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Mexican Chicken Mole Rojo

Mexican Chicken Mole Rojo
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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 includes a recipe for a mole spice blend and added peanut butter, allowing you to forego the more time consuming methods. It’s been tested against prepared mole sauces as well as a mole rojo made from scratch, and the result was a surprising win.

Chicken legs in a mole rojo sauce with spice blends in bowls behind the chicken.
Chicken legs in Mole Rojo sauce

Jump to: RECIPE | Key Ingredients of Mole Rojo | Mole Rojo vs Mole Poblano | Making an Easy Mole Sauce | Common Questions

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Key Ingredients of Mole Rojo

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 before being heated and boiled into a sauce. Mole sauce is most often used in recipes that feature 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 sauce covering chicken pieces in a bowl
Mole rojo sauce covering chicken pieces in a bowl

Mole Rojo vs Mole Poblano

Mole rojo and mole poblano are sometimes used interchangeably as they are similar, but there are nuanced distinctions. Mole rojo is one of the seven renowned mole sauces hailing from the Oaxaca region of Mexico.

Mole Poblano is not from Oaxaca and is not one of the renowned “7 Moles”.  Mole poblano is what many in the US think of as “mole”, but those from Oaxaca would most likely not agree.

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.

Map of Mexico highlighting the Oaxaca region in red, located in the south of the country.
The Oaxaca region of Mexico in red.

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 pipian, the mole verde, and the fruity manchamantales. This recipe for a chicken pipian verde highlights a rich blend of pumpkin seeds, spices, tomatillos, and roasted poblano peppers.

Chicken pipian and Mexican red rice on a white plate.
Chicken pipian with pumpkin seeds with Mexican rice.

Can Pre-made Mole Compare to a Mole from Scratch?

Probably not, but it may come close. This recipe for a chicken mole with chayote shows the steps for making a traditional mole sauce from scratch.

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. This mole rojo from Amazon is close to what I got in Oaxaca.

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 recipe for chicken mole with chayote rather than potatoes takes you through the process of making your own homemade 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 mole spice blend 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.

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:

Turkey, carrot and black bean chili with mole sauce in a black bowl.
Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Mole Sauce

Frequently Asked Questions about Mole Rojo

What is the difference between mole rojo and mole negro?

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.

Where does mole rojo originate?

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.

Is mole rojo spicy?

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.

What gives mole rojo its red color?

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.

If you enjoy all types of Mexican food, check out this category of ALL Mexican recipes, where you will find over 40 Mexican recipes, from casual, to low carb, to fancy.

Chicken Mole Rojo

Chicken legs in a mole rojo sauce with spice blends in bowls behind the chicken.
An easy, low carb chicken mole using a fresh spice blend of smoked peppers, chocolate, and spices.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 140



  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 teaspoon garlic optional
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8-9 pieces chicken legs or thighs
  • 1 teaspoon salt more or less to your taste
  • 4 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 ounce mole spice mix equals 4 tablespoons
  • 2-3 tablespoons 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 teaspoons minced garlic for last minute if desired).  Add chicken broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Let it cool a bit.
    2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 medium onion, 2 teaspoon 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 minutes
    8-9 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 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 ounce 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 tablespoons sesame seeds


If you would rather use either fresh or 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:
  • 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 bring to a boil.
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Calories: 140kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 6gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 1118mgPotassium: 193mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 61mgIron: 1mg
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  1. […] **Note: for an easier version of this recipe which uses a fresh mole powder rather than roasting and peeling the peppers, click here. For a really easy version of chicken mole without chayote and using a red sauce instead of yellow, click here. […]

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