Mole — a variety of Mexican sauces with a chile pepper base — is served at a selection of restaurants right here in Tucson.
Not to be confused with the subterranean mammal skilled at digging, mole (pronounced moe-lay) can refer to a variety of Mexican sauces with a chile pepper base.
Though mole is most popular within the southern part of central Mexico, Tucson’s fortunate enough to have a selection of restaurants with mandatory mole.
The most popular version of mole in Tucson is mole poblano, which often contains chocolate and complex flavors from dozens of other ingredients. Though it is traditional to serve mole poblano with turkey, you’ll only find that on special occasions in Tucson.
In alphabetical order, here’s our list of favorite moles currently available.
Cafe Poca Cosa
110 E. Pennington St.
Perhaps the most iconic mole in Tucson, Cafe Poca Cosa’s mole is what dreams are made of. Though their signature dish is the Plato Poca Cosa, which has a variety of dishes at the chef’s whim, you absolutely cannot miss out on their mole if you’ve never had it.
Their Mole de Chilhuacle is made with the rare chilhuacle pepper from Oaxaca, along with guajillo and pasilla peppers, which are mild but intensely flavorful.
For more information, visit cafepocacosatucson.com.
256 E. Congress St.
Though Elvira’s in Tubac has eight moles, their Tucson location is tweaking recipes for local tastes. They currently offer five: negro, xiqueño, poblano, pipian rojo, and dos moles — a combination of poblano and pipian rojo.
Elvira’s considers the mole negro “King of the Moles.” It has 34-ingredients — chile pasilla, banana, and almond to name a few — with “hints of sweetness, spice, and many other amazing flavors to enhance the palate.”
The xiqueño is unique with avocado leaf and a star anise-forward flavor. The poblano has a mix of peanuts, cacao, and dried chiles, while the pipian rojo sauce features only two ingredients — guajillo chiles and pumpkin seeds. Don’t be fooled by the short ingredient list — the sauce highlights the fruity and floral complexity of guajillo chiles.
Keep up with Elvira’s Restaurant on Facebook.
3535 E. Fort Lowell Rd.
Doña Maria is a brand of mole available in a jar in most grocery stores. Like the jarred stuff, El Saguarito’s Doña Maria Chicken Mole Enchiladas strike a balance of sweet and spicy with a comforting blend of textures from toothsome corn tortillas and chunks of chicken.
For more information, visit elsaguarito.com.
622 N. Fourth Ave.
One of the most beloved specials here, the chicken mole is smothered in a lip-licking mole sauce made from chocolate, peanuts, prunes, ancho chiles, and other spices. A tortilla on the side helps to wrap the cozy dish together.
For more information, visit lainditarestauranttucson.com.
The Little One
151 N. Stone Ave.
The Davila family knows their mole. The restaurant formerly known as Little Cafe Poca Cosa serves outstanding meals like its sister restaurant Cafe Poca Cosa, but in a more casual setting with no dinner.
The Pollo en Mole Negro includes slowly simmered chicken breast in a smooth mole sauce of bittersweet chocolate, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, mild dried chiles, and whatever other family secrets they won’t tell us. Enjoy this with one of their fabulous juice blends or their iced coffee and horchata. Don’t forget to bring cash — it’s all they accept.
Keep up with the Little One on Facebook.
Martin’s Comida Chingona
557 N. Fourth Ave.
Mole isn’t as common in burrito form, but it’s no less lovable. The earthy mole and soft filling benefit from the griddle-crisped tortilla exterior. Balance this with a tart glass of their house tamarindo.
They’re usually closed from 2 – 5 p.m. so check times online — it’s well worth it when you can get it.
For more information, visit Martin’s Comida Chingona.
Reforma Cocina Y Cantina
4340 N. Campbell Ave.
Reforma’s recent menu addition, Mole de Pollo, takes airline roasted chicken breast — atop a bed of Spanish rice and black beans — and dresses it lavishly in mole colorado con poblano, with Cotija, cilantro, and scallions.
For more information, visit reformatucson.com.
What’s your favorite mole in town? Tell us in the comments.