Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crock-Pot Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole over white rice
Chicken Mole over white rice
Mole (correctly pronounced "MOH-leh," not "MOH-lay") is a traditional Mexican sauce with many different variations, much like authentic Indian curry or Latin American "sofrito." All mole sauces are based on dried chile peppers, and many also include nuts or seeds plus unsweetened cocoa powder or Mexican chocolate. A mole sauce should be very thick in texture, more like a puree, and deliver a rich, complex and almost earthy flavor.

A popular mole sauce enjoyed in Mexico and served at many Mexican restaurants in the United States is Mole Poblano. This mole is brick-red or reddish brown in color and is often enjoyed with chicken, although it is also excellent with turkey and even pork. My recipe is a version of Chicken Mole Poblano adapted for the crock pot or slow cooker. Using a blender or food processor for making the mole sauce and a crock pot for cooking eliminates much of the time-consuming manual labor otherwise involved in making chicken mole from scratch. Once you have all the ingredients ready, it takes only minutes to prepare the sauce and assemble everything in the crock pot. Cooking the chicken mole will take less than 4 hours if cooked on High, or about 8 hours if cooked on Low. For easiest preparation, read through the entire recipe and Notes at the end, where I point out things I might change the next time I make chicken mole. This recipe serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients for chicken mole
Ingredients for chicken mole
1 chicken (2 1/2 to 3 lbs), cut into pieces & skinned
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs slivered almonds, toasted (garnish)
Cooked rice (for serving)

Ingredients for Mole Sauce
2 or 3 dried chile peppers: Ancho, Poblano, New Mexico or Pasilla (or combination)*
2 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup (for a mild dish) to 1/2 cup (for medium-hot) diced canned or jarred jalapenos
3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbs raisins
making Mexican mole sauce
Blending the Mole sauce
1 Tbs sesame seeds
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp anise seed**
1/8 tsp cinnamon**
1/8 tsp coriander**
1/8 tsp nutmeg**

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in your blender or food processor, and blend or process until pureed (it will be thick, and you may want to pause to stir from time to time while processing).

Arrange the chicken pieces in the bottom of your crock pot or slow cooker, then pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook until chicken is done: Approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low. While the chicken is cooking, you can toast the almonds for the garnish, and also make the rice.

cooking crock pot chicken mole
Before thickening the mole
When the chicken is almost done, carefully ladle out 1 cup or so of the sauce into a bowl or a mason jar with a lid. Let cool for a few minutes and carefully skim off any fat that may have risen to the surface. Likewise, if there is a top layer of fat over the sauce in the crock pot, you may want to skim some or all of it if possible. When the cup of sauce has cooled a bit, add the cornstarch: If using the bowl, whisk vigorously until thoroughly combined; if using the lidded mason jar, vigorously shake until fully combined. Pour this back into the crock pot and carefully stir to fully incorporate (this will help thicken the sauce). Cover and allow the chicken to finish cooking--you might want to shift from High to Low heat if concerned about scorching.

Serve by arranging the chicken pieces over cooked rice, ladling the mole sauce over the chicken and sprinkling with toasted almonds.

*Note: Choose your dried chiles based on how hot and spicy you like your food. Of those listed, New Mexicos are the mildest, followed by Poblanos, then Anchos and finally Pasilla peppers. None of these are hotter than jalapenos.

**Note: Using these spice amounts, the mole was not quite as robust or complex in flavor as I would have liked. You might want to increase the amount slightly of one or more of these spices, or experiment with adding an additional spice or two such as cumin or even some oregano.

Larry's Mole Sauce
Buy Larry's Mole Sauce
Additional Note: The next time I make this recipe, I'll first roast the almonds and sesame seeds, or perhaps replace the sesame seeds with roasted pumpkin seeds. Roasting will provide a deeper, richer flavor. As to the chicken, feel free to use bone-in, skinless chicken thighs and legs, or even turkey legs, instead of a cut-up whole chicken. If you try this recipe and make any modifications, please leave a comment to let us know what you did and how it turned out.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own mole sauce, an excellent one to try is Larry's All-Natural Mole Sauce.


  1. I am printing this as we speak! Can't wait to throw it in the crock pot! Still got some smoked chilies left, they'll add their own note... Thank you, please submit more any given time .-)

    1. Ray, thanks so much for your enthusiastic comment! I think smoked chiles would be PERFECT, and would provide the greater depth of flavor that I was looking for. Please do let me know how your chicken mole turns out, and feel free to share your recipe here or on the Carolina Sauce Company Facebook page.
      Zestfully yours,

    2. Hi Gloria,
      Just didi it again yesterday and found out that 1/2 a chipotle is exactly right, everything else and it takes over the flavor...

    3. Hi Ray,

      Thanks for sharing that tip, and glad you're enjoying the recipe! Yep, the strong flavor of chipotles can easily dominate a recipe, so it's good to know that half of one is plenty (I know I probably would have otherwise made the mistake of using a whole chipotle). If you took any photos you'd like to share, or want to share your tip on our Facebook page, please feel free.

      Zestfully yours,

  2. Hi, Gloria -- Thanks for recommending Larry's All-Natural Mole Sauce. I'm Larry, the maker of Larry's Sauces. Your recipe looks great, too! I have a bunch of mole sauce recipes at my web site

    1. Hi Larry, it's so nice to "meet" you! Thanks for stopping by my blog and I look forward to checking out your recipes. Stay zesty, my friend :-)