Mole Amarillo, also known as Yellow Mole, is a classic Mexican sauce that is served with meat dishes. It has a rich, savory flavor and smooth texture. But what gives Mole Amarillo its distinctive yellow color and flavor? Here is an in-depth look at the main ingredients that go into this popular mole sauce.
Yellow mole gets its vibrant color primarily from dried yellow chile peppers. The most common types used include guajillo, puya, and costeño chiles. These all have a moderately spicy flavor and contribute a reddish-orange hue to the sauce. When they are toasted and ground into a powder, it creates a deep golden colored base for the mole. Other types of dried chiles that may be used include mulato, pasilla, and ancho.
In addition to chiles, tomatoes are a key component of Mole Amarillo. Tomatoes add rich umami flavor, acidity to balance out the other ingredients, and boost the reddish-orange color. Standard red tomatoes are often used. Yellow tomatoes can also be incorporated to enhance the yellow tones of the sauce.
Onions, garlic, and cilantro are examples of aromatic vegetables that give Mole Amarillo a complex, layered flavor profile. Onions and garlic provide savory, slightly sweet undertones. Cilantro offers fresh herbal notes. Other vegetables like carrots may be used as well. Roasted or charred vegetables add smoky undertones to the mole.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts like peanuts, almonds, and sesame seeds lend a nutty flavor and creamy texture to Mole Amarillo. When they are toasted, the nuts and seeds also contribute richer, more complex flavors. Other nuts like pumpkin seeds are also sometimes used.
Warm spices are an essential component of Mole Amarillo. Common spices added to the sauce include cumin, clove, cinnamon, and black pepper. These spices add layers of earthy, aromatic flavor. Other potential spices used include allspice, coriander, and aniseed.
In addition to cilantro, other fresh and dried herbs are used to round out the complex flavor profile of Mole Amarillo. Common herbs include oregano, thyme, marjoram, and Mexican oregano. These Mediterranean herbs offer earthy, floral aromas and flavors.
Chocolate and Sugar
Authentic Mole Amarillo also relies on chocolate and sugar to balance out the spice and acidity. Dark chocolate or cocoa powder lends subtle chocolate notes. Sugar provides some sweetness to the rich, savory sauce. The chocolate and sugar help create a harmonious blend of flavors.
Broth and Liquid
The sauce base of Mole Amarillo is created by simmering and thickening the chiles, vegetables, spices, and other ingredients in broth. Chicken or turkey broth are most commonly used. Onion, garlic, tomatoes and other aromatics are cooked in the broth to build deep, savory flavor. The broth and liquid ingredients bring all the components together into a thick, luscious sauce.
Corn masa harina, a dried corn flour, is traditionally used as the thickener for Mole Amarillo. When whisked into the hot liquid, it gradually thickens the mole into a smooth, rich consistency. Other potential thickeners include bread crumbs, crackers, avocado, and even bananas.
Putting It All Together
There are many variations on Mole Amarillo depending on the region or family recipe. But in general, this flavorful sauce contains some combination of the following core ingredients:
- Dried yellow chile peppers
- Onions and garlic
- Nuts like peanuts or almonds
- Warm spices like cumin, cinnamon, and black pepper
- Herbs like cilantro, oregano, and thyme
- Chocolate or cocoa powder
- Chicken or turkey broth
- A thickener like corn masa
These ingredients are toasted, pureed, simmered together, and thickened into a rich, golden sauce. The complexity of flavors and textures is what makes Mole Amarillo such a versatile and craveable component of Mexican cuisine. It can transform simple meat and vegetable dishes into complex culinary delights.
Key Steps to Making Mole Amarillo
While recipes can vary, there are some key steps that go into making authentic Mole Amarillo:
- Toast dried chiles on a comal or skillet until fragrant and blistered
- Soak chiles in hot water until rehydrated, then blend into a smooth paste
- Toast other ingredients like garlic, onions, nuts, seeds, and spices
- Puree toasted ingredients with tomatoes, herbs, broth, and a bit of the chile paste
- Simmer mole paste with additional broth and liquid to meld flavors
- Once simmered, add chocolate, masa harina, and remaining chile paste
- Continue simmering and stirring until desired consistency is reached
- Season with salt to taste
This process develops deep, complex layers of flavor and yields the ideal rich, creamy texture.
While exact recipes vary, a typical Mole Amarillo contains ingredients in roughly the following proportions:
|Onions and garlic||10%|
|Nuts and seeds||10%|
These percentages can be adjusted based on individual preferences and the specific chiles, spices, and other ingredients used.
Choosing the Right Chiles
When making your own Mole Amarillo, pay close attention to the types of dried chiles you use, as they make the biggest impact on flavor and color. Here are some guidelines for selecting chiles:
- Use a blend of moderately spicy dried chiles like guajillo, puya, and costeño
- Aim for a mix of deep red-orange and yellow chiles
- Toast chiles well to develop flavor – they should blister and become fragrant
- Rehydrate the chiles fully before blending into a paste
- Consider adding some smoky, bittersweet chiles like mulato or pasilla
Experiment with different ratios of chile types to achieve your preferred spice level, flavor profile, and vibrant yellow-orange color.
Toasting and Blooming Spices
To maximize the flavor of the spices, it’s important to toast them properly before adding to the mole. Here are some tips for blooming spices for Mole Amarillo:
- Toast whole spices like cumin, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks over medium heat until fragrant, 1-2 minutes
- For ground spices like cumin and black pepper, bloom briefly in hot oil or broth to release oils and aromas
- Add onion, garlic, and herbs early on so they soften and meld with other ingredients
- Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth to pick up any browned spice bits
Proper toasting and blooming is key for building deep, complex layers of spice flavor.
Simmering and Thickening
Getting the right consistency for Mole Amarillo requires patience and attentive simmering. Follow these tips for success:
- Gradually add more broth as you build flavor layers
- Simmer mole for 45-60 minutes to allow flavors to meld together
- Add corn masa mixed with broth in a thin stream while stirring
- Continue simmering while thickening to avoid lumps in the masa
- The mole is done when it coats the back of a spoon and has a smooth, velvety texture
Avoid simmering too fast or too long to prevent excess evaporation. The mole should thicken gradually as the masa cooks and expands.
Seasoning and Balance
To finish a mole amarillo, you need to carefully balance and adjust the seasonings:
- Taste and season with salt after it has finished simmering
- If too bitter, add a touch more sugar or chocolate
- If too thick, add more warm broth until desired consistency is reached
- If too spicy, add a spoonful of smooth peanut butter to mellow it out
- When properly seasoned, flavors should harmonize and complement each other
A well-balanced Mole Amarillo will have a rich, rounded flavor with a hint of heat and complexity.
Mole Amarillo is very versatile – here are some serving ideas:
- Serve over chicken, turkey, or other poultry
- Use as sauce for enchiladas, tamales, and tacos
- Spoon over fried or poached eggs
- Ladle over roasted or fried potatoes
- Drizzle over roasted vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, or carrots
- Stir into green or grain bowls
This brilliantly colored mole can transform simple ingredients into memorable Mexican-inspired dishes. A little bit goes a long way!
To store leftover Mole Amarillo:
- Let it cool completely before transferring to airtight containers
- Store in the fridge for 5-7 days
- Freeze for longer term storage up to 3 months
- The flavor may deepen over time as spices meld together
- If it thickens too much, thin it with broth when reheating
Mole amarillo can also be made in large batches and frozen in meal-sized portions for grabbing whenever you need quick mole flavor!
With its vibrant yellow-orange hue, rich savoriness, and subtle heat, Mole Amarillo represents the complex alchemy of Mexican cuisine. Skillfully balancing dried chiles, warm spices, nuts, seeds, chocolate, and vegetables creates a sauce that is both comforting and celebratory. Each home or region in Mexico likely has its own treasured recipe that reflects generations of cooking traditions. Part of Mole Amarillo’s appeal lies in customizing your own version using your preferred ingredients, ratios, and techniques. With so many options for layering flavors, colors, and textures, Mole Amarillo is endlessly adaptable to cooks’ personal tastes and creativity.