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My pork mole features pork shoulder braised in a dark, rich and spicy ancho chile sauce. Make this Oaxacan mole negro recipe for a flavorful dinner!
Does thinking about ingredients like bittersweet chocolate and spicy Mexican chiles make your heart beat just a tiny bit faster? If so, then you are in for a real treat with this braised pork and mole negro recipe!
Mole is a dish that originates from the Pueblan and Oaxacan states of Mexico, and it’s considered to be the national dish of Mexico. There are 7 varieties of mole sauce, and while the ingredients for them vary, all include some dried chiles.
MYTH– All mole recipes include chocolate.
TRUTH– only 3 of the 7 traditional mole recipes are variations of chocolate mole.
The mole negro (sometimes called black mole sauce) that’s featured in this braised pork shoulder recipe is, in fact, a chocolate mole.
Pork mole negro
If you search Google for pork mole, you’ll see that many of the recipes online are for “quick mole”. This is slightly ironic, as making an authentic mole is a labor of love.
Although it may be tempting to use shortcuts to make the dish, I think you’ll find that the time required to make an authentic Oaxacan pork mole negro will be well worth it.
Why does mole take so long to make?
The reality is, a long simmering time is needed to create layers of flavor in the velvety rich sauce. Soaking dried chiles provides better flavor than using canned chiles. In the case of pork mole, when you make braised pork shoulder, it takes a while for the fat to render down to juicy tenderness.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please don’t let the time requirement scare you away from making pork mole negro. I can’t think of a more wonderful or delicious reason to spend an afternoon in the kitchen.
Besides, I have some simple ingredient substitutions for you that can shorten the prep time without sacrificing on the flavor. In the end, you’ll have a delicious authentic Oaxacan mole negro dinner that you can be proud of!
Short of using a bone-in roast, I think boneless pork shoulder yields the best flavor. The cut may be labeled as pork butt or Boston butt.
If you’re unable to find boneless pork shoulder, good substitutes are a picnic roast or boneless pork loin roast.
Chiles in pork mole negro
You’ll need both fresh and dried chilies for an authentic mole sauce. If your local grocery store doesn’t stock dried chiles, they can be found at Mexican specialty markets, or you can purchase them online.
- Fresh poblano- These chilies have an earthy flavor and mild spiciness. Good substitutions are Anaheim or Serrano chili peppers.
- Dried pasilla- Also known as Chile Negro, pasilla chiles are the dried form of Chilaca chili peppers. Pasilla peppers, with notes of berry and cocoa, are a key ingredient to the flavors of pork mole negro, and really shouldn’t be substituted.
If absolutely necessary, you could use dried ancho chiles, or for an earthy and much spicier flavor, guajillo are an acceptable substitute for pasilla.
- Dried ancho- Ancho chiles are the dried form of fresh poblano peppers. If you’re unable to find dried anchos, substitute 1 tsp dried ancho powder for 1 whole dried chile pepper.
Pro Tip- Choosing Dried Chiles
Select dried chilies that are pliable, with a shiny, almost glossy appearance. Pick one up and gently shake it. If it’s brittle, or you hear a lot of seeds shaking around inside, it’s likely past its prime.
The secret to creating flavorful pork mole negro is not only using spices like anise, clove, cinnamon and coriander, but also using whole spices rather than ground.
The whole spices will be toasted on the stove top, which releases their oils and full flavor.
Yes, mole negro is a chocolate mole sauce, but don’t let it mislead you to think that the sauce is sweet; it’s not. Mexican chocolate is dark, with a high cocoa content and bittersweet flavor. The chocolate is sold in solid cake form, each weighing 4 to 5 ounces.
For additional chocolate flavor in the Oaxacan mole sauce, you can certainly add more chocolate.
The traditional thickening agent for a mole negro sauce is a combination of ground almonds and fresh corn tortillas. Using cornstarch, roux, or arrowroot slurry to thicken a mole gives the dish a pasty texture; just say no.
Tips for flavorful pork mole
- Use the freshest and highest quality ingredients possible.
- Dry toast and soak the dried chiles before using.
- Sear the pork before braising. Searing the pork seals in the juices so the meat is perfectly juicy.
Braised pork shoulder in a slow cooker or Instant Pot
It takes 4 to 5 hours to braise a pork shoulder slowly on the stovetop, which yields the best flavor. If you need or want to use a slow cooker or Instant Pot to cook your pork mole, you can. However, I did not test this recipe with either of those methods.
Either way, be sure to sear the meat first. In a slow cooker, you’ll likely need to cook the pork for 8 hours on Low, or 4-5 hours on High. I do not recommend braising pork at High heat. The roast needs to cook slowly to render down the fat.
My favorite way to eat pork mole is tostada or taco style.
Use two forks to shred the meat, then combine it with some of the sauce- just enough to keep the pork moist.
Serve the shredded pork mole on charred tortillas, then add a bit more more sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds for a little extra crunch.
If you’d like you could also top the dish with avocado crema, sour cream, or guacamole, and some chopped cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, check out my guacamole recipe without cilantro. It’s not authentic, but it IS delicious!
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Oct. 19, 2013, was last updated with new content on Dec. 17, 2021.
Pork Mole Negro
Molé Negro Sauce
- 4 dried Chile Negro (See Note 1)
- 4 dried ancho chiles (See Note 2)
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 corn tortillas 8″ round size
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp anise seeds
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic
- 4 oz Mexican chocolate cut into 4 pieces (See Note 3)
- 4 cups chicken stock divided
- 4 plum tomatoes quartered
- 1 medium white onion quartered
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1 cone Piloncillo (See Note 4)
- 3 tbsp salt
- Dry toast the Negro and Ancho chiles in a sauté pan until they give off an aroma and are pliable. Remove and discard the stems. Place in a bowl and cover with warm water and let steep 15 minutes.
- In the same sauté pan dry toast two corn tortillas slightly and set aside. Dry toast the almonds, sesame, coriander, anise seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick for a minute or two.
- In a blender or food processor add the previous toasted tortillas, seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, garlic, Mexican chocolate and 2 cups chicken stock. Blend until a thick paste forms. Add the chopped tomatoes, onion, raisins, soaked peppers and juice from the steeping bowl. Blend until pureed.
- Place all in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add a cone of piloncillo and the kosher salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and sear on all sides until brown in skillet. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup chicken stock and set aside. Add pork to the large molé cooking pot along with bell peppers, Poblano chilies, onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, cumin, deglazed pan juices and remaining 2 cups chicken stock. Simmer, uncovered for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until fork tender.
- Carefully remove meat from molé and shred. Use an immersion blender and puree mole sauce until smooth, or pour into a blender and puree.
- Serve the shredded pork and spoon molé sauce on top along with toasted sesame seeds with tortillas. Serve with guacamole and pico de gallo.
- Pasilla (Spanish for “little raisin”) chiles, also known as Chile Negro, have a thin flesh with notes of berry. Pasilla chiles are the dried form of the Chilaca pepper.
- Ancho chiles are the dried form of the Poblano pepper.
- I will often double the chocolate for a richer flavor. Mexican chocolate cakes vary in size some between 3-4 ounces.
- 8 oz. Mexican sugar cone, unrefined whole cane sugar. Feel free to substitute brown sugar.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.