Oaxacan yellow mole: Amarillo 

articles Food & Cuisine Recipes

Karen Hursh Graber

Called simply (and fondly) “amarillo,” this Oaxacan mole dish is a specialty of the Central Valleys region of this southern Mexico state. Although usually made with chicken, it is one of the few moles that are excellent with beef. It can be served in a bowl with cooked vegetables, such as chayote, potatoes and green beans, or in empanadas. In the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, it is frequently served in empanadas with shredded chicken and a leaf of the anis-tasting herb hoja santa.


For the chicken or beef:

  • 1 3 ½ – 4 pound chicken or an equal amount of stewing beef
  • 1 celery stalk with some leaves
  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste

For the sauce:

  • 6 chilcostle chiles or ½ ounce of chihuacles amarillos or guajillos, seeded and deveined
  • 2 ancho chiles, seeded and deveined
  • ½ pound tomatoes, charred and skinned
  • ½ pound tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½ head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 whole allspice
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon lard or corn oil
  • 4 ounces prepared masa (corn dough) or ½ cup masa harina mixed with ¼ cup water
  • 4 cups strained broth from chicken or beef
  • 3 small, fresh hoja santa leaves, if using chicken (see NOTE, below)
  • salt to taste

Place the chicken or beef, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaves and salt to taste in a stockpot with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until the chicken or beef is tender. Let the chicken or beef cool in the broth, strain broth and set aside.

Toast the chiles just until the point of fragrance, taking care not to burn them. Cover them with 1 ½ cups of hot broth to cover for 20 minutes. Puree the chiles and their soaking liquid in a blender. Pass the puree through a food mill and set aside.

Boil the tomatoes and tomatillos in 1 cup broth until the tomatillos soften. Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, broth, onion and garlic in a blender and puree. Pass through a food mill and set aside.

Toast the cloves, allspice, peppercorn and cumin seeds lightly on a comal or dry griddle, grind in a spice mill.

Heat the lard or corn oil in a heavy stockpot or cazuela, add the chile puree and fry for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomato mixture and the ground spices, stir to blend well and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Blend the masa or masa harina mixture well with 1 cup of the broth and add to the mole. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Add 2-2 ½ cups of broth to thin the mole to the consistency of heavy cream. Add the whole hoja santa leaves to the mole.

Serve the mole in bowls, with sauce generously ladled over the pieces of chicken or beef. Accompany with warm tortillas.

Serves 6.

NOTE: If fresh hoja santa (piper auritum) is not available, lightly toasted and finely ground avocado leaves may be substituted or the herb omitted. When preparing the mole with beef, Oaxacan cooks add fresh pitonia (lippia alba) instead of the hoja santa. Again, if this is not available, it may be omitted.

Link to source articles
Market day in Ocotlan, Oaxaca: Gourmet grazing in Southern Mexico
Demystifying Mole, México’s National Dish

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2003 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2003
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