moleFebruary is American Heart Month, a natural time to showcase heart-warming aphrodisiacs like chocolate, chilies, and garlic in traditional Mexican mole sauce. “Mole” comes from the Aztec word molli, which means stew or sauce. It is often made with cocoa or chocolate, ingredients the Aztecs embraced as aphrodisiacs. Chilies, members of the capsicum family, are also purported aphrodisiacs, given their ability to stimulate salivation and appetite, to increase perspiration, and to cause the brain to release pain-soothing endorphins. Garlic contains a high concentration of allicin, which helps increase blood flow, thereby improving libido and sexual performance. Mix all of these together and it’s hard to imagine a more potent and flavorful combination.


During these cooler winter months, Ayurveda teaches us to warm from the inside out with pungent flavors like garlic, peppers, and chilies, as well as to ground and calm ourselves with sweet tastes like caramelized onions, raisins, and chocolate. Mole sauce fits this bill—it is traditionally constructed from a foundation of pungent chilies rounded out by the sour taste of tomatillos or tomatoes, sweetened by cocoa, chocolate and/or dried fruits, zipped up with dried spices, and thickened with seeds, nuts and/or tortillas.


To simplify the labor and shorten the slow-roasting time required of traditional mole sauce, I’ve used a combination of fresh, dried, and smoked chilies to maintain depth, complexity and flavor while still saving time. When shopping for fresh pasillas, look for a dark-green, heart-shaped and shiny pepper, about 4-6 inches long, labeled either poblano or pasilla, since their names are often interchanged. While fairly hot when raw, they mellow to just barely spicy when cooked. If fresh ones are not available, aim for a dried arbol chili instead, soaked and reconstituted in water.


While usually served over turkey, pork, or chicken, this simplified mole sauce works well over sweet potatoes and/or tofu seasoned easily with grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and cumin, and roasted at 400 degrees until browned. Sweet potatoes provide a bright foil for the mole’s initial heat, but as you continue savoring it, the fire mellows and the nuances of smoke and chocolate begin to come through. Prepared mole sauce will keep for about three days in the refrigerator and freezes well. However, leftover sauce makes a great topping for eggs or can be diluted with broth and augmented with black beans and veggies for a quick take on vegetarian chili.


Mole Sauce, Simplified


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yields: 2½ cups
Ingredients: 3 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil1 fat red onion, peeled and chopped1 pasilla or poblano pepper, seeded and diced2 chipotle chilies, canned and smoked in adobo sauce

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground oregano

1 tsp paprika

¼ tsp crushed red chili flakes, optional and to taste

2 Tbsp sesame seeds (preferably black)

2 garlic cloves, peeled, then pressed and/or minced

½ tsp coarse sea salt

¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup vegetable broth (preferably homemade or low-sodium), plus more for thinning

1/3 cup cacao nibs or 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies (14-15 oz)

4 Tbsp raisins

Directions: Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized Dutch oven or stockpot; chop and drop the onion, then pasilla or poblano pepper into the oil and cook until softened and lightly browned.Add the dried spices and seeds to the pot and stir until they release their fragrance – about 3 minutes. Mince and stir in the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until garlic begins to soften.Pour in the broth, tomatoes, cacao or cocoa, and raisins and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes until everything is tender and the flavors marry.Puree with an immersion blender or more carefully with a Vitamix or food processor until it reaches a nearly smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more broth to thin as needed.




Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor and Seasonal Eating Expert