Mole – The Mexican Mother Sauce by Saul G.

16 09 2008

Mole (pronounced MOH-lay) – The Mexican mother sauce.  Mole is one of the great mother sauces of the new world.  The history of this sauce is somewhat controversial but there are two primary versions dating back to the 17th century even though some would claim that the history of the sauce dates back even further to the time of the Aztecs.  The first published references date to the mid to late 18th century.  The two best known versions of the history are –

Andrea de la Asuncion, of the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, creating it for the visit of the archbishop, sometime during the 1680’s.

And –

A Fray Pascual, who supposedly knocked over a tray of spices into the cazuela in which dinner was being prepared, accidentally coming up with a mouth-watering creation.


Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach, authors of The Whole Chile Pepper Book [Little, Brown & Company, 1990], say such stories make a good read but “more likely mole poblano (presumably the original recipe) was invented by the Aztecs long before the Spaniards arrived. Since chocolate was reserved for Aztec royalty, the military nobility, and religious officials, perhaps Aztec serving girls at the convent gave a royal recipe to the nuns so they could honor their royalty, the archbishop.”


Mole comes from Nahuatl mulli, meaning sauce or potage with the most popular version being mole poblano.  The mole made in Oaxaca is one of the only sauces documented that contain only herbs and spices native to the region with most others containing seasonings originating from the old world.

Each region in Mexico has different versions of mole with the two most widely known are from the states of Oaxaca and Puebla.  Even in these regions you will find local variants.  With the diverse geography of Mexico separating the populace with in the states political boundaries do not play much of a part in the diverse recipes for mole.


Mole comes in different version, colors and textures.  Experts seem to debate wither or not mole must contain chocolate but it seems that true aficionados of mole tend to feel that bitter sweet chocolate is a requirement for a true mole.


Mole recipes may vary greatly but one thing that is consistent is that they are complex sauces with many of them having a list of more than 30 ingredients. To make mole it is an all day endeavor, even with the use of modern food processors it is near impossible to make mole quickly.


Mole compliments nearly any type of protein from fish, pork to beef and turkey.  My personal favorite is Mole Poblano served with deep fried turkey.







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