¡Amore Mole!


Ian Hilton

This is what your mole should look like in the middle of step 7 — barely bubbling and . . . swirly? Feb. 5, 2021

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and restaurants may be booked or closed. In my experience, however, creating a special dish for someone you love means more than purchasing one. 

Instead of focusing on a main dish (protein, veggie, combination, etc.), we’re going to play with flavors. Particularly, how do you enhance that special dish you’re planning to cook? I can’t think of a better sauce to accent your dish during this sensual season than mole (MOE-lay).

Consider this: Mole is spicy, hardy, sweet and, of course, chocolatey ― everything a relationship craves. Further, I need to advocate for its versatility. Whether you’re broiling a steak, baking chicken breasts, grilling a giant portobello (fantastic vegetarian option!) or pan-frying a dense fish, mole is the coup de grâce to satisfy the palate’s need for satisfaction.

Beyond listing ingredients and steps, I’m now including equipment needed. (No one wants to be in the middle of a recipe only to realize they need something unconventional like a planer or sifter.)

Let’s cook.

  • This is what your onion, garlic, tomato and chili mixture should look like by the end of step 3. Feb. 5, 2021
  • This is what your mole should look like in the middle of step 7 — barely bubbling and . . . swirly? Feb. 5, 2021
  • Pressure cooked Kansas City dry-rubbed pork loin with mole, served with sautéed green beans. Feb. 5, 2021
  • Next morning’s egg, cheese, black bean, salsa and bacon breakfast burrito with . . . mole! Again, versatility. Photo Feb. 6, 2021

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Serves: 12


1 medium nonstick sauté pan

1 chef’s knife

1 cutting board

1 blender (a food processor will work, it’ll just have to blend in portions)

Measuring cup and spoons

1 rubber spatula (Always have at least one of these. I cannot emphasize the many uses they provide.)


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

1 small to medium jalapeño, minced

14-15 ounces diced tomatoes with green chiles (cans can be found as 14.5 oz or 10 oz, but the combination is worth seeking out. I found mine at New Earth Market in Chico.)

4 tablespoons nut butter (I use smooth peanut butter, not chunky. For a “fattier” nut, use cashew butter.)

2 cups vegetable broth (If you’re cooking steak, use beef broth, chicken broth for chicken. I like vegetable broth because it fits with anything, again emphasizing the versatility of this sauce.)

2 teaspoons chili powder

½  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, preferably fresh ground

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, ground (see notes!)


1.  Heat skillet on medium and add oil

2.  Add onion and sauté until close to translucent (toss, but use that rubber spatula!). Add garlic and jalapeño and cook for another couple of minutes until fragrant.

3.  Add the tomatoes and chiles, reduce the heat to low, letting it simmer, and stir occasionally for 12-15 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat and transfer the tomato, chile, garlic and onion mixture into a blender.

5.  Add the peanut butter, vegetable broth, chili powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper to the blender.

6.  Blend well (really — let the blender run while you walk away and read some news on The Orion or something; allow it to really smooth out).

7.  Bring your sauté pan back to a medium heat and pour the mixture back in. Let it cook and reduce for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

8.  Add that cocoa, let it melt as you stir it in, then serve.


How spicy do you want this? I used one jalapeño and neglected adobo and chipotle pepper to provide a middle-ground recipe. Definitely add that sauce from a can of adobo peppers during the blending step to kick up some heat and dice a chipotle pepper for a more earthy/smoky flavor.

Cocoa/Cacao (There is a difference!). OK. The recipes I’ve combed through don’t call for the amount of cocoa I’ve used when making this dish professionally. I’ve found anywhere from 1 ½ tablespoon to 3 tablespoons online, and even when cooking in a restaurant, the usual ratio would have allowed for 4 tablespoons (as in this recipe). However, I like chocolate and I’m betting y’all do, too. Here’s what to consider:

  • Ground cacao is best. If you can get your hands on a big chunk of fresh cacao, grate it into a bowl with a planer and keep it in the freezer until that final step. In this case, use 4 to 6 tablespoons. If you can get cacao nibs (can be found in bulk sections in grocery stores), throw them into a food processor- same result.
  • Trader Joe’s has cocoa powder — unsweetened and available year-round. It’s cheaper and more available. In this case, use 6 to 8 tablespoons.

No matter which direction you prefer regarding heat or peppers, the cocoa/cacao is key.

Mole can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks and frozen for a couple of months.

Ian Hilton can be reached at [email protected]