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
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 4
large (123g) Roma tomato, cored
large (71g) white onion
medium (60g) chiles anchos, stemmed and seeded
lard or vegetable oil
(22g) animal crackers
(40g) raw almonds
(10g) untoasted sesame seeds
whole star anise
Diamond Crystal or 3 1/2 teaspoons Morton (15g) kosher salt
(16g) piloncillo or dark brown sugar
1 1/4 ounces
(35g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably 75% or more cacao
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.