Rich, dark and spicy with just a hint of chocolate in it. This is probably the first impression that the Mexican mole makes on first-timers in Mexican restaurants like Chuy’s. But as your love affair with Mexican cuisine becomes deeper and stronger, you will discover that mole comes in many colors and flavors.
But what exactly is the Mexican mole? Let’s take a look at the answers and other things that you may want to know about it.
It’s Not Pronounced Like the English Word
Keep in mind that “mole” in this case is a Mexican word, not an English term. As such, it’s pronounced as “mo-lay” as the Mexicans say it. At the very least, you won’t have the language barrier standing in your way when you want to enjoy its delicious goodness.
The word “mole” itself is thought to derive from the Nahuatl word “mōlli” or “milli” that means “sauce”. So when non-Mexican speakers say, “I’d like to order mole sauce”, they are in effect saying “I’d like to order sauce sauce.” Just say, “I’d like mole, please” and leave it at that.
It May or May Not Be Made with Chocolate
Mole isn’t a type of chocolate sauce despite the popular notion. It’s simple really: Not all mole have chocolate as an ingredient! There’s also the fact that chocolate isn’t the core ingredient in mole.
Mole Poblano, Mole Negro and Mole Colorado, for example, have a few grams of chocolate in them. But if these are made in large quantities, say, a gallon, chocolate becomes a hint of flavor, not the core flavor itself.
Also, the chocolate used in mole isn’t the sweet variety found in cakes, cookies and pastries. It’s a dark chocolate usually made from pure cacao seeds, and these are as bitter as milk chocolate is sweet.
It’s Available in Seven Types
We must first emphasize that there’s no single variation of mole, not even in the same neighborhood! Mole is a point of pride in Mexico and, as such, very family will likely have its own secret recipe with no two family mole being the same. Family recipes are also handed down from one generation to the next.
But while there are countless mole variations, these can be classified into seven main types. These seven moles can, in turn, be customized by changing the type and amount of dried chiles used, among other ingredients.
- Mole Poblano is a red-colored mole with plenty of dried chiles. Originating in the State of Puebla, it’s considered as Mexico’s national state and the more common introduction to mole. It’s typically served with stewed meats like pork and beef.
- Mole Colorado is also a red-colored sauce with strong brown hues. Its common ingredients dried chiles, of course, as well as sweet-savory ingredients like sweet fruits. It’s also thickened with mashed plantains and served with pre-cooked pork chunks or with enchiladas.
- Mole Negro is just as its name implies – it’s a dark-colored sauces with a balance of sweet and savory with a hint of bitter taste. It’s what we think of when we order mole in the United States since it has higher chocolate content than the other moles. Plus, it’s sweeter, too, with the addition of sweet spices like clove, cinnamon and cumin.
- Mole Verde’s color ranges from light green to bright green but it’s definitely green. The color variation occurs because of the type of green-colored ingredients used. Its typical ingredients include tomatillos, cilantro, jalapenos and pumpkin seeds known as pepitas, a combination resulting in a citrusy flavors with bright herbal notes. It’s best served with black beans, rice and chicken for a filling meal.
- Mole Amarillo is a spicy sauce usually cooked as a filling in chicken empanadas or with vegetables. It doesn’t have chocolate and dried fruits so there’s no hint of sweet flavors.
- Mole Manchamantel is made from Spanish sausage, ancho chiles, fresh pineapple and tomatoes so it has a bright citrusy and sweet flavor. It’s usually served with either pork or chicken. Be careful when eating it because it can stain everything it touches and the stains can be the devil to remove.
- Mole Chichilo is unique in the sense that it’s made of beef stock as a base – beef isn’t a common ingredient in Mexico. It’s then thickened with a corn flour dough known as masa and served with dumplings, chicharrones and beef filets. Since beef is considered a treat in Mexico, Mole Chichilo is usually only served during special occasions.
Why does it seem like mole in restaurants are slightly expensive than your usual American dip? The answer lies in the time and technique it takes to makes authentic mole. The time it takes for mole to be cooked can eat into your schedule and the technique necessary takes time – years, if you will – to master, usually learned from mothers and grandmothers.