When it comes to Mexican cuisine, there is little that is as important as the mole sauce. Like the most famous French sauces, the mole can be used either as a way to improve a dish or as the base component on which to build a culinary masterpiece.

But here's where it gets tricky: Despite the shared name, many of the different types of mole sauce can be quite, well... different from one to the next. Because of their widely different ingredients, it is important to understand how each mole sauce is unique and what is the best Mexican food to enjoy it with.

In this post, we'll break down the seven Oaxaca moles, the most common type, in order to help you understand these authentic Mexican delights. 

  • Black or Negro: This classic of the Oaxaca region of Mexico is famous for its dark color and slightly smoky flavor. It is unique for including bittersweet melted chocolate and hoja santa, or sacred leaf. This is particularly great for Mexican dishes using chicken.

  • Red or Rojo: This style of mole is similar to the black sauce and also incorporates chocolate but in a much smaller amount. Red mole is both sweeter and spicier than the black variety and often incorporates a number of different chilis. This works well with almost any time of tender meat.

  • Coloradito: This mole is an intermediary step between the black and the red mole sauces, including many of the base ingredients: onion, whole spices, garlic, seeds. What sets Coloradito apart is the inclusion of mashed ripe plantains, which gives the mole a sweeter finish.

  • Yellow or Amarillo: It might be tempting to pity yellow mole, for it lives a sad, chocolateless existence. Despite that fact, however, yellow mole is perhaps one of the most commonly used mole sauces in everyday Mexican dishes, containing many of the most basic ingredients. In a sense, it is Latin America's answer to curry.

  • Green or Verde: Mole Verde is made with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and tomatillos, making it an aromatic delight. Unlike the previous moles, it dispenses of the deep and earthy flavor for a cleaner, brighter taste that makes it excellent for light chicken dishes.

  • Chichilo: This mole is a return to the dark and spicy flavors of the red variety. There are some key differences, however. Most notably, it includes beef stock. It also does not cut the savoriness with chocolate. This is especially good to use when braising meats.

  • Manchamantel: Sweet and spicy is the best way to describe this mole, which is used in a wide array of Mexican dishes. Its kick comes from chorizo grease and ancho chiles, while its sweetness comes from plantains and pineapple.

If you are looking for a way to kick up your authentic Mexican cuisine, or simply want to understand the menu when dining in Mexican restaurants, Mole sauce is an important thing to understand. Although it's not for everyone, it's one of the most authentic Mexican dishes you'll find at most Mexican restaurants.