Mole Rojo

Red Mole


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    8 to 10

Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

One of the most common questions we get at the restaurant is about the differences among moles. It’s not just the color. The flavor profiles of the red, black, green, yellow, coloradito, chichilo, and every other mole are very different. The red and black moles are the closest in flavor, because they share a lot of the same ingredients, but a few chiles and techniques change in the process. Unlike mole negro, where the chiles are fried to achieve a glossy, pitch-black color, mole rojo calls for the dried chiles to be smoked or dry-roasted. In Oaxaca, trimming, seeding, and roasting the chiles becomes a social gathering. At these gatherings, spicy dark smoke overflows the house and penetrates every inch of your hair and clothing. I absolutely love it. The smell of roasted chiles will forever remind me of my grandma, great-aunts, and every woman in my family. When I make this recipe at home, where I don’t have an outdoor comal and want to minimize the smoke inside, I opt to toast the chiles briefly, laid out on a baking sheet. It’s a great hack to give those chiles the perfect layer of smoke and toast but still stay in total control.


  • ounces (100 g) ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • ounces (100 g) chilhuacle rojo chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • ounces (50 g) guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • cup (100 g) sesame seeds
  • ¾ cup (105 g) raw almonds
  • cup (100 g) roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup dried oregano
  • 3 whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice berries
  • teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) vegetable oil
  • cups (160 g) chopped onions
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large ripe plantain (about 170 g), peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup (120 g) peeled and chopped apple
  • cup (100 g) raisins
  • ounces (100 g) pan de yema (can be substituted with bread crumbs or challah)
  • 1⅓ cups (250 g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup (125 g) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
  • ounces (50 g) Oaxacan or Mexican chocolate
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • cups (1 l) chicken stock


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Carefully place the ancho chiles on a baking sheet with a rim and bake for 8 minutes, turning at the halfway point so that the chiles get evenly toasted.

Repeat this process with the chilhuacle chiles, but toast them for 4 minutes. Repeat with the guajillo chiles for only 3 minutes. Once all the chiles are toasted, let cool.

Bring 8 cups (2 L) water to a boil. Add all of the chiles to the water, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes or until all the chiles are fully rehydrated.

In a comal or skillet over medium heat, individually toast the sesame seeds, almonds, and peanuts in batches until lightly browned and aromatic. Be very careful not to burn them. Set aside.

In the same comal or skillet over medium heat, toast the thyme, oregano, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Grind the spices in a molcajete or spice grinder until finely ground and set aside.

In the largest skillet you own, heat ¼ cup (60 ml) of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and garlic from the oil, place them in a mixing bowl, and set aside. Add the apple and plantain to the pan and fry for 7 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Remove and add to the bowl with the onions and garlic. In the same skillet, fry the raisins for 5 minutes. Remove and add to the rest of the pan-fried ingredients. Lastly, add the pan de yema and toast it in whatever oil is left in the pan until the bread gets golden brown.

In another saucepan over medium heat, combine the tomatoes and tomatillos with ½ cup (60 ml) of water. Cook for 15 minutes or until the tomatillos start to change color.

In two batches, add cups (360 ml) of water to the blender and half of the sesame seeds, almonds, raisins, peanuts, cinnamon, onion, garlic, plantain, apple, and pan de yema, and ground spices. Blend until smooth. Repeat this process with another cups (360 ml) of water with the remaining ingredients, combining the two batches into one.

In a 5-quart (4.7 L) saucepan, heat ½ cup (120 ml) of the vegetable oil over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, carefully add this blended mixture and mix well.

Remove the chiles from the hot water and reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of the warm chile liquid. Add all of the chiles and 1 cup (240 ml) of water to the blender and blend until smooth. Add this chile mixture to the simmering saucepan and keep mixing.

Blend the cooked tomato and tomatillo mixture until smooth. Pass it through a double-fine-mesh strainer and add that to the simmering mixture as well.

Add the bay leaves, sugar, chocolate, and salt to the mole mixture and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and taste for salt. When the sweet and salty flavors are balanced, the mole sauce is ready. You’ve just made one of Oaxaca’s most prized moles.