Red Mole Sauce (Conejo en Mole Rojo)

Mole (MOH-lay) is a Mexican sauce that comes in about as many varieties as there are households in the country. Puebla and Oaxaca are two regions known for their moles with varieties including Verde (green), Negro (black), and Rojo (red). Mole Poblano from Puebla is perhaps the best known with its rusty red sauce enveloping cuts of turkey. Though opinions on this tend to vary, it’s also considered to be Mexico’s national dish. Despite the huge variation in preparations, one thing they have in common is that they all take a lot of time and loving care to make.

I made this dish as my submission for this month’s Dinner and a Movie event. It’s a monthly food event run by Susan and I, where a movie is chosen and participants use the movie as inspiration for creating a dish. Since this month’s movie was Chocolat, it only seemed natural to make a dish featuring chocolate.

For those that haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a mother daughter pair that blow into a staid French village with the “west wind” during Lent. Like a breath of fresh air, their arrival brings new life to the town. Her knack for making sinfully delicious chocolates makes friends quickly, but also sends the town’s conservative mayor on a crusade against them. About midway through the movie, Vianne throws a party for her landlady’s birthday and invites most of the town. There’s a dish served covered in a rich red sauce that makes the guests’ eyes roll back in utter bliss.

The audience is left to guess what the dish is, but given the character’s Latin American background I’d always imagined it was a rich velvety mole. If you’ve never tasted these flavours before, it truly is a throw-your-head-back-in-pleasure kind of experience. The sauce is redolent of roasted chilies, seeds and spices giving it an indescribably complex aroma. As it hits your tongue, it’s spicy, savoury, sweet, and just a little bitter, with a familiar nutty richness coming from the chocolate.

Regular readers know I’m generally against sauces that cover up the flavours of a dish, but in this case, the sauce really IS the dish. I’ve heard many people dismiss mole as overly sweet and heavy handed, and when it comes to canned sauces used in many restaurants, this is certainly true. A truly good mole however, is well balanced and has layers of flavours that aren’t immediately apparent. Mole is the kind of food with such nuanced complexity, that it needs to be consumed in a quiet setting with your eyes closed to taste all the subtleties.

I won’t lie to you, this one will take some time to make. If this is your first time, give yourself 2-3 hours, which by mole standards is down-right quick. Spending the time to roast, toast, and brown each ingredient is absolutely worth it. Not just for the end result, but because each step fills the kitchen with a new aroma. These aromas crescendo as they come together, filling your home with a symphony of smells.

While rabbit isn’t exactly a commonly used meat in Mexico, I used it because it is very French. If you can’t find it in your area or take issue with eating cute furry critters, feel free to substitute chicken or turkey instead. You’ll also have quite a bit of sauce left, which you can freeze and use later to braise other meats in.

I served this with home made tortillas, but it would have been just as tasty with a crusty baguette. The mole was also accompanied by a sliced avocado, cilantro and lime wedges for a bit of contrast and freshness.

3-4 lbs rabbit cut into pieces

2.5 oz whole dried ancho chilies
2 oz whole dried guajillo chilies
cooking spray

1/4 C raw almonds
1/4 C shelled pumpkin seeds
1/4 C raisins

2 Tbs seeds from ancho and guajillo chilies
2 Tbs sesame seeds
5 prongs from a star anise pod (half a pod)
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick pulverized with handle of knife
1/2 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/8 tsp dried epazote (or marjoram)
1 large bay leaf
1/4 C masa harina

3 medium tomatillos scored so they don’t pop
1 small tomato scored
1 medium onion sliced
6 cloves garlic

1 quart chicken stock
Salt to taste
2 rounds of Ibarra Mexican Chocolate

Place the oven rack in the middle position and heat to 350 degrees F.

Tear the tops off the chili peppers and empty the seeds into a small bowl. Discard the stems and any membranes and tear the chilies into flat pieces. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet in a single layer. Spray generously with cooking spray. Place them in the oven and allow to roast for 5-10 minutes or until they change color and a spicy caramel aroma floats through the kitchen. Be careful not to burn them as this will make your mole taste bitter. Once out of the oven, put them in a bowl and cover with warm water to rehydrate.

Put the almonds, pumpkin seeds and raisins on the baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and return to the oven until the pumpkin seeds take on a golden color and the raisins are slightly puffy. Again, be careful not to burn them. Set the pan aside and allow to cool.

In a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron skillet, toast the chile seeds, sesame seeds, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper until the sesame seeds just start to change color and the whole thing smells sweet, nutty and spicy like incense.

Transfer the seeds and spices to a food processor and process for a few minutes or until it’s ground into a powder. Add the roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds and raisins and blitz until there are no chunks. Add the oregano, epazote, bay leaf and masa harina and continue to process until powderized.

Move the oven rack to the top position and turn the broiler on. Place the tomatillos, tomato, onion slices and garlic on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler. Let the tops of the tomatillos and tomato get completely charred before flipping to char the other side. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a bit. Add to the food processor along with 1 cup of chicken stock and blitz with the spice/seed mixture until it’s smooth. Transfer this mixture to a bowl, cover and set aside.

Return the work bowl to the food processor and add the rehydrated chili peppers along with 3/4 C of the soaking liquid. Process until smooth.

Generously salt and pepper the rabbit. Heat a large dutch oven until hot, add a splash of oil then swirl to coat. Place the seasoned rabbit pieces in the pot and allow them to brown for 5-7 minutes without disturbing them. If you go to flip them and they’re stuck to the pan they aren’t ready to flip. Brown the other side then transfer to a plate.

Turn the heat down, then pour the chili pepper puree into the pan through a single mesh strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula to remove all the skins. Deglaze the bottom of the pan and cook until the mixture is very thick. Pour the spice/seed mixture into the pot through the strainer pressing on any solids. Add the chicken stock and chocolate then salt to taste. If you like it even sweeter you can add more sugar.

Return the rabbit to the pot and simmer uncovered over medium low heat until the rabbit is tender (about 1 hour).

Serve with fresh tortillas, cilantro and lime wedges.

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ Elra

    Wow, that looks really delicious, I love mole, and made it with turkey.
    Btw, I sent an e-mail for my entry, it seems like I got the address wrong. I must try to send it back.

    I posted mine yesterday, oops! I forgot that I suppose to post it today.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com Elra

    Wow, that looks really delicious, I love mole, and made it with turkey.
    Btw, I sent an e-mail for my entry, it seems like I got the address wrong. I must try to send it back.

    I posted mine yesterday, oops! I forgot that I suppose to post it today.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ Colloquial Cook

    I’ve wanted to make mole since I have spotted Hermé’s recipe (not his, strictly speking, but a friend of his) in his Larousse du chocolat. It has the longest title of the book and just saying the title makes you feel full :-) “Mole Poblano du couvent de Santa Rosa” Love it! I like that you use rabbit, and I can picture how well the soft and delicate flesh would go with the rich sauce. Good call!

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ Colloquial Cook

    I’ve wanted to make mole since I have spotted Hermé’s recipe (not his, strictly speking, but a friend of his) in his Larousse du chocolat. It has the longest title of the book and just saying the title makes you feel full :-) “Mole Poblano du couvent de Santa Rosa” Love it! I like that you use rabbit, and I can picture how well the soft and delicate flesh would go with the rich sauce. Good call!

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/ Holly

    It sure is a lot of work but, it looks like it is worth it. and you made your own tortillas.. Wow!

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/ Holly

    It sure is a lot of work but, it looks like it is worth it. and you made your own tortillas.. Wow!

  • http://www.justgetfloury.com/ Ginny

    Delicious!!! I’ve always wanted to try making a mole… that looks so rich and amazing! :) Great event! and fabulous movie choice! one of my favorites!

  • http://www.justgetfloury.com Ginny

    Delicious!!! I’ve always wanted to try making a mole… that looks so rich and amazing! :) Great event! and fabulous movie choice! one of my favorites!

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com/ Daily Spud

    Hmm, I’ve been on the lookout for a good mole recipe, so I’ll be bookmarking this one for sure :)

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com Daily Spud

    Hmm, I’ve been on the lookout for a good mole recipe, so I’ll be bookmarking this one for sure :)

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    very VERY nice. i give you credit for making mole from scratch, but looking at your recipe i think i could do it easily. i’ve cooked four 5 hours straight so i think i can do 2 to 3 hours. and THANK YOU for featuring it w/ rabbit. my goal for the year is to get more americans to eat it!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    very VERY nice. i give you credit for making mole from scratch, but looking at your recipe i think i could do it easily. i’ve cooked four 5 hours straight so i think i can do 2 to 3 hours. and THANK YOU for featuring it w/ rabbit. my goal for the year is to get more americans to eat it!

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    I love mole, and yours looks fantastic! I’m lucky to have several great options for places to order it here in Austin, and I’ve made my own a couple of times. Next time, I’ll try it with rabbit.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    I love mole, and yours looks fantastic! I’m lucky to have several great options for places to order it here in Austin, and I’ve made my own a couple of times. Next time, I’ll try it with rabbit.

  • http://www.tan-kitchen.com/ Tan

    Oh…Rabbit recipe?? I never try. Interesting and again with beautiful pic post.
    Have a wonderful weekend.;)

  • http://www.tan-kitchen.com Tan

    Oh…Rabbit recipe?? I never try. Interesting and again with beautiful pic post.
    Have a wonderful weekend.;)

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    oooh, i think this is a great interpretation of that dish they had in Chocolat and i really wanna have a taste. It just looks so good and the flavours are really interesting. Never had mole so I’m intrigued. :) gorgeous photos. x

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    oooh, i think this is a great interpretation of that dish they had in Chocolat and i really wanna have a taste. It just looks so good and the flavours are really interesting. Never had mole so I’m intrigued. :) gorgeous photos. x

  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com/ Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,C

    Sensational! I think you’re spot on with the mole. It looks perfect. What a lot of work! I’m so glad you paired it with thr rabbit, too. Tres French and, I’m sure, tres délicieux!

  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    Sensational! I think you’re spot on with the mole. It looks perfect. What a lot of work! I’m so glad you paired it with thr rabbit, too. Tres French and, I’m sure, tres délicieux!

  • http://www.practicallydone.com/ helen

    Truely impressive. Had rabbit just last night, served with a red wine sauce. Should have requested mole…

  • http://www.practicallydone.com helen

    Truely impressive. Had rabbit just last night, served with a red wine sauce. Should have requested mole…

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  • http://www.standingstraight.blogspot.com/ Claudia

    Moles are wonderful. I’ve found the best way with something like this complex recipe is to make it in the morning on a day I don’t have to work (preferably a rainy day) and then use it later. Otherwise you can get worn out by the time dinner is ready. Often rabbit is served in a Hunter’s Sauce, but a mole is a fine and unusual alternative.

  • http://www.standingstraight.blogspot.com Claudia

    Moles are wonderful. I’ve found the best way with something like this complex recipe is to make it in the morning on a day I don’t have to work (preferably a rainy day) and then use it later. Otherwise you can get worn out by the time dinner is ready. Often rabbit is served in a Hunter’s Sauce, but a mole is a fine and unusual alternative.

  • Kiwi

    Wow, that is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.

  • Kiwi

    Wow, that is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    Oh, that is a perfect plate. It’s so nice to see just the saucy meat and tortillas – what more do you need?

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    Oh, that is a perfect plate. It’s so nice to see just the saucy meat and tortillas – what more do you need?

  • http://recipespicbypic.blogspot.com/ Nuria

    Marc… what a delicious recipe!!!! Do you know that in Catalan cuisine there’s a similar dish done with rabbit and chocolate? Flavours combine so well together :D.
    Before sending my cup of vanilla and chocolate I thought about the rabbit and chocolate… what a coincidence!

    I love your sauce and will try to make it your way some day for sure!!!

  • http://recipespicbypic.blogspot.com Nuria

    Marc… what a delicious recipe!!!! Do you know that in Catalan cuisine there’s a similar dish done with rabbit and chocolate? Flavours combine so well together :D.
    Before sending my cup of vanilla and chocolate I thought about the rabbit and chocolate… what a coincidence!

    I love your sauce and will try to make it your way some day for sure!!!

  • http://www.cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ Aran

    it’s been so long since i have had rabbit… oh how i wish i could taste this!

  • http://www.cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com Aran

    it’s been so long since i have had rabbit… oh how i wish i could taste this!

  • http://joiedevivreanamateurgourmetsguide.blogspot.com/ Joie de vivre

    The round-up looked AMAZING! I’m so glad you did this dish. My three year old persuaded me to buy rabbit the last time we were at the butchers. It’ s been in the freezer since last week waiting for inspiration. You’ve just provided that inspiration!

  • http://joiedevivreanamateurgourmetsguide.blogspot.com/ Joie de vivre

    The round-up looked AMAZING! I’m so glad you did this dish. My three year old persuaded me to buy rabbit the last time we were at the butchers. It’ s been in the freezer since last week waiting for inspiration. You’ve just provided that inspiration!

  • http://www.kalofagas.ca/ Peter

    It’s always a delight to see a rabbit dish…cute -smute…they are delicious and rabbit should be on everyone’s recipe radar.

  • http://www.kalofagas.ca Peter

    It’s always a delight to see a rabbit dish…cute -smute…they are delicious and rabbit should be on everyone’s recipe radar.

  • http://mikes-table.themulligans.org/ Mike

    I love mole and am always curious to see how everyone else approaches it–definitely a lot of room to play. This sounds like it would really be stunning.

  • http://mikes-table.themulligans.org Mike

    I love mole and am always curious to see how everyone else approaches it–definitely a lot of room to play. This sounds like it would really be stunning.

  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com/ megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    Love rabbit. Love mole. Love this post! Looks really delicious.

  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    Love rabbit. Love mole. Love this post! Looks really delicious.

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    The color of that sauce completely sucked me in! Gorgeous. I bet the sweetness of rabbit is wonderful with the mole. Brings a whole new dimension to “chocolate bunny,” doesn’t it?!

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com Jenni

    The color of that sauce completely sucked me in! Gorgeous. I bet the sweetness of rabbit is wonderful with the mole. Brings a whole new dimension to “chocolate bunny,” doesn’t it?!

  • Margot

    BRAVO!!! It’s funny, last weekend I went to an event and knew days ahead of time that I was going to order the gallina en mole for dinner :D Unfortunately the small chunks of breast meat it was served with were over-cooked. Boo. Yours sounds splendiferous!

  • Margot

    BRAVO!!! It’s funny, last weekend I went to an event and knew days ahead of time that I was going to order the gallina en mole for dinner :D Unfortunately the small chunks of breast meat it was served with were over-cooked. Boo. Yours sounds splendiferous!

  • Karen

    I have to say, I only used 15 out of what I counted as 22 ingredients in this mole sauce, and it still turned out awesome. I had been looking for good instructions on how to make homemade mole and this was the most helpful thing I’ve found. Thanks so much!

  • Karen

    I have to say, I only used 15 out of what I counted as 22 ingredients in this mole sauce, and it still turned out awesome. I had been looking for good instructions on how to make homemade mole and this was the most helpful thing I’ve found. Thanks so much!

  • Tanya

    I once had an incredible pale green sauce served on chicken at a mexican place. The guy couldn't really explain to me what it was, but he said it had pumpkin seeds and apple, and it was very nutty and savory (not very sweet). Any idea what this might have been? (I know it's not much to go on…) And if so could you post a recipe? I've recently moved to London from Vancouver, Canada, and not only are there zero good mexican places, but I'm majorly disappointed in the quality of most of the restaurants here. And no asian markets! I am one sad foodie… I would about kill someone for some hamachi sashimi right about now.

    • Mia Burgos

      What you had is a bride’s mole. Sometimes called pipian I think.

  • norecipes

    I suspect the dish you had was Mole Verde (green mole). It's green from the green chiles, tomatillos, and pumpkin seeds that go into it. I'll work on a recipe (no guarantees), but in the mean time, check out my chile verde recipe: http://norecipes.com/2009/02/09/chile-verde/ It's sweeter and more tart, but it's one of my favourites.

  • Anita

    I just made this and followed it exactly (which is generally hard for me to do with recipes, but I thought this one would pay off if I did) with the exception of using chicken & making it into enchiladas…. SO AMAZING!!! It is a perfectly balanced mole that I will most definitely make again! THANK YOU so much!

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  • Sonia

    To bad you say that! Believe me if you ever taste mole, I can guarantee you will be back for more!!

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  • Tmburke

    I made this yesterday but I served it with a roasted turkey. The reviews were amazing. It’s a lot of work but the reward is well worth the investment. I shall try it with rabiit next time around. Thanks.

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  • Jessegxoxo

    I already make a Mole but with chicken. Rabbit isn’t my thing but since I just inherited some dried red chili pepper from Arizona This recipe is next on my list! BUT WITH CHICKEN… lol

  • Shamanic_force

    I noticed, the author’s commentary about rabbit not being a common Mexican food?
    I dont know where you came to that conclusion, rabbits are a native Mexican food and all the tribes ate rabbit.  We ate a lot of conejo en salsa when were kids in rural Mexico when meat is scarce wild game is a common staple. Nothing French about it..

  • Cynthia

    I had decided to make shredded chicken in mole sauce for dinner one night this weekend and found your recipe while browsing online. I had hoped to just do it the easy way and find a spice mix or mole sauce at the grocery store, but the ingredients in the sauces I could find just didn’t sound good enough. I had to sub a few ingredients that I couldn’t find (Mexican chocolate being the most disappointing…), but the end result was worth the several hours of work! Delicious, and I learned a lot (mainly that I need a better/bigger food processor and some decent strainers)! If anyone else is planning to try this with the more basic end of kitchen appliances, I recommend adding extra water to the peppers after you purée them, then toss them in a good blender to get a better purée. Same goes for the spice/seed blend…add the chicken broth to the mixture, blend for a while, and then strain. The end result was smooth, earthy, extravagantly spicy (not hot…just rich)…delicious!

  • Eccovoz

    Usually I stay away from foodie blogs that try and do Mexican dishes, since I’m Mexican and very proud of traditional methods of cooking and recipes; I usually get pissy and rant and rave and dismiss the recipe out of principal. In particular, being from Guanajuato/Jalisco area I immensely dislike Tex-Mex cuisine and given the preponderance of those recipes in the food bloggosphere, I’m usually annoyingly disappointed. I’ve read several of your Mexican dish recipes and while a cavil about certain ingredients and would do some dishes differently, you are about the only food blogger whose “take” on Mexican dishes does not grate on my nerves. Your mole blog (which to me, mole is the epitome of Mexican cuisine–one of the most intricate and delicate dishes one can make, one for celebration and family and tradition) plays a sweet tribute to this amazing dish. So thank you.

  • Eva

    I made this for my birthday! I picked this recipe over the Diane Kennedy recipes because it seemed more authentic.  I live in a city that doesn’t have good authentic Mexican food so if I want good Mexican food I have to make it myself. I have high expectations because I’m Mexican. It was a huge hit at the dinner table and perfect meal for a celebration.

  • Robotoil

    Made this recipe. Worked out great. Plan for a lot of time at the end while the mole is reducing to stand by the pot and stir. Tasty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emma.hurley.7 Emma Hurley

    Hi, we have ‘raw’ chocolate in Ireland which sounds like Mexican chocolate. I would love to try this recipe but have no idea how much a ’round’ of chocolate is in weight. Can you help me out?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      90 grams

  • Elvia Herrera

    I think you are about the only person who actually makes ‘real’ mole sauce. My mom’s recipe is a little different but I’m actually glad that I found yours because I searched for this recipe and many people use either green peppers or chile powder, which I cannot believe. How can they call that mole? Idk, but your recipe is pretty decent. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Q Kh

    can cinnamon powder be substituted for pulverized cinnamon stick? and what else can be subbed for marjoram and masa harina, if anything?

  • Debra

    I love mole and it really does take time to make so I double the recipe , use half and freeze the rest….it does freeze well….just the sauce, not with the meat.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!