Making Gluten-Free Mole Negro Oaxaqueño With Chile Chilhuacles
Mole negro is one of my favorite foods. I love learning about the regional differences in style, flavor, and ingredients of all the different variations. Unfortunately, there are few gluten-free mole nego recipes out there.
Luckily, I have a lot of friends that are chefs and have been studying different types of moles for years. Chef Fernando Ramos and Professor Leonardo Rivera helped me re-create a Oaxaca-style mole negro that was gluten-free. We substituted a gluten-free bread for the traditional wheat flour bread.
They let me do a lot of the work but came in to rescue me when they saw that I was messing up. Honestly, it was a great first try that I am proud to share, yet continue to improve.
Gluten-Free Mole Negro Oaxaqueño: An Overview
I fell in love with Oaxaca a few years ago and was set on starting this culinary adventure with a Oaxaca mole negro. As I started researching recipes I read that the principal ingredient in a Oaxacan mole negro is an expensive and hard-to-come-by chile called a Chilhuacle. In Oaxacan cooking the chile chilhuacle is considered to be an aristocratic ingredient. They are only commercially grown in one small area of Northern Oaxaca and are incredibly expensive.
Mercado de Abastos is the wholesale market in Guadalajara where I do most of my grocery shopping and where I started the search. Most of the retailers had never heard of a chile chilhuacle and recommended substituting a chile guajillo. Luckily, my favorite purveyor is from Oaxaca and know of the chile but did not carry it at that time. She recommended looking for them online. On my next visit to the market Heidi told me that he had found some chilhuacles just for me. The price was $80 pesos for 60 grams of chiles. That’s about 10 pesos per chile or USD$0.50 per chile!
Since these chiles are so expensive I decided to save a number of seeds to see if I can grow them here in Guadalajara in my garden. So far they are doing great. Most of the seeds have germinated and are about an inch tall. I will update the blog when I get some Chile’s to ripen.
Mole Negro Oaxaqueño Recipes
My research started with a book by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Diana Kennedy. I highly recommend her book, Oaxaca Al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. She has been studying Mexican culinary traditions for over 50 years and fighting to preserve the cultural heritage being lost to convenience foods. She emphasizes the importance of hard-to-find ingredients and balks at inferior substitutions.
I also referenced an article in Mexico Desconocido that has over 30 ingredients and looks like it came from a cookbook printed a hundred years ago.
Chef Fernando Ramos and Professor Leonardo Rivera tell me that the quantities of each ingredient are subjective. We started out using the recipe just as Diana Kennedy wrote but then decided to put more fruit and nuts in it because the chilhuacle chiles are stronger than a guajillo chile.
You can easily make a half or a quarter of a recipe. We ended up with almost a gallon of mole and were putting it on EVERYTHING! Mole and chicken, mole on quesadillas, mole salmon (not the best combination), and then froze another half gallon so that it didn’t go bad.
A couple of things to consider when making your mole that I didn’t find obvious in the recipe.
Blend your mole really well. You are going to strain it through the colander later and if there are big pieces of chile it will take forever. I went quick on this step and had to go back and blend everything again for a second time because we couldn’t strain it.
Take the time to cook the mole. There is a change when the flavor of the chiles goes from raw to cooked. With such a large batch it took almost an hour for the mole to cook and take on the right flavor but it was a night and day difference.
I was kind of disappointed at the taste before that change. This is a time-consuming process and you can’t rush it. Great sauces take time.
Final Thoughts: Gluten-Free Mole Negro Oaxaqueño
Making this mole really makes me excited to spend some more time in Oaxaca. It isn’t just a tradition of culinary arts. The surf in the Salina Cruz region is out of this world.
Closer to home, Maru Toledo and Fabian Delgado host an event that highlights the 7 moles of Jalisco. Some of them are gluten-free. Getting a chance to spend time with the chefs it isn’t that hard to substitute a gluten-free ingredient for the gluten-based ones.
Here is to a lot more experimentation in the upcoming year. Mole is one of my favorite foods and I want to grow more chiles in the garden.
Saludos. Thanks for reading.