Making mole from scratch is traditionally a large-batch, multiday project — something most of us don’t have time to regularly tackle. That’s where premade pastes come into play.
There’s no shame in making mole from a prepared base — many Mexican cooks buy pasta de mole at mercados big and small. All a mole base requires is rehydrating with broth, but it can be doctored with extra touches too.
The most common kind you’ll find is the sienna-colored mole poblano from the city of Puebla. Mole poblano pastes are usually labeled simply as “mole.” Second to that is a mole verde with pumpkin seeds. But poke around and you’ll be rewarded with other kinds of moles and their intricate tapestry of flavors.
At mainstream supermarkets, Mexican grocers and international markets such as Super King and Jons in Los Angeles, you’ll see glass containers of mole by Doña Maria. Started by Doña Maria Pons and her husband, Don Pedro Degetau, the company has been making mole since 1945. The story goes that the doña once sold her homemade mole door-to-door; now it’s handled by Herdez and marketed in America via Hormel, the company that also sells Spam and Skippy.
Doña Maria’s regular mole (poblano) is what’s often found on market shelves. Following the label’s instructions to simply add broth to the paste yields a very heat-forward sauce that lacks depth. Take it to the next level by incorporating ground tomato and onion (you can grate them on the fine side of box grater if you don’t have a blender), and maybe some spices. Be careful opening the container or any floating oil may go flying (pour the oil into the pan, then scrape out the paste); the glass vasito is handy for measuring broth. Doña Maria’s mole verde with pumpkin seeds offers decent complexity with a savoriness to balance with its chile heat.
Many markets also carry moles by La Costeña and Rogelio Bueno, but the first is relatively meek and pudding-like, while the second is mild, with a prominent masa-like note. Beware of private-labeled moles sold at mainstream grocers; a jar of ready-to-serve organic mole negro from Whole Foods resembled a spiced tangy salsa more than a suave mole.