Cooking Like A Mexican

Mole de olla

There’s a thing about Mexican moms: They make soup year-round. Everyone jokes about how you’ll get home on the hottest day and there will be mole de olla waiting for you.

Mole de olla is a rich soup that a little bit of mole flavor. (pronounce it like mol lay, olla means pot). I would actually consider it more of a stew. It has many variations across the country but is most popular in the central states of Mexico, where it is a common main dish in the mid-afternoon. In most regions, it is usually made with a mix of bone-in beef cuts and pork meats, accompanied with vegetables native to the area.

Cooked slowly over the stove, this dish is a robust meal. The bone-in pieces of meat create a nutritious broth, and the vegetables - carrots, squash, corn, green beans, chayote (a pear-shaped squash) and xoconostles - form a perfect combination of flavors.

Xoconostle is a close relative of the cactus fruit, aka sweet prickly pears. However, Xoconostles are not as sweet and have a sour, tart taste. These are one of many prehispanic ingredients, if you couldn’t tell by the name. Xoconostle has been around for thousands of years and was domesticated around the same time as corn. Not domesticated like a dog or a cat, just used since then.

This fruit has vitamin C, calcium and fiber. Researchers have had some promising results in studies that involve this fruit’s potential to help regulate the blood sugar of people who are diabetic. Yeah, another superfood!

Before we begin cooking, if you can’t find xoconostle, add slices of green tomatillo or chopped nopales (cactus leaves) to give the dish that slightly sour taste.

Mole do Olla


1½ pound oxtail

1½ pound beef shank

½ medium white onion

3 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves


2 ancho peppers, seeds removed

3 pasilla peppers, seeds removed

1 garlic clove

¼ medium white onion

1 medium tomato

2 epazote sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried epazote (Fresh makes all the difference; you can buy it at the mercados, and even Walmart sometimes)

Salt and pepper to taste


2 corn cobs, cut into thirds

1 chayote, cut into quarters

3 small or 1 large carrot, cut into bite-size pieces

3 xoconostles, peeled, cut into thick slices, and seeds removed

2 small potatoes or 1 large potato (optional)

2 small squashes or 1 large squash, cut in quarters

6 ounce green beans


½ white onion, finely chopped

½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced or chopped

4-6 lime wedges

2 tablespoons fresh epazote finely chopped (optional)


1. Rinse the meat and pat dry thoroughly with a paper towel. In a large stockpot, place the meat, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer gently. Use a slotted spoon to remove any foam that rises to the surface. The meat will take about 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook.

2. While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. Fill a small pot with 2 cups of hot water and set aside. Slightly roast the peppers in a hot pan, turning once. This step takes only a few seconds; if you leave the peppers longer on the hot griddle they will have a bitter taste. Place the roasted peppers in the pot with the hot water to soften them, at least 15 minutes.

3. Roast the tomato, garlic and onion. The garlic will take less time to roast, so remove it promptly. Remove its peel and place in a blender. Once the tomato, onion and peppers are roasted, add them into the blender, along with a cup of hot water. Puree until you have a very smooth sauce. Set aside.

4. In another medium size saucepan, add 3 cups of water and the corn. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the xoconostle, chayote and carrots and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes (if using), squash and green beans and cook for 4 more minutes. Don’t worry if they look uncooked after this time, they will finish cooking with the meat and sauce.

5. Check your meat. Once it is cooked and tender, remove the garlic, onion and bay leaf. Add the sauce and epazote sprigs and stir, simmering for about 8 more minutes. Add the vegetables and stir well. Let it simmer for another 6 minutes to allow all the flavors to blend.

6. To serve, ladle the soup in large bowls. Garnish with chopped onion, cilantro, epazote and lime juice. Serve the mole de olla with some warm corn tortillas. And there you have it, a whole meal in a bowl!