Oaxacan Pasilla Mole

Pasilla Mole

One of the reasons I love Mexican markets so much is that they never failed to fascinate me. Sometimes is the people you find there or the controlled chaos that reigns in the aisles. But I get mostly fascinated by new ingredients that jump in front of me when I least expect it.

You might think I’d be familiar with most ingredients since I grew up in a restaurant and my dad used to take me shopping to the markets all the time. I can recognize a lot of ingredients and navigate relatively well through the aisles of a Mexican market (not an easy task to the inexperienced). However, every visit to a market is a new and fascinating experience. Especially in those occasions when I discover a new ingredient.

Smoked pasilla chile

Last month I went to Mercado San Juan with Lesley Tellez and she took me to her favorite dried chile stand. Remember this picture? She introduced me to one of her new favorite chiles, the smoked pasilla from Oaxaca. I love pasilla chiles because they can add a lot of flavor to a dish without a lot of heat. However, this chile pasilla is unlike any other I’ve tasted. This chile is hard to find outside the state of Oaxaca. Mercado San Juan is the only place in Mexico City where I’ve seen it. I personally didn’t even know about it before.

At around $1 US dollar a piece this chile is almost a luxury in the city. But paying that “high” price is worth every Mexican penny. The flavor is unlike any other chile I’ve had before. From the moment you pick it up the strong smoky smell (that reminds me of campfires and wood ovens) promises a great taste. And it doesn’t disappoint. Lesley has a recipe for a tomatillo salsa that uses this chile, but I decided to make a sauce to serve with steak tips (basically sirloin steak that has been cubed).

My intention wasn’t to make mole, but as I added ingredients to the mix and cooked them over slow heat, the sauce resembled more and more a mole, but an easy mole with a lot of flavor that went perfectly with the steak tips. I was really happy with the end result.

Pasilla mole

Smoked Pasilla Mole
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Notes: •Like I mentioned above this type of chile is hard to find outside Oaxaca. You can substitute it with dried chipotle chiles. They're also smoked but pack a higher amount of heat. •To thicken the sauce you might use flour instead of the ground pumpkin seeds. I personally love the taste they add to sauces.
  • The ingredients:
  • 2 pasilla oaxaqueno chiles
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 TBSP ground pepita (ground pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 lb steak tips
  • 2 medium zucchinis, sliced
  • •salt and pepper to taste
  1. The how-to:
  2. Cut open and seed the dried chiles. Place them in boiling water (aprox 1 cup) for about 1 minute to rehydrate.
  3. Blend chiles with tomatoes, garlic and 1 cup of broth.
  4. Using a strain, pour into a medium size sauce pot. Add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Add cloves and ground pepita (this is to thicken the sauce) and stir.
  6. Add chocolate and stir until it dissolves. Add salt to taste.
  7. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  8. In a large cast iron skillet sautee onions over olive oil.
  9. Add steak tips and season to taste.
  10. When the steak tips are half way done (they look pinkish at this point) add the zucchini and let it cook for about 6 to 7 minutes.
  11. Serve the steak tips over a base of sauce. Mexican rice goes perfectly with this dish.

Smoked Pasilla Chile

¡Buen provecho!


  • I like a good mole and tis one seems easy to make.

  • I’ve only done a mole recipe once but I totally loved it and this sounds equally good actually.

  • That mole is looking really good and the recipe is nice and simple compared to other moles.

    • Hi Kevin! Nice to see you around here. Yes this is not a traditional mole, but technically it is a mole because it is a “sauce” that uses chiles and other ingredients. I love being creative with my moles.

  • I just have to bookmark this recipe, it seems less overwhelming then from one of my cookbook. Thanks Ben!

  • I tried your recipe and it was a big hit with the wife and kids. I am going to make it for the extended family for dinner this weekend. The smell while cooking was a pleasant torture, but the final product was well worth the wait. Thank you so much for sharing. I used a combination of steak tips and shredded pork and it was great. What do you think about adding butternut squash instead of zucchini?

    • Hi Woody,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! How would you use the butternut squash for this dish? I would maybe baked it and shred it. Then sautee it in butter with garlic, onion, salt, pepper and a pinch of oregano and serve it on top of the steak tips. I’m hungry now 🙂

  • I am afraid I will have a hard time finding the chiles here. Would there be an appropriate substitute? A wonderful recipe.

    • If you can find dried chipotles, those would work as well. Or any other pepper that has been smoked. 🙂

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