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Fabiola Obregón, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Mole – Sophisticated Mexican Sauces

11/29/2013 10:02AM | 10324 views

Mole is a common name for a variety of Mexican sauces – red, black, green, and all colors in between – featuring very distinct flavors. Known for being rich, dark, and complex, Moles can be mildly spicy too with varying degrees of sweetness. Moles pair well with quail, duck, turkey, chicken, pork, beef, or tofu. 

According to Rick Bayless, an American chef who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern bent, the ingredients of Mole can be grouped into five distinct classes: hot (chiles), sour (tomatillos), sweet (cocoa, dried fruits, sugar), spices, and thickeners (seeds, nuts, tortillas).  But the foundation ingredients in mole are chili peppers: ancho, chilcostle, mulato, and pasilla.

The difference between black and red mole is how the chilies are prepared.  For black mole, the chilis are traditionally roasted; for red mole, the chilies are boiled until soft.

Chili Peppers: Hot Health Benefits

  • Capsaicin – what makes hot peppers hot – is a remarkable antioxidant.
  • Antioxidants from plant foods reduce damage to the body by free radicals, which can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • What increases levels of free radicals? Air pollutants, cigarette smoke, UV light, and about a third of all the oxygen our body naturally uses to live.
  • Capsaicin is also a potent anti-inflammatory and a remedy for pain.
  • The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin is has.

You can take almost any Mole recipe and make it healthy.  Be creative.  Mole can be prepared vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. If you are going for a traditional Mole, the key is to use fresh, less processed ingredients. Many Moles can have up to thirty ingredients!

 Here are 5 tips to make your Mole healthier:

  1. Meat. Use good quality, lean meats. If you need to use a cheaper cut of meat, simmer it for hours and remove the fat.  
  2. Dairy. Go with the low-fat offerings. Minimize the use of lard, bacon fat, or butter, and use canola oil when possible. If you want to make your sauce vegan, use unsweetened soy or almond ‘milk’ as well as any of the vegan sour cream substitutes. 
  3. Broth. If you are using chicken broth, make it low sodium. The best broth is your own broth, and it’s easy to make. Going vegetarian? Use a vegetable broth and add bay leaf to it. 
  4. Cocoa. Select dark chocolate – any chocolate over 55% cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids, which can help maintain cardiovascular health. 
  5. Seeds. If you are using pumpkin seeds, buy organic. Pumpkin seeds or “pepitas de calabaza” have amazing nutritional value. They are loaded with magnesium, zinc, healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber.


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