The variety of Mexican moles are all unique and delicious, but the required roasting, peeling and rehydrating of the peppers can be a bit daunting and time consuming. This mole rojo speeds up the process by using uses a powdered blend of smoked chiles, cocoa and spices. It’s been tested against prepared mole sauces as well as a mole rojo made from scratch, and the result was a surprising win. Using a fresh and complex spice blend was the key to the remarkedly robust flavor.
What is Mole Rojo?
Mole rojo is one of the seven renowned mole sauces hailing from the Oaxaca region of Mexico.
The ingredients in a mole rojo typically include a mixture of onion, garlic, chile peppers (commonly pasilla and ancho and sometimes guajillo), ground nuts or sesame seeds, toasted bread, spices, oil, sugar, and occasionally a small amount of sweet chocolate.
These ingredients are then mixed with water or chicken broth (1 part Mole to 3 parts water/broth) before being heated and boiled into a sauce. It is then added as a seasoning to chicken or pork, eggs or egg dishes, enchiladas, rice, refried beans, or tamales.
Mole rojo is deep red in color, usually medium spicy, and with a texture between a paste and a sauce. Mole rojo and mole poblano are sometimes used interchangeably as they are similar, but there are nuanced distinctions.
Mole Rojo vs Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano is not from Oaxaca and is not one of the renowned “7 Moles”.
Mole Rojo Is often referred to as “red mole” and is frequently interchanged with mole poblano. Mole poblano is what many in the US think of as “mole”, but those from Oaxaca would most likely not agree. The world of moles is huge, and is filled with nuance and debate.
In truth, moles vary from village to village, and from cook to cook. Someone outside of Puebla may prefer to call their dark mole (with chocolate) Negro, just because they are not Poblano.
Mole Rojo and Mole Poblano use many of the same ingredients, but the type and amount of chiles used will vary. Several kinds of dried red chile can be used, like pasilla, guajillo and ancho. Almonds or peanuts are often included.
If you want to experience the full range of moles, don’t forget the pumpkin seed pepians, the mole verde, and the fruity manchamantales.
Can a Pre-made Mole Sauce Compare to a Mole from Scratch?
Probably not, but it may come close.
A mole seasoning blend of powdered chile peppers, chocolate powder and various other spices can make your life easier, as it takes the place of roasting, rehydrating and peeling your own peppers. A good powdered blend that is fresh can be as flavorful as using rehydrated peppers that are old or not toasted.
Some of the pre-made mole sauces I bought on a trip to Oaxaca were also quite remarkable.
I have made a chicken mole from scratch many times by roasting and peeling the peppers and it leaves my kitchen in a mess and is a lengthy process.
If you have the time however, you can make a chicken mole from scratch recipe from dried, roasted and rehydrated peppers. This particular chicken recipe uses chayote rather than potatoes to keep it in the low carb range and takes you through the process of making your own mole sauce.
Using a Mole Powdered Spice Blend
But can a mole spice blend really bring out the same complex flavors as making your own mole? Well, the answer is, of course, “it depends”.
It depends on how the chile peppers in the blend were grown and smoked. It depends if the chocolate is Mexican chocolate powder or Dutch cocoa or sweetened or unsweetened cocoa.
I made a Chicken Rojo Mole (recipe below) with a smoked mole blend, and it was every bit as good as the versions I made with all the roasted, dehydrated peppers. And a heck of a lot easier!
If you want to make your own spice blend, I have included our farm’s recipe in the recipe card note section. It uses cinnamon, cumin, oregano, salt, coriander, chipotle, cocoa, annato, anchos, sesame seeds, cloves, star anise and serrano peppers. As you can see, the blends themselves can be very complex!
Just be sure and use the freshest chile powders and ingredients you can find! Try out some of the blends offered to see which you prefer….just read the ingredient list and ask questions if you can.
The recipe below uses a spice blend that has chipotles, anchos and pasillas that have already been smoked and dried.
Additional Ways to Use Mole Powdered Spice Blend
Mole spice blends can easily enhance recipes other than chicken mole also. Try adding a tablespoon or two to your next pot of red chili for some smoky, chocolaty notes of flavor. Alternatively, try it in one of these tested recipes:
Basics Method for a Mole Sauce from Scratch
If you would rather use the roasted dried peppers instead of the spice blend to make your mole sauce, here is a quick how-to summary on making a mole sauce from scratch:
Step #1: broil fresh chile peppers until charred & then remove skins and seeds
(Alternatively toast dried chile peppers in a skillet, remove seeds and rehydrate in hot water for 10 minutes.)
Step #2: Toast spices 1-2 minutes or until just fragrant: cool and then grind into powder
Step #3: Roast tomatillos, tomato, garlic and onion ~7 minutes or until charred. Cool and then peel
*note: you can put the tomatillos and tomato in a paper bag and close it up for a bit to make them easier to peel.
Step #4: Add drained chile peppers, tomatillos and other vegetables to food processor and process until smooth. Add spices and process until combined
Step #5: In saucepan, heat oil and add pepper mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Strain if desired.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mole Rojo
Mole rojo and mole negro are similar, but the key difference is that mole rojo uses less chocolate and relies more heavily on the ancho chiles, giving it the redder color.
Mole rojo is part of the seven traditional moles served in the Oaxacan region in Mexico. The other traditional moles include: mole negro, mole amarillo, mole verde, mole coloradito, mole chichilo, and mole manchamantel.
It depends! Typically mole rojo is not spicy, unless the person making the mole adds extra ingredients to up the spiciness. In the version we make here, the mole rojo has a subtle heat but would be considered mild by most.
Mole rojo uses mostly ancho peppers, giving it a red flavor. In our version, we use a mole spice mix which has achiote to amp up the deep red color even more.
Recipe for Easy Chicken Mole Rojo
Chicken Mole Rojo
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 tsp garlic optional
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 8-9 pieces chicken legs or thighs
- 1 Teaspoon salt more or less to your taste
- 4 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 oz mole spice mix
- 2-3 Tbsp. sesame seeds optional
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Heat oil in large skillet and add chopped onion. Saute about 5 minutes or until translucent (add 2 tsp minced garlic for last minute if desired). Add chicken broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let it cool a bit.2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 medium onion, 2 tsp garlic, 2 cups chicken broth
- While onion mix is cooling, place chicken pieces in 9 x 11 baking dish and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes8-9 pieces chicken legs or thighs, 1 Teaspoon salt
- While chicken is baking, pour cooled onion mix into blender or food processor and add peanut butter and mole spice blend. Blend until smooth.4 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 oz mole spice mix
- When chicken has cooked for 20 minutes, remove from oven and pour mole-peanut butter sauce over chicken in baking dish. Place back in oven and cook for 15-20 more minutes at 400.
- Garnish with sesame seeds over the sauce and serve.2-3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- Broil fresh chile peppers until charred and then remove skins and seeds Alternatively toast dried chile peppers in a skillet, remove seeds and rehydrate in hot water for 10 minutes.
- Toast your spices (peppercorns, cloves and cumin seeds) for 1-2 minutes or until just fragrant. Remove from skillet and grind up in a spice grinder until finely ground.
- Roast your vegetables (tomatillos, tomato and onion) about 7 minutes or until charred, turning occasionally. Add the garlic for the last minute or so. Remove from heat until cool and then peel them. *note: you can put the tomatillos and tomato in a paper bag and close it up for a bit to make them easier to peel.
- Drain the chile peppers and add the peeled tomatillos, tomato and onion to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the spices and process until combined.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high and add the pepper mixture and salt and
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