Mole, meaning sauce or stew, is the generic term used in Mexico for a number of sauces. It is often used to refer to the most popular of these – mole poblano, a rich dark-red sauce made from a number of ingredients, including dried chillies and chocolate.


Skill level

Average: 3.5 (35 votes)

Its origins are debated, however, the most widespread story traces the dish back to a group of nuns in 17th-century Puebla, who improvised the sauce for a visiting archbishop. Mole poblano is traditionally served with turkey, but is increasingly eaten with chicken. We’ve given ours a modern twist, using duck. This dish is often served at celebrations, such as Christmas and Cinco de Mayo.


  • 6 dried pasilla chillies or dried ancho chillies (see Note), seeded, stems removed
  • 4 (about 800 g) duck breasts, trimmed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 40 g Mexican cooking chocolate (see Note), chopped
  • 410 g can whole tomatoes
  • chopped coriander leaves and lime wedges, to serve

Tomato and coriander salsa

  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • ½ dried habanero chilli (see Note), finely chopped
  • ½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Almond paste

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small corn tortilla
  • 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
  • 35 g (¼ cup) raisins
  • 40 g (¼ cup) blanched almonds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, quartered

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soak chillies in 500 ml boiling water for 20 minutes to soften. Drain, reserving 250 ml soaking liquid. Process chillies in a food processor, gradually adding reserved liquid, to form a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, to make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make almond paste, heat oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add tortilla and cook for 1 minute each side or until lightly golden. Remove from pan and roughly chop, then process in a food processor with the remaining ingredients until smooth.

Place duck breasts, skin-side down, in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes or until skin is golden. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into 3 pieces on the diagonal, cover and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add chilli paste and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the almond paste and cook for a further 3 minutes or until slightly reduced. Add chicken stock, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add duck and cook for a further 10 minutes or until sauce has slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper, scatter with chopped coriander and serve with lime wedges and the salsa.


Dried pasilla, ancho and habanero chillies are available online from Herbie’s Spices and Monterey Mexican Foods. Habanero chillies are very hot; wear latex gloves when handling.

Mexican chocolate, available online from Herbie’s Spices, Monterey Mexican Foods and other specialist food shops, contains undissolved sugar making it slightly gritty in texture. Substitute dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), plus 1 tsp white sugar.

Drink 2010 Michel Torino Award Malbec, Argentina ($25)

As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 8, pg64.

Photography by Anson Smart.