Mole Poblano with a Fairly-Traded Twist

Pollo en Mole Poblano is a traditional Mexican dish of chicken simmered in a dark, spicy, chocolate-based sauce. This spring, Equal Exchange employees and our partners from Catholic Relief Services prepared three batches of mole — each slightly different — with fairly-traded and Organic ingredients. And the verdict was unanimous: ¡Que rico!

We love to cook almost as much as we love sharing stories. Read about our various mole journeys below. Then try out this authentic Mexican platillo in your own kitchen!

 (¡En español aqui!)

The Favorite-Cookbook Mole

EE worker-owners Sandy Davis, Kate Chess and Peter Buck teamed up to cook some mole in the kitchen at Equal Exchange’s Massachusetts headquarters. We used Extreme Dark Chocolate, Natural Almonds and Palestinian Olive Oil. We referred to Peter’s much-used copy of Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz’s The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, generously adapting Lambert’s delicious 50-year-old recipe to meet our needs.


Three employees in Equal Exchange aprons prepare mole with fair trade almonds and tomatos.
The EE kitchen team.

Here’s how to make our version:

First, cut up two large chickens into serving pieces. Cover them with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour, drain and dry. Reserve two cups of the chicken stock. Heat three tablespoons of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a frying pan. Brown the chicken in the oil and put the pieces in a large casserole or dutch oven.

Next, prepare and combine the ingredients for the sauce. Start with 14 dried chiles: (6 ancho, 4 pasilla, 4 mulato — or all ancho, if the others aren’t available.) Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles, tear them into pieces and put them in a large bowl. Boil enough water to cover the chiles. Pour the hot water over them and soak them for about an hour.

While they’re soaking, chop two medium onions and four cloves of garlic. Peel, seed and chop a pound of tomatoes. Blanch and peel a cup of Organic Natural Almonds. Combine the onions, garlic, tomatoes and almonds with half a cup of Equal Exchange Organic Flame Raisins (available in bulk at many natural food stores), half a teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground cinnamon and ground coriander seeds, half a teaspoon of anise, and two tablespoons of sesame seeds. Add two or three sprigs of fresh coriander and a torn-up corn tortilla. Use an electric blender to grind all the ingredients into a coarse purée.

Now, cook the purée. Heat the oil again in the frying pan. Saute the purée in the hot oil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the two cups of chicken stock you reserved when you cooked the chicken, and one-and-a-half ounces of Organic Extreme Dark Chocolate (88% cacao). Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted. The purée should now be thicker than heavy cream.

Finally, pour the sauce over the chicken in the dutch oven and cook, covered, over the lowest possible heat, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle it with two more tablespoons of sesame seeds and serve with tortillas and rice and beans.

¡Buen provecho!

We had a lot of fun making this dish and recommend collaborating on a complicated, multi-ingredient recipe as a bonding exercise! But how did it actually taste? Our coworker Scarlett de la Vega Ochoa said, “That’s good mole–and I’m from Puebla!”


The Mexican-American Millennial Mole

Sergio Lopez is a San Diego, California-based Relationship Manager in CRS’s West Regional Office. He tried a tasty mole recipe he found on the internet. Sergio used Equal Exchange’s Organic Natural Almonds and our high-quality, versatile Organic Baking Cocoa.

Here’s his story:

While my wife and I both grew up in Mexican households, we weren’t always taught how to cook the amazing comfort food of our childhoods. Part of our “adulting” journey has been reclaiming the delicious parts of our upbringing so that we can one day pass them on to our children and grandchildren.

In this spirit, we recently decided to give a fair trade twist to the traditional mole recipe. It was the first time either of us made the mole sauce from scratch and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint! A half chicken smothered in a sauce of six different types of chilies, roasted vegetables, Equal Exchange Almonds, and Equal Exchange Baking Cocoa served with a bed of rice made for a delicious and ethical dish that we will be looking forward to sharing with family and friends for years to come.

A smiling man holds a bowl of mole prepared with fair trade ingredients.
Sergio’s family prepares their first mole!


Here’s the recipe Sergio used:

The Family Secret Mole

Norma Valdez is a Relationship Manager in CRS’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. She tried her great aunt’s secret family recipe, handed down for five generations. Like Sergio, Norma also used Organic Baking Cocoa and Organic Natural Almonds from Equal Exchange — a big departure from the peanuts the recipe calls for. Norma is under strict instructions not to share her recipe. It’s a secret!

But she shared the story:

My Tía Bessie was loved by all, very family-oriented and loved to cook; you could never go to her house without eating. She learned this recipe while living with her great-grandmother in Puebla, Mexico.

Tia made this mole for all special occasions, such as weddings, baptisms, quinceñeras, church related events, just like her great-grandmother did. The smallest amount she would make was six whole chickens. Later on when she and my Tío retired, they started making her mole for other people, but charged for it. She guarded her recipe more closely because there was another lady in the neighborhood who also made mole for large occasions, and charged.

She wouldn’t teach just anyone how to make it. In fact, I don’t know any family member she taught this to except me. But when she saw that I really loved to cook, and even took classes and cooked for her, she really wanted me to learn how to cook her mole.

She told me that when she learned, it was a whole day event because they had to prepare the chickens, meaning kill them, and clean them. She never liked that part, but they lived out on a farm and back then there were no meat markets like what we have today.

I have never used almonds before—Tía’s recipe calls for peanuts—but it came out OK. Not as good as my Tia Bessie’s but it was good, even according to my nephew and niece who only eat Tía Bessie’s mole. The cocoa was also good in the recipe.  I used less, because it was a good quality of cocoa.

A younger woman and and older woman enjoy mole. A sign reads "Cocina de Norma."
Norma and her mother are ready to eat.


Do you have a favorite mole recipe? Have you ever tried cooking a special dish with ethically-sourced ingredients? Tell us about it in the comments!


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