What Is Mole Sauce And What Does It Taste Like?

When you break it down, mole is a sauce. But, when you really look at mole, it becomes something more than just a simple sauce. Mole, which originates from Mexico, is a rich, multilayer, and multi-ingredient sauce that is typically served over rice, meats, and burritos, America's Test Kitchen explains. The term "mole" is said to derive from the Nahuatl word molli, which means "sauce." Taste of Home reveals that there are over 40 different types of mole, some being made without the most prominent ingredient — chocolate

Pronounced "moh-lay," the sauce is considered to be a result of the blending of both New World and Old World flavors, as it combines a hefty ingredient list, oftentimes making mole a time-consuming dish to cook (via America's Test Kitchen). The jury is still out on what the true origins of this sauce are, but Mexican scholar Jim Peyton shares two of the more popular ones in his book New Cooking From Old Mexico. One is that a nun named Sor Andrea prepared this dish for a dignitary who was visiting her convent. The second theory was that an Aztec woman who was her assistant created it.

What exactly makes mole taste the way it does?

A recipe for the dish calls for about 17 different ingredients, according to The Spruce Eats. The recipe calls for ingredients like onion, garlic, tomatoes, pork lard, Mexican oregano, peppercorns, guajillo chiles, and masa (typically used for tortillas). Traditionally, all the ingredients are blended by using a molcajete, also known as a mortar and pestle, but a sturdy blender will do the trick just fine. 

Being that there are so many variations of mole, each one is going to taste a bit different from the next. According to America's Test Kitchen, some taste sweeter, while others taste spicier. Due to the distinct ingredients needed to make each one, mole can feature smokier, earthier notes as well. Once all the ingredients have been evenly mixed together and cooked down, you should end up with a velvety and smooth sauce. America's Test Kitchen also notes that some additional ingredients like toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts can be added to the sauce to help thicken it a bit more.