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What Is Chicken Mole?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mole (pronounced MOL-ay) refers to a number of sauces made in Mexico, the most famous of which are a combination of a variety of chilis and chocolate. Since many mole sauces also contain chicken broth, pouring the sauce over chicken is ideal. Chicken mole can refer to any chicken topped with a mole sauce, or it may specifically refer to Mole Poblano: Pollo con Arroz (chicken with rice).

Chicken Mole Poblano is a complex dish to make when it is made in traditional fashion. A number of different chili peppers can be used for the sauce. The mole also includes spices like cumin, ground nuts, Mexican chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. Onions and garlic help to balance the flavors.

The type of chicken used in mole may vary. Some cooks prefer using white meat chicken, but others like to use deboned thigh meat, since its richer flavor complements the mole sauce. Chicken is typically sautéed in oil until fully cooked. Some recipes actually do call for partially sautéing the chicken. The chicken is then placed in a casserole dish, covered with the mole sauce and baked until done. Typically, the chicken is served over rice.

There are many simplified chicken mole dishes. Some chefs recommend the casserole method and skip the ground nuts, adding peanut butter to the mole instead. Canned chili peppers can be used, since they may be easier to work with and more readily available. Though this is not authentic, it is still pleasing to the tastebuds of many cooks.

It isn’t necessary to stick with mole Poblano when making chicken mole. Mole de Cacahuate, for instance, omits the chocolate and uses ground peanuts. For those who find it odd to use chocolate in a savory sauce, recipes for Mole de Cacahuate may be the perfect solution. Moreover, this sauce is a traditional topping for chicken in Mexico.

Other sauces that can be used to make mole include the red Mole Coloradito. It’s quite similar to the other moles, but it also includes tomato, and can make for a pleasing topping. Mole Verde is another sauce that may be delicious as part of chicken mole, and uses ground pumpkin seeds and tomatillos to produce a beautifully light green colored sauce.

In Mexico, certain moles are very popular in different regions. Oaxaca is considered the most diverse in its offering of these sauces. When traveling there, visitors may want to ask what type of mole they are getting when they are served the dish. It can truly vary, but each sauce has unique flavor and taste that makes them worth trying.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By ellafarris — On May 24, 2011

@Sierra02 - Speaking of Super Bow, have you ever tried Mexican chili? It’s wonderful and easily serves a crowd of hungry football fans. I serve it every year now along with a 7-layer dip and homemade tortilla chips.

I plan to add some new dishes to our traditional game day party this year. The poblano mole looks like a good choice and I also found a salsa recipe that calls for slivers of bittersweet chocolate that sounds interesting as well.

By Sierra02 — On May 22, 2011

@Markus - I haven’t tried the negro mole before. I’ll have to put that one on my list, but I have had a typical Mexican chicken poblano mole. A coworker brought it to work for our Pre-Super Bowl luncheon last year.

I was reluctant to try it at first but to my surprise, aside from the appearance, it was delicious. Who would’ve ever thought to mix chocolate with chicken and hot chilies?

This year I plan to create a mole with my leftover turkey from Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve heard that they used turkey meat in their original moles anyway. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

By Markus — On May 19, 2011

If you want to try an authentic Mexican chicken mole then you have to visit Oaxaca, Mexico. They are referred to as the land of the seven moles.

I’ve tried almost all of them and the chicken mole negro is one of my favorite. It’s their most popular dish and contains over 30 ingredients. It is one of the most difficult mole’s to create, but it’s absolutely fantastic.

They even grind it into a powder and sell it in their markets and by the street vendors. If you do purchase a jar, keep in mind that the odors are very, very strong.

Make sure you list it on your customs form and let security officers know you have it. It has been known to trigger positive on the explosive radar detectors. Take it from one who knows.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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