Oaxaca, Mexico, is famous for its seven classic moles, each of which has a different color and a distinctive flavor all its own. This mole is particularly versatile—we’ve tried it over chicken and potatoes, as a sauce for tamales, and thinned into a broth with boiled beef, green beans, and potatoes.

Yield: makes 6 cups


  • 10 dried guajillo chiles, washed
  • 12 tsp. annatto seeds (achiote)
  • 1 tsp. ground canela (Mexican cinnamon)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 12 tsp. cumin seed
  • 12 tsp. dry Mexican oregano, toasted
  • 1 tsp. Mexican saffron
  • 2 tbsp. corn oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 8 tomatillos, ripe and yellow, husked
  • 1 small ripe tomato
  • 4 yerba santa leaves
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock
  • 12-1 cups masa harina
  • 12 tsp. salt


  1. Wash chiles, and remove stems and seeds. Heat a cast-iron skillet and toast chiles lightly on all sides. Remove skillet from heat, add annatto and 2 cups of very hot water, and soften for 20 minutes.
  2. Using a spice mill or mortar and pestle, finely grind canela, cloves, cumin, oregano, and saffron. In a heavy nonstick pan, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil over medium-high heat and saute garlic and onions until golden and tender. Add tomatillos and tomato and continue to cook until browned and soft.
  3. Combine chiles (reserve soaking water), annatto, ground spices, garlic, onion, tomatillos, tomato, yerba santa, and process through the food grinder attachment of an electric mixer or a blender. Work in small batches, and if using the electric mixer, make several passes through the food grinder. Grind into a thick, smooth paste using the chiles’ soaking water to thin.
  4. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in a nonstick pan and fry paste over medium heat until fragrant, slightly golden on all surfaces, and very thick, about 30 minutes—longer if necessary for consistency. You should have a toasty-looking smooth paste. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.
  5. Combine mole paste with chicken stock or water and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Add masa harina dissolved in a little water to add silky thickening. Season to taste with salt.