Is mole gluten free?

Is mole gluten free?

Mole is a variety of Mexican sauce containing a huge array of aromatic ingredients. Only certain types of mole are gluten free. We’ll explore each major type of mole in order to outline which of them are usually gluten free and dairy free, and which you should probably avoid if you have allergies to either of those ingredients.

Table of Contents

What is Mole?

Mole is a thick, complex sauce composed of chiles, aromatics, spices, fruits, and nuts. It’s usually served with meat and rice, over enchiladas as enmoladas, or within tamales. Both Puebla and Oaxaca claim to be the birthplace of mole, but it has such a long history that there are many stories about its origins. Regardless, the most famous types of mole are native to those two Mexican states.


Mole Poblano building blocks from Mexican Food Journal

While the other components might vary, chiles are used in every mole. The types most commonly used are ancho, pasilla, guajillo, mulato and chipotle. Each individual ingredient - from chiles to nuts - must be roasted or fried before they’re added to the sauce. Mole takes a lot of time and care to prepare, but the grinding process has become much easier with the invention of mills and home blenders.

After the ingredients have been prepared and ground into a paste, additional liquid is added and the mixture is poured into a type of heavy clay cauldron called a cazuela to be slowly simmered. Mole must be stirred almost constantly to prevent burning. If chocolate is included in the recipe, it’s added at the very end of the cooking process.

Mole Allergen Considerations

Mole often contains gluten due to the addition of stale bread, cookies, or breadcrumbs, with are used to thicken the sauce. In some recipes corn tortillas or corn flour are used instead, making those types gluten free. The sauce itself is not usually vegetarian, because most moles contain lard or meat-based broth. Mole may also contain some milk from chocolate.

Because there are so many different types of mole, it’s important for those of us with food allergies to understand what each variety’s recipe might include. This can be a challenge when mole recipes contain 20+ different ingredients.


Enmoladas from Cacique Foods

In every case, it’s still important to confirm with the chef that the mole you’re being served is safe for you. Every family’s recipe is different. When asking about the ingredients, it’s best to be specific and ask if their recipes include bread, crackers, or cookies. Because moles don’t contain straight wheat flour, people can sometimes be confused about what exactly you’re avoiding.

If you decide to make mole yourself, it’s easy to make any recipe gluten free and vegan by subbing in gluten free bread, oil instead of lard, and a veg stock instead of traditional meat stock. See our gluten free mole recipes article for more info.

Gluten Free Mole Types

These moles are your safest bets when it comes to being gluten free and dairy free.


Mole verde from Food and Wine

Mole Verde

  • Green mole is one of the easiest varieties of mole to make! It gets its green color from tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, fresh chiles, and herbs. It’s very popular in central Mexico and does not contain chocolate.

  • Almost always gluten free. Always dairy free.

Mole Amarillo

  • Yellow peppers (yellow chilhuacle and costeño amarillo) are used in this mole, which is where the sauce gets its name. The mole itself is more often golden or light red in color. It’s a summery, fresh, and fragrant sauce that includes herbs, tomatillos, and sometimes chayote. Masa is optionally added for thickening. This variety does not include chocolate.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.

Mole Chichilo

  • This mole gets its names from the chilhuacle negro chile used to make it. It’s quite different than most moles. It’s thinner - about the thickness of salsa. It’s lightly thickened with either corn flour or corn tortillas and does not include many spices. Avocado leaves and beef stock are unique ingredients used in this mole, and it also doesn’t contain nuts or seeds, which are common in most moles.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.


A trio of moles from Salud 180

Mole Pipián

  • Pipián is a pepita-based sauce that can be either red or green in color. It has an earthy, nutty, flavor from the pumpkin seeds. It’s a simplified mole, and is more approachable to make than many other types on this list.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.

Mole Ranchero

  • Mole Ranchero is one of the easiest moles to make. It originated in Morelos and is used inside tamales in Jalisco. This mole is mild and typically only calls for one type of chile. It’s thickened with corn tortillas or corn dough.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.

Mole Purépecha

  • This mole comes from the indigenous Purépecha people of the Mexican state of Michoacán. Unline other moles, Purépecha doesn’t contain sweet notes from fruit. It’s a relatively simple recipe and includes herbs like mint and cilantro, plus tomatillo for brightness.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.

Possibly Gluten Free Mole Types

These moles are often gluten free, and sometimes dairy free, but always double check with the chef because recipes can vary greatly.


Mole Encacahuatado from Maricruz Avalos

Mole Encacahuatado

  • A simple-to-make peanut mole that is lightly spiced and served with meat, although you can easily make it vegan.

  • Usually gluten free and dairy free.

Mole Coloradito

  • This style of mole is light red and brighter tasting than mole poblano. It contains roasted tomatoes or tomatillas, as well as chocolate. A simplified version of mole coloradito is sold as enchilada sauce.

  • Usually gluten free, but sometimes contains breadcrumbs. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

Mole Rojo

  • This variety is relatively straightforward. It’s red from chiles and tomatoes and well balanced in richness and freshness. It only sometimes contains chocolate, but can contain a large variety of toasted nuts and seeds.

  • Sometimes gluten free. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate, and if it was included in the recipe.


Mole blanco from Kiwi Limon

Mole Blanco

  • Often called Mole de Novia because it’s frequently served at weddings. This mole is quite rare and unique. It includes fruits like green apple, plus white chocolate, and sometimes even milk!

  • Sometimes gluten free, but make sure masa was used instead of bread. Contains dairy.

Mole Prieto

  • This black mole variety comes from the state of Tlaxcala. It sometimes includes dehydrated cuitlacoche, which is a corn fungus delicacy that has a mushroom-y flavor. Pork is used in the recipe, and the sauce is thickened with corn dough.

  • Often gluten free, because it’s thickened with corn dough rather than bread. Dairy free, but contains meat.

Not Gluten Free Mole Types

Unfortunately, many of the most famous types of mole contain gluten. These can be made gluten free, but you’d need to ask for this or make it yourself to accomodate dietary restrictions. You’ll find gluten free recipes for each of these types in our gluten free mole recipes post.


Black mole from Fine Dining Lovers

Mole Negro

  • Mole negro is considered the most complex and difficult to make. It has a rich black color, with a silky texture and complex, smoky flavor. It’s made with chilhuacle negro chiles, but many people sub pasilla negro chiles. This sauce contains plantains and tomatoes, plus a huge assortment of spices, fruits, and nuts, including peanuts. On average, more chocolate is used in mole negro than any other type of mole.

  • Not gluten free. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

Mole Poblano

  • This is arguably the most famous style of mole. The sauce originated in Puebla and is a dark reddish-brown. It contains ancho chiles, and cocoa. The sauce is rich and slightly bittersweet. It’s most often served with turkey, which is native to Mexico.

  • Contains gluten. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

Mole Almendrado

  • The signature mole from San Pedro Atocpan, a town in the mountains south of Mexico City that produces most of the commercial mole in Mexico nowadays. Mole almendrado is expensive to make and used to be only for the upper classes, because of the high cost of almonds. It’s lightly sweet, velvety, and rich.

  • Usually contains gluten. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

Mole Manchamanteles

  • Called the tablecloth stainer, this mole often has pork in the sauce, plus an acidic fruit, like pineapple. It could be considered more of a stew than a traditional mole. It typically also includes seasonal fruits, plantains, and peanuts. The rich savoriness from the meat is balanced with the sweet acidity of the fruits.

  • Not usually gluten free. Dairy free.


Mole rosa from The Depanneur

Mole Rosa de Taxco

  • This mole is from the state of Guerrero and can be considered a style of almendrado, because it has an almond base. It’s quite rare and gets its pink color from chiles, red onion, beets, and other pink fruits, like cranberries. The sauce includes white chocolate and sugar, so it’s pretty sweet. It’s served over chicken and topped with rose petals and mezcal.

  • Usually contains gluten and dairy.

Mole Michoacano

  • This style of mole is from Michoacán state. It’s a bit spicier than other moles. Pasillas, guajillos, and chiles negros are typically used in this variety.

  • Not gluten free. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

Mole Xiqueño

  • Native to Xico, a tiny town in the coastal state of Veracruz, this mole is dark, tangy, and toasty. It’s the sweetest style of mole made in Mexico. It contains xoconostle, a type of cactus fruit that is integral to the flavor of the dish.

  • Not gluten free. May contain dairy, depending on the chocolate used.

* Title image courtesy of Food and Wine.

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