Chicken Bay Nut Mole Negro

Foraged bay nuts give the chocolate-coffee flavor you're looking for in a mole.

Chicken Bay Nut Mole Negro

Most mole recipes leave me feeling overwhelmed and in a too-many-ingredients comatose. This one, although it does take about 2 hours to prepare, it a lot more approachable and some of that time is inactive, which means you can spend it on your other side dishes. Yes, this recipe is likely not as complex as others you may find, but even just with two chiles and some other key ingredients, you can create a delicious and robust mole negro. 

As bay nuts do not contain sugar or cinnamon, I added a little of each. If you don’t have bay nuts, replace them with mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra) and skip the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Also unique to this mole is that instead of the traditional chocolate, I chose to use bay nuts. Bay nuts are a foraged find from the bay laurel tree. The bay nut is a member of the avocado family that, when roasted, becomes akin to a combination of chocolate and coffee - ideal for mole. Recipe serves 6.

  • 2.5 pounds skinless chicken thighs and/or legs

  • ~1-2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other neutral flavored oil), divided

  • 1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth

  • Juice and zest from 2 blood oranges

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped

  • 3 large garlic cloves, diced

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

  • 1.5 ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into strips

  • 0.5 ounces dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into strips

  • 3 prunes, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 ounces roasted bay nuts, chopped (mexican chocolate can be substituted for bay nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon)

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • Chopped fresh cilantro, queso fresco, avocado, and corn tortillas (to serve)

Rub chicken all over with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot (I use my large Le Creuset pot) over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. 

Add broth, blood orange juice, and cinnamon sticks then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add almonds, cumin, coriander, and chiles. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook while stirring until chiles soften, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer chicken from pot to large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion-chile mixture (reserve pot). Add blood orange zest, prunes, oregano, bay nuts, and brown sugar to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and discard.

Transfer sauce mixture to food processor or blender and purée until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt. Coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat and re-heat chicken. 

Serve topped with cilantro springs, avocado, corn tortillas, and queso fresco (if desired).

Pair with: Vinegary red cabbage slaw (the vinegar is a great contrast to the dark, rich mole), roasted delicata or butternut squash.