Why It Works
- Cilantro, epazote, and romaine lettuce add fresh, herbal notes—a signature characteristic of mole verde.
- Toasting the pumpkin seeds intensifies their flavor.
- Frying the paste before thinning it out with stock adds further complexity.
I was never much a fan of mole Poblano, but spending two days making that incredibly complex earthy sauce changed my perspective. Still, it's not my preferred mole—I'm much more into the brighter, fresher flavor of mole verde (plus there's the added bonus that it takes only an hour or so, and not days, to put together).
I started my mole verde off by roasting and grinding pepitas—green pumpkin seeds. These were then puréed with tomatillos, chicken stock, onion, jalapeños, cilantro, epazote, romaine, and garlic to form the bright green sauce.
While I tend to default to Rick Bayless as my guide to Mexican sauces, I took a shot at developing a recipe for mole verde myself—but I did borrow his procedure of cooking down the sauce into a thick paste. This is always a messy prospect, as the bubbling sauce splatters across the kitchen the second you stop stirring, but the added intensity of flavor this step creates is well worth it. Once the sauce reduced into a semi-thick paste, more chicken stock was added to bring it to its final silky state.
This mole verde breathed new life into rather flavorless poached chicken. The cilantro defined the fresh flavor, while the pepitas added a little nuttiness, the tomatillos a bit of tartness, and the jalapeños a slight heat. It retained the complexity you might think of when you hear the word "mole," but in an almost completely opposite flavor profile—one that I find more attractive.
1 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked and halved
3 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup roughly chopped white onion (about 1 small)
2 medium jalapeño peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped (seeds removed for a milder sauce)
1 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh epazote (see notes)
1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped romaine lettuce leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon lard or olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
In a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, toast pepitas until they start to pop and turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or blender and process until finely ground.
Place ground pepitas, tomatillos, 1 cup chicken stock, onion, jalapeños, cilantro, epazote, lettuce, and garlic in the jar of a blender. Purée until smooth.
Heat lard or oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add puréed paste and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened almost to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 minutes.
Stir in remaining 2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days, reheating before use.
Epazote is a Mexican herb that can be found in most Mexican markets. If unavailable, substitute with an extra 1/4 cup cilantro and 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||10%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 6mg||31%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|