Mole de Olla: Mexican Beef Stew

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 served on a Mexican clay 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.

What is Mole de Olla made of?

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 in a broth with vegetables and flavored with a light chili sauce that gives it a red color and a light smoky flavor.

The recipe is very similar to caldo de res, but with the addition of the chili sauce. Also, in some states in Mexico, this broth is eaten with chochoyotes (corn dumplings).

Mole de olla served on a clay, white plate.

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 smokey flavor.

The third and last step is when vegetables like potatoes, chayotes, carrots, 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.

Mole de Olla Recipe

  • Rinse the meat with cold water, pat dry it and then cut it into chunks. Place it in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and a tablespoon of salt.
  • Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetables: Wash and peel them, then cut them into chunks. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce

Discard the stems of ancho and guajillo chiles, cut them longwise, and remove the seeds and membranes.

Cleaning pasilla chilies for mole de olla.

Place the tomatoes, ancho, and guajillo chilies in a small pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until tomatoes become soft (about 10 minutes).

Boiled tomatoes and chilies in a pot for mole de olla sauce.

Transfer chilies and cooked tomatoes to a bowl and allow them to cool down. Place on a blender with onion, garlic, bay leaves, and oregano. Pour in 1 cup of the tomatoes cooking water and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.

A collage with two photos of mole de olla sauce preparation.

After one hour of the meat is cooking, place a strainer over the pot and pour in the chili sauce.

Add epazote too and keep cooking until the meat is cooked through and nicely tender. This will depend on the type of meat you’re using. Mine took another hour to be done.

Pouring the chili sauce into the pot with mole de olla.

Now, add the vegetables (potatoes, squash chayote, carrots, etc) and make sure there is enough liquid to cover them and cook them. You don’t need to add them separately, I always add them at once and they always come out perfect.

Mole de olla simmering with vegetables.

Simmer everything over medium heat until all the vegetables are fork-tender. Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat.

How To Serve

This amazing recipe 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 do 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 with warm corn tortillas, Mexican corn dumplings (chochoyones), or blue corn tortillas.
A bowl of mole de olla and some small bowls around containing the garnish (chopped chillies and onions, limes wedges).

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.

Frequent questions

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 chipotles in adobo.

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 into an airtight container and store 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 medium chicken cut into pieces, or about 6 chicken thighs, just make sure you add the bones for a flavorful stew. Chicken mole de olla will cook in about one hour.

Watch How To Make It

More Mexican Stews Recipes

Mole de Olla

Mole de Olla is a rich and hearty beef soup very popular in center Mexico. A broth made with beef meat, bones and vegetables so flavored and nutritious.
PREP 15 minutes
COOK 3 hours
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 6
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

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

For the sauce:

  • 4 medium guajillo chillies
  • 2 medium ancho chilli peppers
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)

Instructions

  • Place meat and bones in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, and a tablespoon of salt.
  • Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Make the sauce

  • Place tomatoes, ancho, and guajillo chilies on a small pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until tomatoes become soft (about 10 minutes).
  • Transfer chilies and cooked tomatoes to a bowl and allow them to cool down.
  • Place all on a blender with onion, garlic, bay leaves, and oregano.
  • Pour in 1 cup of the tomatoes cooking water and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.

Make mole

  • After one hour the meat is cooking, place a strainer over the pot and pour in the chili sauce.
  • Add epazote and keep cooking until the meat is cooked through and tender (about 1 hour).
  • Now, add the vegetables and make sure there is enough liquid to cover them and to cook them.
  • Simmer everything over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. 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 tomatillo to give a lightly sour taste to the stew. Added 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.
Nutrition
Calories: 305kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 91mg | Potassium: 875mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 4101IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg
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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”.