Mole Verde Roasted Chicken

Mole is a term used for a number of sauces in Mexico. On its own, the word usually implies Mole Poblano, a dark red sauce made with poblano peppers. This sauce, Mole Verde, is a lighter, fresher version of the sauce, made with pepitas, blended herbs, and tomatillos.

A traditional herb used in this dish is epazote, which is a pungent, weed-like herb. It’s also commonly added while cooking black beans, because it reduces the gassiness that follows after eating those magical fruits. If you can’t find epazote where you live, never fear – flat-leaf parsley will work in a pinch.

Many variations of this dish call for stewing the chicken in the sauce. But I started thinking about the fact that this sauce can be put together in about 20 minutes, and it’s a tragedy that you’d have to delay the cooking time by so much in order to stew the chicken (and lose some of the sauce’s fresh taste along the way). Instead, I figure that there’s a better way to get dinner on your table; you can roast a chicken (or buy a rotisserie chicken) separately and combine it with the sauce to serve. I particularly like the contrasting flavors of the bold, refreshing sauce and the tender roast chicken. It’s making me hungry all over again just typing this. Enough talk; let’s get cooking.

Pepitas, also known as raw pumpkin seeds, give the sauce its body and thickness.

Mole Verde Roasted Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 roasted chicken (see this recipe) or leftover rotisserie chicken, carved
1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkins seeds)
1 tbsp olive oil
8 green tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeños, sliced (more or less to taste)
1.5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and stems
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
salt and black pepper to taste

1. First things first – you need a roasted chicken. You can either use this recipe (our favorite), or grab a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. This dish works well with leftover chicken as well. Long story short: it doesn’t really matter how you get your chicken, just don’t do anything that’ll land you in jail.

2. Heat the pepitas in a skillet over medium heat until toasted and golden, about 5 minutes, then set aside. Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering, about 1 minute, then add the tomatillos and onion. Sauté until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic. Sauté for an additional minute, then transfer everything to a blender.

3. Add the pepitas, jalapeños, and chicken broth to the blender. Blend until smooth, then add the fresh herbs and blend again until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a skillet, and bring to a simmer over med/low heat. Simmer until slightly darkened, about 4 minutes; taste and add salt and pepper if needed, then add the chicken pieces and simmer until warm, and serve with some Mexican Rice, sautéed vegetables, and a nice big salad.

** If you have a hispanic market nearby, look for fresh epazote; if you can find it, use it instead of the parsley.

** A good indicator of when the sauce is ready is when all the bubbles (from blending) die down and the sauce smoothens.

** To try your hand at stewing the chicken with the sauce, add raw chicken pieces after blending and returning the sauce to the skillet. Bite-sized chunks of chicken breasts or thighs would work just fine.

46 thoughts on “Mole Verde Roasted Chicken

  1. This looks delicious but I’m curious about the inclusion of espazote as I’ve not heard of it before (in the UK) and when I looked it up, I found the primary constituent in the essential oil of the herb is highly toxic. You suggest parsley as an alternative but I wondered whether coriander (cilantro) would work as well. What sort of flavour should I be looking to recreate?

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    1. Hi Jamie, the essential oil referred to in most toxicity reports is waaay more concentrated than the natural, whole-food plant itself, and cooking further diminishes any fear of toxins. Many plants and nettles, when concentrated into an essential oil, will become toxic after consuming large quantities. It should be fine, as people have been eating it without issue for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Cilantro is indeed in the recipe above, and acts as the “light” herb in this recipe; the parsley (or espazote) functions as the “dark” herb, and the combo of the both give the sauce a balanced, bright flavor. Thanks for the questions!

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  2. Russ, WOW this looks beautiful and delish! Just listened to your interview on the Ultimate Health Summit and it was excellent! I loved hearing you talk about food and cooking, but was really interested to hear about your educational and professional life and fluency in so many complex languages.
    Back to food — I linked back to your roast chicken recipe and it looks great. My question is: will this high heat method work for organic and all-pastured chicken? Many pastured farmers recommend lower heat methods for pastured birds (granted, they’re not usually chefs themselves, but they’ve cooked a lot of bird) and I’ve had mixed results with methods anywhere b/w 325-450. Usually I’m buying pastured Cornish Cross, but sometimes they are heritage breed (which usually means a bird < or = 4 lb, and also a smaller breasted bird.
    Thanks!

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    1. Susan, organic and pastured chickens tend to be leaner than your typical roaster, but the meat will still fare well in a high heat cooking environment. The trick is to let the chicken rest for an hour at room temperature beforehand. We’ve actually tested this method with two different types of chickens at once – a pastured chicken and a typical roaster, and they both were done at the same time, although the pastured bird was much more flavorful!

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  3. Russ, also, can you elaborate on your last ** comment re: stewing or adding chunked chicken? Are you recommending raw chicken for stewing? And for the chunks, do you mean pre-cooked? Based on the recipe, I’m thinking that you just mean it can be pre-cooked chicken that’s been carved up, but please clarify. If so, then I could just bake some seasoned chicken breasts and add them to the cooked sauce to spice things up.
    Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Susan, I meant to add raw chicken pieces and stew them until they’re cooked through! Cooked or leftover pieces most definitely can be used, too, and would only take a couple minutes to reheat in the sauce. I’ll amend the recipe to make it more clear, thanks for the question!

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      1. Russ, I made this on Friday night with heritage chicken roast leftover from Thurs night.
        I made it as written, except for the jalapeños. Sadly, I can’t handle ANY spicy heat anymore. I even tried selecting mild jalapeños, but the tiniest piece nearly burned off my hubby’s tongue (gotta love a willing guinea pig), so I omitted them. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get the gorgeous bright green color without them, but It still looked just like your photo, yay! (although, as it simmered the surface area dulled to more of an olive green, so I just stirred it up before serving to get the bright color back (I’m assuming that the color change is unavoidable)).

        I served it over jasmine rice made with homemade chicken stock and sprinkled more cilantro leaves on top.

        My non-paleo husband won’t stop raving about how delicious it was and he wanted leftovers for lunch the next day and raved some more. I agree, it’s phenomenal!

        While it didn’t taste at all like it was “missing” any flavor (just spicy heat), do you have any suggestions on what I might use in place of jalapeños next time that might add that fresh and grassy flavor of a fresh pepper, but with no heat?

        I thought about a green bell pepper but decided it might be too watery? I also thought about poblano, but that’s thinner skinned I believe and probably does better with more cooking time. I’d love to know your thoughts on this Russ!

        Oh, and next time I’m going to toast some extra pepitas and reserve the extra for sprinkling on top!

        Kudos and many thanks!

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  5. An affirmative delicious !!!! Just made this and it’s super fast , easy and most importantly delicious , real food !!!
    Was thinking of doubling sauce next time and freezing in a mason jar for an even faster dinner ….
    Any thoughts on freezing ?
    Thanks for another great dinner !

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    1. This recipe got rave reviews from my friends and family…even my daughter who is not a cilantro fan!! Also, I made a lovely soup from the leftovers. :o) Thanks Russ!

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  7. All right, if you’re reading this but haven’t made this recipe yet, GET IN THE KITCHEN! This sauce has such rich flavor and an impressive kick of spice — just the way I like it. Absolutely outstanding recipe! It’s so good it’s hard to believe it’s healthy. Thank you for sharing, Russ. It’s one of my boyfriend’s and my new favorite meals.

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  8. Russ, I shared your recipe with my housekeeper who is from Mexico. Her parents and still live in Mexico and her mother was here (SF Bay Area) in town visiting her in May. She made your mole verde for her husband, kids and mother and they all raved about it. She also thought it was very easy and fast to make, which is important for a very busy working mom, like she is. Her mother was so pleased with it that she made a copy of the recipe and took it back to Mexico with her to make for her husband, and he loved it too.

    Just thought you should know that your recipe gets not only my resounding stamp of approval, but also a huge thumbs up for authenticity and deliciousness from 2 generations of native Mexicans (plus the US born 3rd gen)! You’ve brought smiles to many faces and stomachs throughout North America!

    I’ve made it 3-4 times already, and I plan to again this weekend. I’m freezing some of it to bring to my 91 YO mother who loves Mexican food, and I know she’s going to love it!

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      1. I’m in Australia too Russ, and have difficulty even finding canned tomatillos. Is there anything you can suggest as a substitute? I do roast chook a lot and am always looking for different sauces, this looks great!

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        1. Cindy, if you don’t have tomatillos available I would see if you can get your hands on some green tomatoes, as they would probably provide the closest taste profile. Hope that helps!

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  9. Hi Russ, I bought some Siete cassava/coconut tortillas (really good) and I’ve also made the Zenbelly plantain tortillas. I’m thinking about using one of them to make enchiladas verde with some leftover pulled pork. But when I started looking at enchilada verde recipes, I realized that it would be really tasty to use your mole sauce for them instead (pumpkin seeds, included!)…what do you think of that idea? (Just LOVE your mole sauce.)
    I eat cheese, so I’d probably top them with mexican cheese or a monterey jack and a few more pumpkin seeds. Do you think this would all work well or not a good idea? Thanks!

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