) to prepare, with as many as 30 ingredients prepped individually. The ingredients are ground together into a powder or a paste that creates a seamless layering of complex flavors. In the final product, the sauce doesn’t taste like chocolate, or chiles, or garlic, or cinnamon…it tastes like mole.

Mole Sauce Ingredients

This Is Everything You Need to Know About Mole Sauce (1)Esdelval/Shutterstock

Mole ingredients vary according to the individual sauce, as well as who is making it. In general, moles mix ingredients from five different categories: chiles (at least two different types); sour (tomatoes or tomatillos); sweet (dried fruits or sugar); spices; and thickeners (bread, nuts or seeds). Once the paste is formed, it’s mixed with water or broth, and then simmered for hours until it’s thick.

Mole is a thick, dense sauce—it should never be runny.

Types of Mole

This Is Everything You Need to Know About Mole Sauce (2)Juanmonino/Getty Images

Mole poblano is one of the best-known versions of the dish. Here are a few of the different types of moles you might see.

Mole Poblano

Mole poblano has a reddish-brown color and lists pasilla chiles, chocolate, pumpkin seeds and coriander among its ingredients. This traditional version of mole comes from Puebla.

Mole Negro

Rich, savory-sweet mole negro starts with at least three types of dried chilies. It uses smoky whole spices and gets its dark brown, almost black color from a Mexican herb, hoja santa, and lots of unsweetened dark chocolate. Compared to mole poblano, mole negro has a much darker and smokier taste.

Mole Verde

Made with green chiles, tomatillos, jalapeños, pumpkin seeds, epazote, garlic, onions, coriander and other fresh herbs, mole verde is a much fresher—and even spicier—sauce.

If you have the chance to try other types of mole, you’ll run into all kinds of ingredients including ground peanuts (mole de cacahuate), bananas and plantains (mole dulce), and ground squash seeds (pipián). There’s even a type of mole called mole manchamanteles—“tablecloth-staining mole”—that uses apples and pineapples.

What Does Mole Sauce Taste Like?

Mole is a true melding of New World and Old World flavors. Think: chocolate, fruit and a number of spices. Chocolate gets the attention, but its flavor should never dominate. Each mole sauce will taste different, depending on which mole it is, who is making it, and what the final dish is, but it generally has a rich and earthy taste that can either be sweeter or spicer depending on which version you make.

How to Make Mole

It’s worth the effort to make your own mole poblano. Once you’ve made the sauce, you can incorporate it into several dishes. Use it as a topping sauce for pulled pork or chicken, spoon it over a simply browned piece of poultry or meat, or put it on top of enchiladas.

Go to Recipe

Where to Buy Mole Sauce

Don’t have the time to make mole from scratch? You can order a premade mole paste. Mix one part paste with three parts water or broth. Bring it to a boil while stirring (or whisking), then let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more liquid if necessary, but remember, your finished sauce should be thick.

For an even faster prep, buy a premade mole sauce.

How to Use Mole Sauce

There are plenty of delicious recipes you can make at home that incorporate the spices, fruits, herbs and flavors (and chocolate!) of mole. Try it with meat, poultry or beans, or a vegetable like cauliflower.

Chicken Mole

Get Recipe

Turkey Mole Tacos

Get Recipe

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato Chocolate Mole Soup

Get Recipe

Baked Beans Mole

Get Recipe

This Is Everything You Need to Know About Mole Sauce (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated:

Views: 6264

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.