Have you ever been curious about what mole tastes like?
Are you looking to try out this traditional Mexican dish but don’t know where to start? Look no further.
In this article, you’ll discover all the answers to your mole questions.
Enjoy a delicious and authentic taste of Mexico with this culinary delight.
What is Mole?
Mole (pronounced “MOH-lay”) is a traditional Mexican sauce composed of a variety of ingredients, including spices, herbs, nuts, and sometimes chocolate.
The ingredients used in mole depend on the region it is from and vary widely.
Common ingredients include pre-roasted or dried chiles such as ancho, pasilla, guajillo; sesame seeds;.
cacao nibs or powder; plantain; fried plantain chips (totopos); tomatillos; cinnamon; honey and/or sugar; onion and garlic.
Mole can also include tomato paste, ground nuts such as peanuts or almonds, raisins and/or oatmeal.
As far as flavor goes, mole can range from spicy to mild and sweet to savory.
Not all moles contain chocolate however – in some regions it’s omitted.
Overall its flavor notes feature warm spices like cumin and coriander with other delightful accents of sweetness like honey or plantains combined with a smoky richness from the chiles themselves.
Mole is much more than a sauce — it’s an important part of Mexico’s culinary heritage that deserves to be appreciated for its complexity and its various authentic preparations across different Mexican states.
By exploring this unique dish you’ll be able to gain insight into the cultural history connected with it.
What Does Mole Taste Like?
With its complex flavor, mole is an absolute delight for the palate.
A traditional mole recipe will include more than 20 ingredients, combining flavors like smoky chili peppers with creamy chocolate and earthy spices.
The individual components of mole are sweet, savory, salty and umami all at once — intensifying to give the sauce its remarkable depth of flavor.
Each type of mole has its own distinct combination of ingredients and production techniques that create an array of different flavors with various levels of sweetness and spice.
Commonly used ingredients include garlic, onion, chilies such as pasilla or guajillo; ground nuts such as almonds or peanuts; achiote (annatto) seeds for coloring; sesame seeds; plantain or sweet banana; tomatoes; Mexican chocolate (often with spices like cinnamon); sour fruits such as orange or tamarind juice; raisins or prunes for natural sweetness; oregano for herbal aroma and cloves for an earthy touch.
All these components are combined in a base made from vegetable oil or lard to lend it a glossy texture.
The unique blend of sweet yet savory seasonings gives each type of mole its unique profile —delivering satisfying complexity to enhance the character of any dish it’s added to.
So while there’s no simple answer when asked “what does mole taste like?” this amalgam steeped in history promises intense aromas and flavors certain to tantalize your taste buds.
Ingredients that Contribute to the Taste of Mole
Mole is a collective term for a variety of sauces used in Mexican cuisine.
It typically consists of several different dried chiles, spices, nuts and seeds, as well as aromatic vegetables, fruits and sometimes chocolate.
This combination makes for a complex and unique flavor that is difficult to replicate without the proper ingredients.
The main base ingredient in any mole sauce is chile pepper — ranging from mildest ancho to fiery habanero — which provides the backbone of flavor with its fruity undertones and distinctive heat.
The two other key components that are essential for creating authentic mole are tomatoes and onions, both of which provide body to the sauce with their natural sweetness and pungency.
Other additions may include garlic, cumin, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg or star anise which all contribute further depth.
Nuts or seeds may also be added such as almonds, peanuts or sesame seeds; while fruits like bananas or apples are sometimes used as well to balance out the flavors.
Finally Mole can often contain chocolate as well; providing an unmistakable rich darkness that completes the dish.
1 – Chili Peppers
Chile peppers are a staple ingredient in Mexican cooking and are the key to making mole.
These spicy fruits range in intensity from mild to mind-blowing, with the ever-popular jalapeno falling somewhere in the middle of the scale.
In mole, chiles provide a smoky flavor and release their oils, creating a velvety texture.
Depending on regional preference, a variety of chiles can be used including ancho, guajillo, pasilla, chipotle or cascabel.
When it comes to chile peppers, all parts matter: Seeds are often added for extra heat while stems add earthy tones to balance out the savory elements.
Ancho and guajillo chile peppers can also be fried for a deeper flavor before added to mole recipes.
2 – Spices and Herbs
Mole sauces are often characterized by their unique combination of spices and herbs that give them a unique set of flavors.
Depending on the region, the spices and herbs used in mole sauce can vary but there are common flavors that all moles will have.
Spices like cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, allspice and oregano are common in any mole sauce.
Ancho or New Mexico chile powder is also included to help intensify the flavor of the sauce.
Other ingredients like garlic, onion, and tomato paste can be included to give the sauce extra flavor and body.
The most important thing when making a delicious mole is getting the balance of spices just right.
Too much heat from chiles or not enough earthiness from cumin can throw off an otherwise perfectly balanced dish.
Experimenting with different combinations until you find one that works for you is key.
3 – Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are essential ingredients in mole sauces and can bring balance to the sharp and tangy flavors of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices.
These ingrediants can add texture, depth, and richness to a sauce.
Nuts such as almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, or sesame seeds may be used both raw and roasted for different flavor profiles.
Peanuts are a common ingredient due to their abundant availability throughout Mexico.
Almonds offer a slightly nutty flavor while pine nuts bring sweetness.
Sesame seeds add crunchiness that all work together to balance out the heat of an otherwise spicy sauce.
Roasted or toasted nuts can also deepen the flavors of your mole sauce while still providing a subtle nuttiness.
4 – Chocolate
Mole is a traditional Mexican dish, usually made with chocolate as one of its main ingredients.
Mole has several versions and it can be served with poultry, pork, beef or even vegetables.
The chocolate that goes into making mole varies depending on the region in which it is being prepared.
Most moles include Mexican Chocolate or Ibarra Chocolate.
This type of chocolate contains cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed and almond which give the mole its unique flavor.
For example in Puebla Mexico, mole poblano had used a blend of chili peppers with the Mexican chocolate to create a sweet and spicy combination that goes perfectly with meat dishes like chicken and turkey.
Mole negro is also popular in this region.
It is made from mulato chili peppers but does not contain any chocolate— instead ingredients like plantain’s are used to provide sweet flavors and additional texture to the dish.
Regardless of what type of mole you try you’ll be sure to experience those tantalizing hints of sweetness coming from the use of the Mexican Chocolate or Ibarra and all the spices included in its blend.
Varieties of Mole and Their Flavor Differences
Mole is a Mexican sauce beloved around the world.
It is a complex mixture of flavors, aromas and textures that first originated in the kitchens of Puebla.
Today, there are many varieties, each with different levels of heat, herbs and spices.
To understand what mole tastes like, it’s helpful to know about the various types and what sets them apart from one another.
There are two major traditions – red and green –each with their own flavor variations that are popular across Mexico.
Red mole is the most commonly known and served variation — it has a chili base combined with several other spices like cumin, bay leaf, clove and cinnamon for a deep taste.
There are numerous regional varieties including Mole Poblano from Puebla which is mild yet rich in flavors; sweet Molé Dulce from Oaxaca which uses ahogada honey to bring out sweetness;
Alcaparrado chile ancho mole with its spicy notes; Mole Coloradito with its blackened colors; Negra made with cocoa powder and fruit vinegar; Verde using tomatillos as a base instead of dried chilies; as well as many others.
Green moles usually don’t include chili but can be spiced up using jalapenos or serranos instead.
These typically use ingredients like tomatillos, cilantro leaves and epazote herbs or Mexican limes for sourness in addition to various herbs like oregano, garlic cloves or nuts (like almonds or peanuts) for texture along with fragrant spices such as cloves for complexity.
Some delicious examples include Pipián Verde (pumpkin seed mole), Chichilo mole from Guerrero which includes banana leaves for sweetness and guajillo chile paste for heat; Mole Oaxaca made with sun-dried oregano leaves, peanut butter and piquin pepper;
Salsa Verde from Jalisco which combines ingredients toasted in oil along with coriander seed paste creating a smoky taste; La Chimayate prepared by toasting pork lard together with sesame paste adding nutty tones while keeping the dish light;
Mazamorra de Ratón (rat tail salsa) served at Christian celebrations all over Mexico which adds zesty lemon juice on top of its blend of 5 different green chiles adding hints of sweet-hot flavors throughout every bite.
1 – Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano is a traditional Mexican dish with roots in the Aztec and Mayan cuisine.
It’s a rich and complex sauce that is served over cooked meats or vegetables.
It gets its unique flavor from a base of around 30 different ingredients, including chiles, spices, nuts, seeds and fruits.
The combination of flavors creates an intense umami experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.
The official recipe for Mole Poblano can vary depending on the region of Mexico from which it originates.
The most common ingredients include ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers), guajillo chile peppers, sesame seeds, peanuts or almonds, tortillas or corn tortilla chips (which form the “base” for the mole), cinnamon sticks and cloves, black pepper corns and oregano leaves.
These are all blended together with broth to form a thick paste-like sauce.
It is then simmered for several hours to marry all of the flavors together before serving.
The flavor profile of Mole Poblano is complex and earthy – slightly sweet with hints of chocolate, nuts and spice.
Mole Poblano pairs wonderfully with dark-meat poultry like chicken or turkey as well as pork or beef dishes because its rich flavor stands up to the boldness of red meat cuts.
2 – Mole Negro
Mole Negro, or black mole, is a classic mole dish that goes back centuries.
The sauce is made with dark chilies like pasilla, ancho and mulato, but also includes a variety of herbs and spices like oregano, cinnamon and cumin.
This makes the flavor rich and intense while still being simultaneously sweet.
The finish of Mole Negro is often chocolatey and slightly bitter due to the chocolate blending in with the chili powder.
It is typically served over chicken or steak with a side of tortillas.
3 – Mole Coloradito
Mole Coloradito is a darker mole, usually served over chicken or pork.
It gets its rich color from ingredients like dried mulato and ancho chiles, almonds, sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, and chocolate.
Usually it has a sweeter and milder flavor than its fellow moles, with no hint of heat from the chiles.
Mole Coloradito is also known for being one of the only moles that shouldn’t be served hot—the flavors are more subtle when it’s served at room temperature.
The dish pairs perfectly with warm tortillas or a side of rice.
4 – Other Mole Varieties
In addition to the three core varieties, mole comes in plenty of other interpretations both in Mexico and abroad.
Poblano mole, for instance, can be found in Mexican restaurants because it’s a very popular dish there.
Chipotle-based moles are also common thanks to their smoky flavor that can deepen the complexity of the dish.
Other moles have an array of ingredients such as nuts, chocolate, dried chillies, tomatoes, sesame seeds and more.
Mole is also extremely popular abroad — particularly in parts of Latin America — as well as in North American where it has taken on a variety of interpretations depending on where you find it.
In some versions mayonnaise is added while others swap out traditional ingredients like ancho chili peppers with more accessible options like jalapeno peppers.
No matter how one chooses to prepare this traditional dish, it’s clear that its ability to combine sweet and savory notes with textures and temperatures makes it a favorite among many cultures around the world.
How to Cook and Serve Mole?
Mole is a traditional Mexican dish that is often served for special occasions such as holidays, weddings, and baptisms.
It’s made using a combination of ingredients like chiles, spices, nuts, and chocolate.
Mole has a delicious savory flavor with hints of sweetness from the nuts and chocolate.
Learning how to cook mole can be intimidating since there are so many steps involved.
However if you take it one step at a time it’s really not that hard.
The basic recipe involves grinding together chiles, spices, nuts, and garlic into a paste which is then added to chicken broth and simmered until thickened.
Depending on the region you’re in there may be additional ingredients like tomatoes or raisins added as well.
Once the mole has simmered for an hour or two it should look dark and glossy.
Taste it to make sure it has the right balance of flavors – if it’s too spicy you can add sugar or more chocolate; if it’s too sweet you can add more chili powder or cumin.
When serving mole be sure to provide warm flour tortillas on the side to soak up all the sauce.
If desired you can also serve shredded chicken or beef strips on top which will give the meal greater depth of flavor.
Since this dish is rich in flavors try pairing with rice instead of pasta for a balanced meal.
Cultural Significance and History of Mole
Mole is a beloved traditional dish throughout Mexico that’s been passed down through generations.
The dish features a rich and complicated sauce made with over 20 unique ingredients, including chilies, chocolate, nuts, and spices.
Paired with either pork, chicken, or beef and served alongside rice or tortillas; this dish will transport you to another land with its spicy notes and taste of home.
In Mexican culture mole holds an important place in shared celebrations such as parties, anniversaries, or family get-togethers.
Though the recipe can vary depending on region, a fundamental feature of mole cooking is the extended time it requires for preparation.
In many parts of Mexico it is cherished for its robust flavor profile created by slowly simmering the ingredients together for hours on end to bring out all the complex flavors of the ingredients.
The history of mole goes back centuries as it is thought to have been created when Spanish colonizers introduced chiles and chocolate to Mexico during the 16th century.
By combining these two exotic ingredients with local Mexican staples such as spices like cinnamon and cloves; mole began to evolve from that point onward until becoming what we know today.
Mole sauce is a complex mixture of rich flavors, from bitter and spicy to smoky and cheesy.
The precise flavor of each mole sauce can vary greatly depending on the exact ingredients used, so it’s impossible to say what it will taste like with certainty; some moles can be very subtle while others are quite bold.
In any case, the distinct combination of chiles and spices produced by a traditional mole recipe creates a unique flavor profile that is certainly worth trying out for yourself.
No matter what you try – whether you make it at home or order it in a restaurant – mole sauce is sure to add great depth of flavor to your next meal.
So the next time you have an adventurous palate, boldly explore the unique flavors of this Mexican favorite.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!