Chicken Mole

Mole Poblano with Chicken & Rice

Mole Poblano with Chicken & Rice

By Cat, Feb 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in my old Portland neighborhood that serves Mexican food, Santa-Fe style.  They offer three different chicken and sauce preparations to choose from, to fill your hot taco, enchilada or burrito. The dark, sweet one is Chicken Mole.

This was my first exposure to Mole sauce (pronounced Moh’-leh or Moh‘-lay), and it’s just like heaven when used in an enchilada which is then smothered in spicy enchilada sauce.  It also holds its own served over rice.

About Mole

Mole is a rich, dark sauce flavored with spices, ground nuts or seeds, garlic and sometimes cocoa, served as a festival dish in Mexico.  I know it sounds weird to think of cocoa in a savory sauce for a main dish, but unsweetened cocoa has a bitter flavor that nicely balances the spices and other flavors in the sauce. Besides chicken, mole can also be used to sauce beans, pork, beef, or venison.

Traditional Mole is cooked long and slow, allowing the flavors of the many ingredients to meld.  However, you can greatly speed up the process if you “bloom” the spices by  sautéing them in hot oil for several minutes before adding the remaining ingredients (as in the first recipe here). The flavor of most spices is held in the oily components, rather than the water-soluble components, and is readily released into the hot oil used in the saute.

Poblano is a type of chile pepper in the mild category of hotness, providing more flavor than heat. When dried it is called ancho chile. If you cannot find the chiles listed in the second recipe, substitute dried ancho and/or New Mexico chiles

Quick Chicken Mole

This recipe serves 4 to 6, and is adapted from a recipe in the Daily InterLake (Feb 27, 2008) and the Associated Press (article by J. M. Hirsch) (1).

Use leftover baked or roast chicken for a really quick dish (about 20 minutes total). If you have to bake the chicken first, add about 3 hours to the preparation time.

For a different Mole sauce, with many more ingredients, see next recipe (you can use the alternate sauce with the chicken as in this recipe, or for another use).

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 4 to 6 chicken breast halves, with skin and bone, brined; or mix of white and dark pieces; OR leftover baked/roasted chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, bacon fat or lard
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (baking cocoa)
  • 1 cup smooth almond butter
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • about 2 cups rich chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 1 slice bread, crust removed, cut into small pieces
  • Equipment:
  • baking pan for baking chicken
  • strainer
  • Dutch oven or Saucier pan, with lid


  1. Prepare Chicken: Start preparation of chicken at least 3 hours before starting the sauce.
  2. Brine chicken breast halves for 30 minutes in refrigerator.  You don’t need to brine dark meat.
  3. Bake according to baked chicken recipe for shredding or cubing.
  4. After baking, remove bones (can also remove the skin, but I leave it on), then cube or shred the chicken meat.  Strain and reserve the baking liquids. If you don’t want to use the fat, put the liquids into the fridge so the fat will set, then it can easily be removed. Set aside while you start the sauce.
  5. Prepare Sauce: Heat the fat (I use lard or bacon fat) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, spices and cocoa powder. Sauté 5 minutes.
  6. Add almond butter and mix until it melts into the other ingredients.
  7. Add enough broth to the reserved liquids from the baked chicken, to make 2 cups liquid.
  8. Add tomatoes, broth/liquids, salt and bread to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  9. Add the prepped chicken pieces and return to a simmer.  Simmer, covered, until chicken is warmed through.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with steamed brown rice
  • Fill corn tortillas with the chicken mole to make baked enchiladas
  • Fill flour tortillas with the chicken mole to make burritos, with slices of fresh avocado

Traditional Mole Poblano Sauce

This recipe, adapted from the New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas (2), makes about 1 quart of mole sauce. Then you can use the sauce with leftover chicken, or baked chicken as in previous recipe.

For us northerners, it can be difficult to find these different chiles, so feel free to experiment with what you can find. See Chiles & Peppers (About) for more.  Be sure to wash your hands with soap after handling the chilies, to avoid transferring their hot oils to your face or eyes. Or wear  gloves and wash them well before removing.

If you use the whole seeds and fresh-grind them yourself, they will have much more flavor than if you use commercially ground seeds.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Chicken
  • 4 to 6 chicken breast halves, with skin and bone, brined; or mix of white and dark pieces; OR leftover baked/roasted chicken
  • Seed, Nut, Spice Paste
  • ½ tsp unrefined sea salt or to taste
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled, quartered
  • 1 cup peeled tomatoes, in their juice
  • 1 – 2 cups water
  • ½ oz dried mulato chiles
  • 1 oz dried pasilla chiles
  • 1 oz dried ancho chiles
  • Chile Puree
  • ½ Tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ Tbsp anise seeds (fennel seeds are a good substitute if you cannot find the anise seeds)
  • 4 Tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • ½ cup pine nuts (Pignoli), preferably presoaked and dehydrated or lightly toasted (see Crispy Pine Nuts)
  • ½ cup raisins, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or lard
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup apple juice, divided
  • Sauce:
  • 2 cups veggie or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 oz unsweetened (bakers) chocolate
  • Equipment:
  • 3-quart saucier or saucepan, with lid
  • cast iron skillet
  • blender


  1. Prepare Chile Puree: Remove stems and seeds from the dried chiles.  Wash them and put in a non-reactive saucier with the water, tomatoes, onions, garlic and salt.
  2. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for about 30 minutes, adding more water as necessary to keep the chiles covered.  When the veggies are soft, puree all in batches in a blender, and return to the saucier.
  3. Prepare Seed, Nut and Spice Paste: Grind the coriander and anise seeds in a stone mortar or with spice grinder.
  4. Toast sesame seeds in hot skillet.
  5. Place sesame seeds, almonds, pine nuts, and raisins into blender.  Add just enough apple juice to barely cover. Puree to a paste.
  6. Heat oil/lard in skillet.  Add fresh-ground coriander and anise seeds, cloves, and cinnamon, and saute 5 minutes, to release their fragrance. Scrape nut paste from blender into skillet, stirring with the spices to blend.
  7. Mole Sauce: Add broth, remaining juice and seed/nut/spice paste to the chiles in the saucier.  Bring back to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Break chocolate into pieces and add to sauce. Keep simmering and stirring as the chocolate melts.  Mole should have the consistency of thick cream.  If too thick, add a little more broth.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with steamed brown rice, and sprinkle goat cheese over all;
  • Combine with baked chicken as in previous recipe, and serve with rice, or use to make enchiladas or burritos, or other entree.


3/1/08:  Basically tried a mix of these two recipes, trying to follow the traditional recipe but using ideas from the quick recipe when I could not find the needed ingredients.  Used leftover roast chicken meat (white and dark). I couldn’t find the dried peppers, and could only find a fresh poblano pepper which isn’t very hot. Didn’t have red pepper flakes, so added chili powder to heat it up a bit. Needed to add more tomatoes.  Added ½ Tbsp ground coriander and ½ Tbsp ground anise seeds (because didn’t have the whole seeds) with the other spices. Used sesame tahini instead of almond butter since I had the tahini but not the almond butter on hand.  Good flavor, but I think almond would be better.  I served it on rice, with avocado slices.  I’ll use the leftover mole to make enchiladas.


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