Mole Poblano: A Traditional Mexican Dish

Mole is one of the most recognizable dishes in Mexican cuisine. Symbolic of the way Mexico blended European and Aztec cultures in the years after the Spanish Conquest, mole is made from a unique mixture of chocolate and hot peppers. This provides a rich, unique and complex topping for a variety of dishes.

How Did Mole Poblano Come into Being?

Approximately 300 years ago, some of the poorest citizens of the Santa Rosa convent were preparing for a visit by the archbishop. Struggling to come up with a dish worthy of him, the nuns of the area butchered an old turkey. They mixed stale bread, nuts, chocolate, chili peppers, and spices to season the meat and make it more edible.

Some versions of the story even say the chocolate was added by accident, but the nuns in charge of the dish didn’t have time to fix the mistake.

Despite the nuns’ horror at what they saw as a poor offering, the archbishop loved it and asked the nuns what they called the dish. One nun reportedly responded that it was merely called “mole,” which was a Spanish pronunciation of an old Aztec word mulli, or sauce.

Mole has maintained its name ever since then. It is in the history books as the first authentic international dish ever developed within the confines of the Americas.

How Has Mole Changed Over The Centuries?

While the basic recipe used to concoct mole has stayed virtually the same for centuries, the way mole is served in traditional cultures has changed. Early in its history, mole was the food of choice for special events and celebrations of all economic classes.

Weddings in Mexico traditionally feature mole, for example, and the preparation of the delicious sauce was traditionally a robust community event, wherein each person had a part to play in the experience.

Today, however, Mexico’s upper classes have mostly stopped serving mole poblano at their special events. They prefer catered or imported foods, instead. What’s more, many classes of people throughout Mexico have stopped preparing mole altogether. This means that the ancient recipes and methods are slowly dying.

Fortunately, a few choice groups throughout Mexico and beyond still know how to make mole in the traditional way of their ancestors. Despite the changing cultural tides, the ingredients for mole are still simple and readily available. While there are different versions of the sauce, the four primary components are chilies, a sour ingredient (such as tomatillos), a sweet ingredient (such as a mixture of fruits and sugars,) and a thickener, which is typically nuts or tortillas.

The Cultural and Religious Meanings of Mole

Beyond just being delicious, mole has a deep cultural and religious meaning for the people of Mexico. The process of making mole is time-consuming and labor intensive. Traditional lore dictates that the person making the mole should never become angry since this will spoil the sauce.

Different versions of mole, such as mole de caderas are served during celebratory times, such as butchering festivals. People prepare the sauce communally and establish an altar to ensure an ample harvest during the upcoming year. Other versions of the sauce, such as huxamole, are also served over goat and prepared for holy days and festivals.

Experiencing Mole Poblano in the Modern Day

Mexican cuisine is a very diverse and fluid form of food. While many Mexican dishes have changed significantly throughout the centuries, mole poblano is one notable exception. It features the same ingredients, preparation method, and serving styles as it did 300 years ago. For this reason, mole poblano remains an outstanding demonstration of authentic Mexican culture and cuisine.

Mole Poblano is not served as frequently throughout Mexico as it once was. However, it maintains a special place in the heart of Mexican people and their families. Today, only the most authentic Mexican restaurants still make the sauce. This means that even people who have never experienced mole poblano can enjoy its rich, complex flavor.

At Benito’s Authentic Mexican Grill, we prepare mole poblano the way it has always been in traditional Mexico. We promise that our mole will help you catch a glimpse into a piece of Mexican heritage that’s been unchanged for hundreds of years. Visit us today at our Fort Worth location to get your very own plate!