Mole de Olla: Mexican Beef Stew With Corn Dumplings

Mole de Olla is a rich and hearty beef soup popular in central Mexico. It features bone-in beef and vegetables simmered in a flavorful chili sauce with a mildly spicy and smoky taste.

Mole de olla with corn dumplings served in a Mexican bowl.

This one-pot meal is perfect for the coldest months of the year and can feed a large family. It also freezes wonderfully, making it one of my favorite prep meals for busy days.

About The Recipe

Despite the name, Mole de Olla is not made with a thick sauce with lots of spices as the most traditional moles are made in Mexico.

Instead, this stew is made of beef in a broth with vegetables and flavored with a light chile sauce that gives it a red color and a nice smoky flavor.

The Mole de olla recipe is very similar to caldo de res, but with the addition of chili sauce. Is often served in some central states with corn dumplings called chochoyotes or bolitas de masa (little dough balls).

Mole de olla with masa dumplings on a large pot and some chilies scattered around.

How is made this Mexican beef mole?

The dish takes three easy steps to make. The first one starts by boiling the meat and bones with a few spices like garlic, onion, and bay leaves.

The second step includes making a sauce using some dried chilies, being Guajillo and Chile ancho the most common choices, but other types can be also used depending on preferences or availability.

The sauce is then added to the broth enriching the stew and adding an amazing smoky flavor.

The third and last step is when vegetables like potatoes, chayotes, carrots, cabbage, squash, etc, are incorporated into the stew. There are some variations in the recipe, as everyone can add whatever they have available.

Between those vegetables, a traditional Mole de Olla will always include Xoconostle.

What is Xoconostle?

Xoconostle is the fruit of some types of cactus, especially those found in central Mexico. The taste is tart and sour and is a seasonal fruit (end of summer to all fall round).

It is not easy to find Xoconostle outside Mexico, sometimes is not even easy to find it there. So, for the rest of us, making Mole de Olla as authentic as it is, might be not an option.

How To Make Mole de Olla Recipe

Rinse the meat with cold water and place it in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and a tablespoon of salt then cover with about 2-inches (5cm) of water.

Beef meat for mole de olla in a pot with water.

Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Removing the foam from the cooking meat with a slotted spoon.

Discard the stems and seeds of ancho and guajillo chiles, then add them to a bowl and cover with hot water. Allow soaking for 10 minutes.

Mexican chilies soaking in hot water to make the mole sauce.

Drain chilies and place in a blender with tomatoes, onion, and spices (garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and oregano). Add 2 cups of water and blend until you will have a smooth sauce.

Chili sauce for mole de olla in a blender.

After one hour that the meat has been cooking, place a strainer over the pot and pour in the chili sauce. Use a spoon to help the sauce go through.

Adding chile sauce to the pot with meat.

Keep cooking until the meat will be fork-tender. This will depend on the type of meat you’re using. Mine took another hour to be done.

Cooking the meat with the chile sauce in a pot.

Meanwhile, you can make the corn dumplings if you want to add some and prepare the vegetables you intend to add.

I used carrots, zucchini, green beans, corn, and potatoes. You can also add at this point some epazote sprigs or cilantro if you want.

Fresh vegetables for mole de olla in a cutting board.

Once the meat is fully cooked, add the vegetables and make sure there is still enough liquid to cook them.

Vegetables added to the pot with mole de olla.

Now, about 5 minutes into cooking the vegetables, add the corn dumplings and cook for another 15 minutes.

If you don’t want to add the dumplings, just cook everything until the vegetables are done.

Collage of dumplings being added and cooked into mole de olla.

Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat. Serve as suggested below and ¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • The cooking time will depend on the type of meat you are using, so sometimes it is necessary to cook between two and three hours.
  • You can test the meat by inserting a fork in a chunk, if you notice that there is a lot of resistance the meat still lacks cooking, on the contrary, if the fork is easily inserted, the meat is ready.
  • Some people replace Xoconostle with tomatillo to give a slightly sour taste to the stew. Add them chopped with the other vegetables if you can find fresh tomatillo where you live.
  • Want to make it spicer? Blend 2-3 arbol chilies with the other ingredients for the sauce.

How To Serve

This amazing beef stew is comforting, delicious, and perfect to serve as a main dish because it has everything you need for a whole meal: Proteins, vegetables, and carbs.

But let me tell you how we serve it in Mexico:

  • Add meat and vegetables to a large bowl.
  • Ladle plenty of broth over.
  • Chop some white onion, cilantro, and green chilies like serrano or jalapeño peppers and place them in bowls so everyone can garnish their plate as they want.
  • Place also some lime wedges around for everyone to add a squeeze of lime.
  • Last, enjoy the stew with warm corn tortillas, Mexican corn dumplings (chochoyones), or blue corn tortillas.
Mole de olla served on a clay, white plate.

FAQ

What type of meat to use?

Beef shank and marrow bones are perfect to make this dish. If ossobuco is a choice for you, go for it because it adds lots of flavor to the stew.

How can I sub Mexican chilies?

You can use dried Hatch or Anaheim chilies, or powdered pasilla, guajillo, and ancho chilies. You can also make the sauce only with tomatoes and 2-3 canned chipotle in adobo peppers.

How to make ahead?

Make the chili sauce up to 3 days ahead. Peel and cut your vegetables and store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

How to store?

Allow your mole de olla to cool down, then transfer it into an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Can I make it with chicken?

Yes, you can! Use a whole chicken cut into pieces, or about 6 chicken thighs, just make sure you add the bones for a flavorful stew. The stew will be ready in about 1 hour.

Watch How To Make It

Mexican mole de olla recipe.

Traditional Mole de Olla Recipe

author Maricruz
6
Mole de Olla is a rich and hearty beef soup very popular in central Mexico. A broth made with beef meat and bones, chilies, and vegetables. So flavored and nutritious!
prep 20 minutes
cook 3 hours

Ingredients 

  • 2.2 lb beef shank
  • 2 lb marrow bones
  • 2 fresh corn on the cob (cut in 3 pieces)
  • 2 large zucchini (cut into chunks)
  • 2 large carrots (cut into chunks)
  • 2 medium potatoes (cut into chunks)
  • 6 oz green beans
  • 2 Xoconostles (see notes)
  • 1 epazote sprig (or 1 tsp. of dried epazote)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove (skin on)
  • 1 medium onion (halved)
  • salt (to taste)

For the sauce:

  • 4 guajillo peppers (stem and seeds removed)
  • 2 ancho peppers (stem and seeds removed)
  • 2 small tomatoes (quartered)
  • 1 small onion (cut into chunks)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp oregano

For serving

Instructions
 

  • Place meat and bones in a large pot with a halved onion, garlic, 2 bay leaves, and a tablespoon of salt.
  • Cover with about 2-inches (5cm) of water and bring to a boil.
  • Cook over medium heat for about 1 hour. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Make the sauce

  • Place chilies in a bowl and cover with hot water, allow soaking for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer soaked chilies to a blender and add tomatoes, onion chunks, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, and oregano.
  • Add 2 cups of water and blend until smooth.

Make mole

  • After one hour the meat is cooking, place a strainer over the pot and pour in the chili sauce.
  • Keep cooking until the meat is cooked through and tender (read notes).
  • Now, add the vegetables and make sure there is enough liquid to cook them. You can also add epazote or cilantro at this point.
  • After 5 minutes, add corn dumplings if you want, and cook everything for another 15 minutes.
  • Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat.
  • Serve with chopped onion and green chilies, a squeeze of lime, and corn tortillas.

Notes

  • The cooking time will depend on the type of meat you are using, so sometimes it is necessary to cook between two and three hours.
  • You can test the meat by inserting a fork in a chunk, if you notice that there is a lot of resistance the meat still lacks cooking, on the contrary, if the fork is easily inserted, the meat is ready.
  • Some people replace Xoconostle with tomatillos to give a slightly sour taste to the stew. You can use 6 halved tomatillos instead xoconostle.
  • Want to make it spicer? Blend 2-3 arbol chilies with the other ingredients for the sauce.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1bowl w/u garnishes | Calories: 537kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.002g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 1665mg | Potassium: 1672mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 8557IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 6mg
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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Awesome, but had to do the tomatillo sub for xoconostle. Do you think this would work with dried xoconostle? Rancho Gordo sells it, about 1/4″ thick sliced “rings”.