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Is Mole Sauce Gluten Free?


The International Association for the Study of Obesity estimates that 1.9 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, and that figure is expected to skyrocket to 2.7 billion by 2030. The United States is also experiencing a sharp rise in obesity, with 33 percent of its populace now considered obese.

If you haven’t heard of mole sauce by now, it is a traditional sauce from Mexico that many people have come to love. It is made from a combination of chilies, chocolate, nuts, meat, and spices. Being that it is a traditional Mexican recipe, it may contain gluten. If you are looking for a mole sauce recipe that is gluten free, we have you covered with our Mexican mole sauce recipe.

Remarkably, the answer to the question posed above is no, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Mole sauce, which is made from several ingredients including peanuts, corn, sesame seeds, and often peanuts, is one of the ingredients.

When I initially informed my pals that I would be spending the winter in Oaxaca, they waxed lyrical over mole sauce. Oaxaca’s mole sauces underlie a major part of Oaxacan cuisine, earning it the nickname “the country of seven moles.” Moles are a distinguishing component of Mexican cuisine here and abroad, and are derived from the Nahuatl word molli, which means “concoction” or “potage.”

There is considerable ambiguity since “mole” is a broad word that encompasses a wide range of possibilities. There are seven major moles in Oaxaca. Outside of this area, however, mole sauces with a variety of ingredients and tastes thrive. It’s like claiming that all Vietnamese pho tastes the same – it doesn’t; it differs according to location, culture, and individuals.

“One prominent (non-Mexican) culinary writer describes mole as a “thick, dark sauce” whereas, in reality, it is frequently neither dark nor especially thick,” according to the MexConnect website. Mole sauces come in a variety of hues, including red, green, black, and yellow, and are both soupy and thick.

One thing to keep in mind: these delectable sauces aren’t always gluten-free.

Celiacs frequently have a difficult time finding food when traveling, especially in countries where the illness is well-known. A to-go meal for most people consists of a sandwich or pastry, a wheat empanada, a gyro, or dumplings, all of which have a fascinating history. Wheat is used in a lot of the ways we stretch protein and make it easier to transport. Not so in Oaxaca, where maize is the primary ingredient in nearly all antojitos (snacks). Quesadillas and empanadas are prepared with wet masa that is rapidly squeezed and then cooked on a comal griddle before being eaten.

Moles are more difficult to make and require longer to prepare. Some are simmered for hours, mixing a bewildering array of ingredients and chiles together. The layers of flavors are unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted. In my experience outside of Mexico, mole refers to mole poblano, a stew made up of almost two dozen components including chili, chocolate, spices, raisins, almonds, and more. There are seven major moles in Oaxaca, and many of them contain bread.

Living in Oaxaca as a Spanish speaker gives a sense of relaxation and satisfaction. As a celiac, it provides me with the comfort of being able to communicate about my condition. I inquired about every street vendor or restaurant’s mole and if it included wheat at the start of my stay. The response was always no, and it was always a shocked no. How dare you suggest that my mole is made of wheat flour?!

Oaxaca’s Mole Isn’t Gluten-Free

I was fascinated with my antojitos for the first several weeks and did not delve into the moles. Then I went to the local grinding business, where I stood in awe as workers carried in huge vats of chiles, sesame, and bread, all ready to be crushed into mole negro.

oaxaca mole not gluten freeSome Oaxacan moles aren’t gluten-free at all!

That’s when I began asking a lot more detailed questions. Is your mole sauce made with wheat or bread? Suddenly, the responses were drastically different. It required asking a very specific inquiry, like it did in Greece (“wait, pastry dough has WHEAT in it?”), to figure out how harmful the meal might be for me. This is also why I’m working on gluten-free translation cards with food names – generalities aren’t going to cut it.

So, what should celiacs be aware of when it comes to Oaxacan moles?

  • When I posed the question, moles negro, coloradito, rojo, and manchamantel nearly invariably contained bread or breadcrumbs. These recipes also call for bread in Diana Kennedy’s landmark cookbook on the area, Oaxaca Al Gusto. LE PAINFUL FACE.
  • Mole chichilo is frequently gluten-free since it is prepared with the delicious avocado leaves that give it such a unique flavor. Cornmeal is used in numerous dishes, including this one by La Olla chef Pilar Cabrera. Around town, it has sometimes included bread, but it is worth asking because this is not usually the case.
  • Bread crumbs or bread have never been used in mole amarillo (yellow mole that is really scarlet) or mole verde (green), according to recipes. They’re both generally harmless, and this includes when they’re tamale-shaped.

 A word to vegetarians: I have yet to come across a mole that is usually cooked in a way that is conducive to your requirements. While some restaurants offer vegetarian mole, traditional recipes call either pig fat, chicken stock, or a combination of the two. 

Mole negro tamales oaxacaBanana leaf-wrapped black mole tamales

I was on a conference call last Friday when a tickling began in the back of my throat. My eyes began to moisten.

My landlord was smoking chilies in the kitchen, and the smoke drifted up to my flat, so file this under “Oaxaca issues.” It was a business call, and as the prickling heat in the air grew, I couldn’t stop crying. No, our conversation wasn’t making me weep, I had to clarify. It was the chillies on the lower level.

I sat down on the sofa, tears streaming down my face, wondering what my landlady was preparing when the conversation ended.

She arrived at the door shortly after with a homemade chicken mole rojo prepared without bread. She is aware of my condition and is proud of the fact that she never uses bread in her mole sauces. She wanted to give me a sample since I can’t eat this kind of mole at restaurants.

What a lovely dish that was, too!

gluten free mole coloradito in oaxaca

Tomorrow I go to Belize and Guatemala! I’m thrilled to announce that I won’t be taking my laptop. I will, however, be on Instagram and Snapchat on occasion. (Snapchat, like everything else, is full with legalnomads.)

My gluten-free guide to Italy is now now available for anyone who missed it.

Do you want to make a comment? Join in the discussion on Facebook.

Have a wonderful weekend!

-Juana/Jodi/Short Lady Who Loves Soup and Mole (Juana/Jodi/Short Lady Who Loves Soup and Mole)

The “cheapest” in this case is the cheapest per gram of gluten that could be in a food item.. Read more about is mole sauce keto friendly and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does mole sauce have wheat?


Whats mole sauce made of?

Mole sauce is a type of Mexican sauce that is made with chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and spices.

Is Mole Dona Maria gluten free?

Yes, Mole Dona Maria is gluten free.

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