If you are craving mole, but cringe at the idea of making a mole poblano from scratch or rolling the dice on a store-bought mole, this mole verde is your answer. This mole can be ready in less than 2 hours (or even less time if you start with pre-cooked shredded chicken and store-bought chicken broth). This is WAY less time than making a mole poblano from scratch. Mole verde is aromatic, comforting, and filling and is perfect for the mole novice!
What is mole and where is it from?
Origin of mole and variations
Whenever I am looking for information on Mexican food, I first turn to my trusty Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana authored by Ricardo Muñoz Zurita. His commentary and information on mole spans 15 pages, including a table listing 71 varieties of moles by name, main ingredients, and regions in which these varieties are most common. That’s a whole lot of mole!
The word mole (say it like moe-lay) comes from the Náhuatl word mulli, meaning sauce. Mole can refer to an infinite amount of dishes, usually prepared with a thick sauce. The most common is called mole oscuro (dark mole), also known as mole poblano (mole from Puebla), named for where this particular variety originated.
Mole can also refer to stews, like mole de olla (say it like moe-lay day oy-yah). This is a common stew in central Mexico made with corn, chayotes (a type of squash), Mexican gray squash, potatoes, green beans, beef, or pork in a broth made with dried chiles.
Where does this mole verde come from?
The mole verde that I am sharing with you here is my mother-in-law’s recipe. This was (and still is) one of my husband’s favorite dishes and he often asked his mom to make this for the afternoon comida when he was growing up. Once I learned that this was one of his favorites, I had to ask my mother-in-law how to make it!
This type of mole is a common variety in central Mexico states like Morelos, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and the Federal District. Mole verde is made with green chile, pepitas, tomatillos, and a variety of green aromatic herbs. This dish is usually served with chicken, pork, or vegetables.
How to make mole verde
Make the chicken and broth
My mother-in-law is a make things from scratch type. What I mean by that is, she would NEVER tell me to use store-bought chicken broth or a shredded rotisserie chicken to make this meal. That would be sacrilege. So, I am going to share with you her version of making the broth and chicken, but I won’t tell anyone if you short-cut this recipe with premade ingredients ?.
The broth my mother-in-law uses for this dish is super straightforward, and I would highly recommend making it from scratch if you can. Place the chicken thighs in a pot, cover with water and add 1/2 a white onion, 3 cloves garlic whole with the skins on, and about 15 stalks of cilantro. Allow the chicken to simmer until the meat is tender and pulls away easily from the bone, about 1-1.5 hours.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the broth from the heat, discard the vegetables, and set aside. Now you have the broth and the chicken that will be used in the final dish done!
Toast the pepitas
Pepitas are seeds from fruit or squash. The variety that we use in this dish is called pepita verde, a seed named for its light green color. I buy these seeds already peeled. My mother-in-law uses them with the skins on. The skins are edible and really, whether you use them with or without skins is a personal preference. The seeds are green, oval-shaped with pointed ends.
These will toast up fast in a skillet on the stove, so keep your eye on them! I like to work in batches to make sure that the pan isn’t overcrowded so I can evenly toast the seeds. I heat a dry skillet over medium heat, add about half of the pepitas and toast them for just a couple of minutes. Stir these while they toast to keep them from burning. They will start to brown slightly and jump in the pan when they are ready. Remove from the heat and repeat with the other batch.
Make the sauce
Once you have the pepitas toasted and the chicken broth made (or bought), you can work to finish the sauce. Note that the recipe quantity states that you will need between 2 and 2.5 cups of chicken broth. I start with 2 cups total and then gradually add broth if needed. Using a blender, add about half of the sauce ingredients and blend until liquified. Then add in the remaining ingredients and continue processing until the sauce takes on a thick, but liquid texture. The sauce may have a grainy appearance due to the pepitas. That is ok, as long as the sauce doesn’t feel grainy to the touch. It may take you a few minutes in the blender to get the sauce to the right consistency.
Next, you will want to heat a bit of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add in the sauce. Now for the hands-on part! You will want to stir the mole slowly in the pan in one direction only. I have been told by the Mexican señoras that make mole, that you must only move the mole in one direction. They say that this will prevent the mole ingredients from separating. Continue moving the mole consistently for about the next half hour.
The sauce should simmer gently while stir. You don’t have to stir for the whole half hour. But, the sauce should be moved often to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan and to encourage the flavors to blend.
Towards the end of the half-hour, you will notice that the sauce will have changed from a vibrant green color to a dull green. The sauce will be thick, but should still be pourable. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with additional chicken broth as needed. Taste the sauce for salt and add if necessary.
Putting everything together
With the sauce ready, you have a couple of options for serving your delicious mole. You can shred your cooked chicken and add it to the sauce. Give it a stir and serve with a side of Mexican red rice or on top of a black bean tamal. These are my two favorite ways to eat mole verde!
Another option is to leave the chicken thighs whole and simply pour the mole verde over the top. Have warm corn tortillas available to make a mole verde taco or simply to sop up any extra sauce! Enjoy!
Source: Graciela Martinez, Morelos, Mexico
Mole Verde with Chicken
Homemade chicken broth
- ~2 lbs Bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 6) ~900g, see notes
- 3 cloves garlic with skins on
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 15 stalks cilantro
Mole Verde Sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 medium white onion
- ~1 bunch cilantro Use what is leftover from making the stock, if making from scratch
- 1 cup pepitas, peeled ~135g or ~5 ounces
- 2 serrano peppers stem, seeds, and veins removed
- 4-6 medium tomatillos ~380g or ~13 ounces
- 2-2.5 cups chicken broth can substitute for store-bought
- 20 epazote leaves
- 1/2 tsp dried ground cumin
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- Cooked chicken thighs from homemade broth, served whole or shredded See notes
- Place chicken in a large pot, cover with water, and add 1/2 a white onion, 3 cloves garlic (whole with skins), and 15 stalks of cilantro.
- Heat pot over medium-high heat until simmering, reduce heat to low, cover, and continue simmering until chicken is fall off the bone tender, about 1-1.5 hours.
- Remove the chicken and broth from the heat, discard the vegetables and set aside.
Mole Verde Sauce
- Heat a skillet over medium heat, working in batches toast the pepitas until they are slightly toasted and start popping, stirring constantly to keep them from burning, about 2 minutes per batch.
- Working in batches, blend the tomatillos, onion, garlic, chicken broth*, chiles, epazote, cilantro, pepitas, and cumin. The sauce will be thick and have a grainy appearance, but make sure that it doesn't feel grainy to the touch and that everything is well blended and almost smooth. This may take several minutes in the blender. I usually blend about half the ingredients for 1 full minute, then add the other half and blend until smooth. *I start with 2 cups of chicken broth and use more if needed to achieve a smooth consistency.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat until shimmering, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer, slowly stirring in one direction only for about 25-30 minutes. The sauce will start to thicken and take on an army green color. You can use additional broth here to adjust the consistency if desired.
- The mole should be thick, but still have a liquid consistency (you don't want to cook this down to a paste, it should still be pourable). It will also be aromatic. Taste the sauce after about 25 minutes and adjust for salt and broth as necessary.
- Serve over a whole piece of chicken thigh or add shredded chicken (debone the cooked chicken thighs or use pre-cooked shredded chicken) to the sauce and stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.
- Eliminate the ingredients needed for making homemade broth if using store-bought
- 3 cups of cooked shredded chicken can be substituted for the chicken thighs
- The total cook time is considering the time needed to cook chicken thighs and make the broth from scratch. If you are starting with cooked, shredded chicken and store-bought broth, the total cook time will be about 40 minutes.