Quick and Easy Molé (and some awesome enchiladas)

I suppose that if you're a devotee of Mexican culinary tradition, then you would be quite familiar with molé, that lusty, chocolate-y, chile-based sauce that only takes 3 or 4 days to make.  If you're a pro and on your game.  It would probably take me that long just to grind the spices.  In one recipe I came across, I counted no less than 32 ingredients.  I'm still a bit curious as to who, on what day, had the time and culinary creativity to come up with a recipe such as this, but nevertheless, we're all the beneficiaries of this incredibly delicious combination of spices, chiles, almonds, chocolate and countless other tasty ingredients.

These are memorable flavors and you're especially lucky if you know someone or a chef or restaurant who's making it on a regular basis.  I ordered it once years ago at a restaurant in Santa Cruz and have never forgotten it.

But I confess I've never aspired to even contemplate making molé until I watched Marcela Vallolodid make her quick and easy version on The Kitchen, which I made shortly thereafter.  It was good, but it wasn't quite what I remembered, so I turned to Rick Bayless for a few tips.  Mr. Bayless showed me a few ingredients and steps that might be missing, and at the risk of over-complicating the whole quick and easy thing, I sort of went for it.  

And now I can tell you with excitement and confidence that these are some pretty authentic flavors that I'm still calling quick and easy.  It's all relative, you know?  Compared to a traditional molé recipe, this is most definitely quick and easy.  

We haven't even really talked about the flavors here, and it's not an easy thing to describe, except to say that the combination of chocolate, chiles, cinnamon, cloves and numerous other aromatics create something uniquely Mexican, totally addicting and wonderfully versatile.

Traditional molé is often served over roasted chicken parts which I highly recommend.  But it's also equally awesome slathered over boneless chicken breasts and makes some amazing chicken enchiladas, such as a previous photo up there illustrates.  It also shows that I made the enchiladas with my corn tortilla crepes, but corn tortillas, especially the homemade kind would be most traditional. The molé enchiladas are a cinch to throw together once you've got your sauce made.  I've provided my recipe below.

I guess that covers it, people.  A good molé sauce with minimal effort can be yours in an hour or two, which by my calculations saves you about 3 1/2 days.  Here's the recipe...

Quick and Easy Mexican Molé

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from The Kitchen

This is about as close as you’re going to come to an authentic molé sauce without spending 3 days getting it done.  I used Marcela Valladolid’s easy recipe as a jumping off point and made it a bit more involved by incorporating a few things from Rick Bayless’ recipe. Molé sauce is traditionally served over pieces of roasted bone-in chicken, which I highly recommend.  It’s also great over boneless chicken breasts or chicken enchiladas (recipe here).  And as for the Mexican chocolate, Marcela V. says that you can substitute a dark chocolate and add cinnamon to the recipe, and I've done that and it really doesn't compare to using the real stuff.  So hunt down some good Mexican chocolate; most grocery stores carry it these days.

5 dried pasilla or ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (here'a quick tutorial
1/3 cup raisins
Two 6-inch corn tortillas, or handful regular tortilla chips
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
Kosher salt
1/4teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons almond butter (can substitute with peanut butter)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock
One 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped, such as Ibarra


Place the dried chiles in a bowl and pour hot water over them until they’re submerged.  Cover the bowl and let them sit for 20 to 25 minutes, then drain them and set aside. 

Place the raisins in a small bowl, cover with 2/3 cup hot water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Do not drain.

Toast the corn tortillas in a dry skillet until dry, crisp and golden (you can also do this in a hot oven - they don't have to be really crispy). Tear into pieces and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, season with a little salt and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Then add the crushed red pepper and garlic, cinnamon, oregano, black pepper and cloves.   Sauté for a couple more minutes or until the spices are fragrant. 

Transfer the onion and garlic mixture to a blender with the chiles, raisins (and soaking liquid), chocolate, tortillas, and peanut butter. Pour the chicken stock over and blend until very smooth. 

Transfer the sauce to a medium sauté pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper, and add a bit of cayenne if more spice is needed.  Simmer another 5-10 minutes, covered, before using.

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