American

Mole Sencillo (Simple Mole)

June 30, 2021
12 Ratings
Photo by Rick Andrew Martinez
Author Notes

Moles are one of the most famous sauces in Mexico because of their beautifully complex, smoky-sweet-hot flavor, their velvety smooth texture, and their rich, deep color. For most Mexican home cooks, moles are a special-occasion dish that requires a lot of time and ingredients.

I wanted to introduce people to an easier mole, one that is not so scary but still has all of the big, bold flavor of the ones with long ingredient lists. So I created a Mole Sencillo—or “simple mole”—with only 10 ingredients and a handful of steps. Think of it as a starter mole, one that will help you master the techniques used in making basically any mole.

To get started, you’ll need: chiles, nuts, seeds, a couple vegetables and aromatics, sugar, and chocolate. Feel free to swap out the ingredients listed in the recipe for other nuts or seeds or dried chiles—I like guajillo or pasilla chiles, peanuts or pecans, and chia or flax seeds for a change of pace. Just swap them out 1:1 by weight in the recipe below (since the mass, rather than the volume, will affect the cook time and final texture of the mole). While we use lard in this recipe to add richness and a meaty flavor to the mole, you can make this a vegan dish by using a neutral oil instead of the lard and vegetable stock instead of the water for a bit more oomph.

Beyond that, our steps are simple: Char the vegetables and aromatics; fry the chiles, nuts, and seeds; stew everything until the flavors come together. Then blend the stewed mixture until smooth, re-fry to develop even more intense flavor, and stir in some earthy chocolate. That’s it! Once you have mastered these techniques and understand how each step builds layer upon layer of flavor, you will be ready to tackle those 54-ingredient moles—no problem! —Rick Martinez

Watch This Recipe
Mole Sencillo (Simple Mole)
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large (123g) Roma tomato, cored
  • 1/4 large (71g) white onion
  • 6 medium (60g) chiles anchos, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/3 cup lard or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (22g) animal crackers
  • 1/4 cup (40g) raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup (35g) raisins
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) untoasted sesame seeds
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal or 3 1/2 teaspoons Morton (15g) kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon (16g) piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 ounces (35g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably 75% or more cacao
  • 1 pinch toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Line a medium skillet, preferably cast iron, with two sheets of foil and heat over high until very hot, about 2 minutes. Char tomato and onion, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a small plate and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons lard in a large saucepan over medium-high until very hot, about 1 minute. Working in batches, fry anchos, turning to coat in the lard, until fragrant, browned and toasted on both sides, about 30 seconds; transfer to medium bowl. Fry animal crackers, tossing frequently, until deep golden browned and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to bowl with chiles. Add almonds, raisins, sesame seeds, and anise to the same pot and fry, stirring constantly until raisins puff and lighten and almonds are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt, sugar, 4 cups water (or low-sodium chicken stock for a richer flavor), chiles, animal crackers, tomato, and onion to the pot; bring to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer and cook until chiles and almonds are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 20 minutes to cool slightly before blending.
  3. Transfer cooked chile mixture to the jar of a blender and. carefully blend on high until completely smooth. Rinse saucepan used to cook chiles until clean, wipe dry, and reserve.
  4. In the clean pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons lard over medium-high until very hot, about 1 minute or until you see tiny wisps of smoke. Carefully pour blended mole into the hot lard, standing back from the pot; it will spit and sputter! Stir, scraping up any fried bits from the bottom of the pot; reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until top of mole is glossy and very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in chocolate and remove from heat, continuing to stir until completely melted. Season with additional salt or sugar if necessary. Serve over roast chicken and top with toasted sesame seeds.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Will Platt
    Will Platt
  • Cris Jarcia Sanque
    Cris Jarcia Sanque
  • Tracy Pell
    Tracy Pell
  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • Dee Wurtzell
    Dee Wurtzell
Rick Martinez

Recipe by: Rick Martinez

Rick Martinez is currently living his dream—cooking, eating and enjoying the Mexican Pacific coast in Mazatlán. He is finishing his first cookbook, Under the Papaya Tree, food from the seven regions of Mexico and loved traveling the country so much, he decided to buy a house on the beach. He is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, New York Times and hosts live, weekly cooking classes for Food Network Kitchens. Earlier this year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for “How to win the Cookie Swap” in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue.

30 Reviews

dtlajim June 30, 2021
Unless you're eating in Mexico, this is better than just about any mole you're going to get in a restaurant in the states.
I would advise using piloncillo, lard, and the stock and not the substitutes to give this mole more richness and flavor. I would also advise to go very light on the salt... I just used 2 1/2 teaspoons. You can always add more salt if you wish at the end of the process.
 
nagarage March 30, 2021
This was sooooo good in some black bean and butternut squash enchiladas, even with some substitutions. I used some stale white bread (crusts removed) in place of animal crackers, and didn't have enough chocolate so added some cocoa powder to make up the difference. This recipe packs in so much flavor, and definitely pays off on the effort to deliciousness ratio. Thanks Rick!
 
Will P. March 7, 2021
Made mole for the first time because of this. Absolutely perfect--more delicious than mole I've had in some U.S Mexican restaurants. I substituted anchos for another mild pepper, which seemed to work fine as I took his recommendation and weighed them out.
 
sizarah January 8, 2021
This was delicious! I may not have attempted a mole before watching this video but it gave me the confidence to go for it and I'm glad I did. The only changes I made were using 4 guajillos and 2 chipotles (dried, not canned) since that's what I had on hand. I used chicken broth and reduced my salt down to 2 teaspoons for Mortons and thought that was the right amount. Served it over roast chicken and veggies with rice, and tomorrow will also put it over some roasted sweet potatoes piled with black beans and cheddar cheese and cilantro. This was a winner, will definitely make again!
 
sizarah January 8, 2021
Oops meant 4 anchos and 2 chipotles!
 
Cmorrell December 23, 2020
Did anybody else find this to be too salty? I used Morton Kosher Salt, I used teaspoons and it was almost inedible. I tried adding sugar to balance it but it didn’t help.
 
Smaug December 24, 2020
I'm so used to printed recipes being badly oversalted that I barely notice recipe quantities anymore, but yes, that's the Dickens of a lot of salt. As you found out, sugar won't counteract salt, and-worse- salt won't counteract sugar- in fact the two emphasize each other.
 
Erin December 30, 2020
The recipe needs a correction I think. The salt brands and measurements are reversed. Morton's is "saltier" than Diamond. The flakes of Diamond are larger. So it must be 2 teaspoons of Morton's or 3 1/2 of Diamond. I used the larger amount of Diamond Crystal and it's spot on for the mole. I've loved every single Rick Martinez recipe I've made, and it's very clear to me that a lot of work and testing goes into them. Must be an editing error, hopefully they'll fix it.
 
theron December 6, 2020
I've been wanting to make mole for ages and I love Rick Martinez's recipes but the mole coloradito recipe had ingredients that were difficult to source.

Finally tried this one and it turned out delicious. Made a handful of changes: used 4 anchos and 2 guajillos, plain water, and left out the star anise when I boiled (but did fry it). Next time I'll leave it in.

It was a very simple process and I used abuelita chocolate at the end, which probably added more sugar than was needed but it still tasted great. My recipe did turn out a bit more watery than Rick's, but it's still incredible.
 
theron December 6, 2020
Forgot to mention that I served it over roast chicken with spanish rice, and then the next day ate it with scrambled eggs and a tortilla. So delicious!
 
Smaug December 6, 2020
Diana Kennedy mentions in her recipe for Mole Poblano de Guajolote that when she was in Mexico they used to use toasted cacao beans for the chocolate in mole poblano- probably gives a better idea of chocolate's place in a mole than the use of a prepared confection.
 
samantha December 4, 2020
Made it for thanksgiving to top our crispy chicken thighs, it was my first attempt at a mole! The process was a little intimidating but the dish turned out great. Taste was on the bitter side but adding some more sugar at the end helped. We’ll definitely be making it again, thanks for the recipe and video!
 
Icarrus May 5, 2021
Apparently over-frying the peppers can result in increased bitterness, at times to the point of inedibility
 
hannahjones November 16, 2020
At first, I thought it was a chocolate sauce, a very interesting dish, and recipe. The video is a bit longer but it's okay for me since it will help me make the dish easy to cook because of the step by step process. After I try this one out, I would definitely try to look at some other Mexican dishes! Thank you for sharing this.
 
Cris J. November 11, 2020
My friend just made this. We paired it with sous vide chicken thighs w crispy crackly skin. It was really really good!
 
Jenny L. November 9, 2020
put the sauce over cooked chicken breasts or thighs-yum
 
Bailey November 6, 2020
I’m VERY EXCITED to try this. I think I have all the ingredients! I just don’t know what to serve it on—we don’t eat meat at home. I’ve had it on burros and cheese enmoladas at restaurants, but if other cooks have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
 
Rachael S. November 6, 2020
I am planning on making a mixture of roasted vegetables - squash and mushrooms because that's what I have - and serving it all over some Mexican style rice. If I'm feeling really ambitious I'll roll the veg up into some tortillas and serve them enchilada style with the mole as the enchilada sauce.
 
Jessamin November 8, 2020
I work at a traditional Mexican restaurant and they serve mole on veggie enchiladas as an option for vegetarian diners. The enchiladas are usually sweet potato and bean or spinach and cheese. I think this would also make a lovely sauce for a huevos rancheros situation with tortillas, eggs, stir-fried peppers and queso fresco.
 
LTS November 4, 2020
For a non-US reader who would love to make this - any suggestions for how to substitute animal crackers? What is their flavour profile.
 
Bailey November 6, 2020
Animal crackers are crispy-crunchy, dry, very mild/neutral in flavor, and slightly sweet. I am wondering if there are some UK-style tea biscuits that would work well? Seems like I’m a bad pinch you could use bread crumbs and a wee bit more sugar, but I am NOT a mole expert!
 
Bailey November 6, 2020
*in, not I’m!
 
Tracy P. November 6, 2020
Animal crackers are very simple and only a tiny bit sweet. Any cracker plus a little extra suger will probably get the job done... or even just do some tortillas.
 
LTS November 6, 2020
Thankin you! Used a thick plain cracker and it worked out great.
 
Tracy P. November 4, 2020
Rick! LOVED the video and this recipe looks amazing. Looking forward to making it because traditional molé can be a challenge to source. Thank you!
 
Smaug November 1, 2020
10g. would be a very small Ancho chile (I would consider 20-25 g. medium). While many versions of mole poblano (mole is from an Indian word meaning, roughly, "mish mosh") contain a small amount of chocolate, it tends to be greatly overemphasized in American versions; it's just a minor note that picks up the bitter elements of the dried chiles and toasted seeds
 
Saucy123 December 5, 2020
Hi Smaug, mole is actually from the Aztecs’ language Nahuatl. The original word molli means concoction.
 
Smaug December 6, 2020
If you like; I prefer mish mosh.
 
Rachael S. October 31, 2020
I am seriously excited to try this, I have always wanted to make mole but was intimidated by the list of ingredients - not anymore! I really enjoyed the show too, looking forward to see what we're cooking next!
 
Dee W. October 29, 2020
Rick! So good to see you again <3. I obviously have not yet tried the sauce but I wanted to thank you for adding metric measurements. Using a scale has so reduced my cleanup of measuring utensils and I just love that.