Must-have mole: 9 local spots serving the sensational sauce

Where to get the variety of Mexican sauces with a chile pepper base.

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.
Plato Poca Cosa at Cafe Poca Cosa owner (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Plato Poca Cosa at Cafe Poca Cosa owner (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

Past favorites include the Mole de Chilhuacle, 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.

Elvira’s Restaurant

256 E. Congress St.
Mole pipian rojo at Elvira's Restaurant in Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Mole pipian rojo at Elvira’s Restaurant in Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

El Saguarito

3535 E. Fort Lowell Rd.
Doña Maria mole chicken enchilada at El Saguarito (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Doña Maria mole chicken enchilada at El Saguarito (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

La Indita

 622 N. Fourth Ave.
Chicken Mole at La Indita (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chicken Mole at La Indita (Credit: Jackie Tran)

One of the most beloved specials here, the chicken mole, is smothered in a lip-licking mole sauce made from cacao (recent change from the chocolate previously used), 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.
Pollo en mole negra at the Little One (Credit: S. Manuel)

Pollo en mole negra at the Little One (Credit: S. Manuel)

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 Friends of 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. It also comes vegan.

Balance this with a tart glass of their house tamarindo.

Keep up with Martin’s Comida Chingona on Facebook.

Penca

50 E. Broadway Blvd.

Brussels sprouts and amaranth get the royal treatment in the Coles Con Mole Chilhuacle. The yellow mole is made with the rare yellow chilhuacle pepper.

For more information, visit pencarestaurante.com.

Reforma Cocina Y Cantina

4340 N. Campbell Ave.

Reforma’s Mole de Pollo takes airline roasted chicken breast and dresses it lavishly in mole colorado con poblano, Cotija, cilantro, and scallions, all served with Spanish rice and black beans.

For more information, visit reformatucson.com.

El Antojo Poblano

1114 W. St. Mary’s Rd.

Photo courtesy of El Antojo Poblano

While we’ve been trying out the rest of their menu, we haven’t tasted their Enmoladas de Pollo yet. The dish (using a family recipe that spans three generations) features four enmoladas filled with chicken and topped with mole, cheese, and onion served with a side of rice.

Given how delicious everything else is, we’re confident their chicken mole would be fantastic as well.

Keep up with El Antojo Poblano on Facebook.

What’s your favorite mole in town? Tell us in the comments.

[This article was originally written on May 5, 2016, and most recently updated on July 2, 2019.]

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.

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