Dark & Lovely

Become a Mole Master With These Oaxacan Recipes

We described making the classic Mexican mother sauces in our Mexico issue. Now do it at home.

By Alice Levitt December 9, 2016

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Your mole amarillo may not look like this because you didn't win "Top Chef."

Image: Alice Levitt

Did you read our December cover feature, The Houstonian's Ultimate Guide to Mexico yet? If so, chances are, the section on Oaxacan mole has stirred some cravings. A Christmastime jaunt to Mexico to try "Top Chef Mexico" winner Rodolfo Castellanos' cooking at his restaurant Origen may not be a bad idea, but if it's not in the cards, he and his wife and co-owner Lizette Rodriguez have provided us with the next best thing. 

Below are Castellanos' recipes for both labor-intensive mole negro and weeknight-friendly mole amarillo, adapted from the versions his mother served him growing up. 

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Castellanos burning the tortilla whose ashes are added to the mole negro.

Image: Alice Levitt

Mole Negro

Ingredients for chile paste

  • 1/4 kg pasilla chile
  • 1/4 kg mulato chile
  • 1/4 kg ancho chile
  • 1/4 kg chilhuacle negro chile 
  • 3 pz chipotle chile

Ingredients for mole

  • 125 grams each of the following: Almonds, pecans, raisins, peanuts, Mexican oregano and cinnamon
  • 1/4 kg garlic
  • 1 small bunch of thyme, marjoram and summer savory (This is known as hierbas de olor, the Mexican equivalent of French bouquet garni)
  • 3 ripe plantains
  • Dark chocolate to taste (Oaxacan chocolate is best)
  • 10 cloves
  • 12 allspices berries
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 avocado leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted corn
  • 3 large onions
  • Sugar, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 small piece of ginger, grated
  • Ashes of 1 burnt tortilla


Roast all the peppers in the oven, being careful not to burn them. In a large pot, toast onions, garlic, plantains and raisins. When they are browned, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well together. This may require multiple batches, depending on the size of your cookware. Once softened, combine all ingredients and purée into a very fine paste. Return the paste to pot and fry with vegetable oil or pork fat. Reduce the paste until thickened enough that it's difficult to mix and sticks to the sides of the pot. If using later, pack and set aside. To serve, combine desired amount of paste with equal parts green tomatoes and chicken stock. Add protein and stew until meat is cooked and sauce is reduced.

Mole Amarillo


  • 12 guajillo chiles
  • 1 sprig cilantro
  • 5 red tomatoes
  • 2 pieces of garlic
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/2 cup masa
  • 1 sprig Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 4 red or yellow peppers, chopped
  • 2 whole cloves


Under a broiler, toast the guajillos and char tomatos, onions and garlic. Add the peppers and soak all charred and toasted ingredients with just enough stock to moisten. Add oregano, allspice, cumin and cloves. Once soaked, purée this mixture in to a blender. Transfer to a pot over medium heat, then add masa. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Add cilantro and either roasted mushrooms or meat of your choice and cook until warmed through and imbued with the sauce's flavor. Other possible additions? Chayotes, carrots, green beans or potatoes all work well. 

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