Upping Your Mexican Food IQ: What is Mole Sauce?

Mole sauce is Mexico’s national dish. While it’s not as ubiquitous on American menus as tacos or burritos, mole is a beloved dish for its complex flavor and variety of styles.

Two states claim to be the original home of mole, Oaxaca and Puebla.  One legend has it nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla invented the thick sauce in a panic roughly 300 years ago, during the early colonial period. The story holds that after the sisters learned at the last minute that an archbishop would soon visit the convent, the sisters scraped together a meal for him using the few ingredients they had on hand. They mixed day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate, chile peppers and other spices together in a pot, butchered an old turkey to cook in it and served it to their distinguished guest.

Despite the hasty preparation, the meal was a resounding success, or so the story goes. When asked for the recipe, the nuns reportedly replied simply that it was a molli (the Aztec word meaning “mix”), and so the popular Mole Poblano was born.

Today, this version and many others are served to celebrate religious rituals like baptisms and communions, or in honor of visiting dinner guests. If you’re itching to try your hand at the totally worth-it dish, here’s the recipe Chef Julio Vasquez serves at NYC’s lively Mexico City-inspired spot, Toro Loco.

Toro Loco’s Mole Recipe

¼ cup almonds
½ cup sea sesame seeds
1 stick cinnamon
½ teaspoon star anise seeds
4 dried Ancho chiles
2 dried Pasilla chiles
¼ cup raisins
½ teaspoon oregano
½ cup of soybeans
2 slices white bread
5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
3 oz. Mexican dark chocolate
1 teaspoon salt and pepper


Grind the almonds.
Lightly toast the sesame seeds until golden in a skillet and transfer to a blender.
In the same skillet, combine cinnamon, anise seeds and almonds and toast for 3 mins before transferring to the same blender.
Add chiles without stems and seeds to the skillet and fry for 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl cover with hot water; soak for 20 minutes.
Add raisins, oregano, soybeans and white bread pieces to the oil in skillet and cook while stirring.
Add items to blender including oil from skillet
Add the chiles blend to make it a thick, smooth sauce
Heat 2 teaspoon of oil in a large pot and add the chili sauce and fry and constantly stirring for 4-5 minutes
Add 5 cups of chicken broth and simmer for 15-18 mins
Mix in the chocolate, sugar, salt and pepper to skillet and simmer for 20 minutes, constantly stirring