Tofu Mole: Authentically Delicious

Before I even think about sharing this recipe (see, I’m learning: some things are more important than food!), I want to send out a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who left comments on my previous post and even to those who read it and chose not to comment.  This is why I love the food blogging community: there is an incredible wealth of knowledge, wisdom, good will and compassion here that I, quite honestly, have never encountered in such abundance in any other realm in my life. If the knowledge that our struggles–whether food-oriented or otherwise–are shared by others can help even one person, then we can feel as if we are doing something worthwhile with out time (or our blog).  And now that my New Year’s whinge is complete, you can all relax–I promise not to whine (well, not too vociferously, anyway) again until 2012. 😉

As lovers of spicy vittles, the HH and I are often drawn to foods from other cuisines than our own (after all, it’s not often you find high-octane poutine or fiery-hot Scottish bannock).  In the part of town in which we live, there’s an abundance of Asian restaurants and we have, indeed, frequented most of them. But despite the multicultural norm in Toronto, there’s a paucity of Latin American food in my neighborhood.

As it turns out, my closest connection to Mexico currently is my crush on Cesar Millan (and really, who doesn’t have a crush on that whispering canine tamer?).  Previously, I had to rely on Hernando’s Hideaway, a fairly cheesy haunt that served the HH and me canned refried beans, stale tacos and lots of beer when we went there at the outset of our relationship.  Not the best reflections of authentic dishes, to be sure.

But I’ve been searching for great Mexican fare ever since I was invited to a colleague’s home for dinner almost 20 years ago.  She was my office mate at the time and I was in awe of her.  Brilliant, beautiful and gregarious, Ms. Mate had written her PhD in Italian literature, possessed a singing voice like Carrie Underwood’s, bore a striking resemblance to Tricia Helfer and–this one irked me the most–had lived all over the world before settling in Toronto, Canada in her early 30s. (Shortly after we met, Ms. Mate was bitten by the peripatetic bug again and along with her then-hubby and their infant, moved to Vancouver to be near the ocean.  Last I heard, she was performing in the country music circuit in between her gigs as a celebrated life coach).  Intimidated, much?

One of the places Ms. Mate had resided before relocating in Canada was Oaxaca, and she’d mastered the cuisine (or should that be cocina?) while over there.  Our dinner that night involved a variety of authentic dishes, all of which, if I remember correctly, were hot enough to sear the epidermis on your lips (a cheap way to achieve that “plumped-up” look for which so many starlets dish out megabucks, come to think of it).

At that time, the early 90s, Madonna’s influence was still at its apex; in other words, “lingerie-as-clothing” was the hottest trend for women. Ms. Mate greeted us at the door wearing a strapless black lace corset with heart-shaped cups that laced up the back.  No shirt. No jacket. (She did sport a pair of slinky silk slacks, however). I know the attire was supposed to be sexy, but for me it was eerily reminiscent of my mother’s old Mah-Jong pal, Ms. Gabor, who regularly removed her shirt at Maj games in our kitchen).

Ms. Mate’s most astonishing party trick, still just as sharp in my memory today as it was that evening, was when she lifted a fresh whole jalapeno from its bowl, held it aloft by the stem, and then all in one go eased it into her mouth (how Madonna-like of her!), chewing contemplatively as each of the guest’s eyes began to water merely from the thought of how spicy it must have been.  But to Ms. Mate, who’d long before become innured to such heat in Oaxaca, it was no more unusual than munching on a pretzel.

Needless to say, we were served mole that evening (with chicken in it, if I recall correctly) and while we all loved the complex flavors and nuanced seasonings, it was probably far too spicy for my palate at the time.

I got the idea to try out my own mole after reading a post by Saveur who made an interesting squash and cranberry bean (also known as borlotti beans) version. But we had a brick of tofu in the house that was nearing its “best before” date, and I thought I’d use that instead (though this recipe would be equally delicious with beans, I am sure).  Besides, after a flat-out rejection of the stuff, the HH has deigned to consume tofu on occasion once more, and I wanted to strike while the (cast) iron was hot.

This recipe is adapted from–of all places–one by Paula Deen, primarily because she included the word “quick” in the title.  In the end, I went for a more conventional approach and did simmer the sauce for an hour, allowing it to thicken considerably (as true mole should) and for the tofu to absorb as much of the flavors as possible.  I love the bitter undertones from the chocolate and the rich, smoky sauce spiked with cumin, chili and cinnamon, which is a perfect foil for the bland rice beneath.

This dish isn’t quite as white-hot as the one made by Ms. Mate, which likely renders it less authentic, yet more of a crowd-pleaser, than hers.  Then again, if you’re willing to perform the pepper trick in front of your friends, you can probably get away with as much–or as little–spice as you please.

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Last Year at this Time: Creamy Creole Eggplant Pasta Bake

Two Years Ago: The Simple Life (and Smoothie): Sweet Potato Smoothie

Three Years Ago: Driven by Distraction

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  1. Yuuummmm….now if only I could tolerate soy or tofu.

  2. You could use pretty much any legume and I’m sure it would be just as good. 🙂

  3. I just cast my eye down the ingredients going tick tick tick, sounds good and then I saw almond butter and my eyes suddenly were on the end of the stalks – how interesting! Now I want to try this – E even suggested chilli non carne tonight but I felt too lazy after a hot day.

    I love your story of Ms Mate – why don’t I have interesting colleagues like this?

    • If you don’t have almond butter, you could use peanut butter (which was the original ingredient in Deen’s recipe). And as for Ms. Mate, alas, she was the last of the uber-interesting colleagues! (no offence, current office mate) 😉

  4. Oh, this recipe sounds delicious!

    I LOVE the Dog Whisperer too.. in fact last night, Jorda and I were curled up in bed watching him on the computer..

  5. Ricki, this mole looks wonderful. 🙂 I have a few more mole recipes that I’d like to try, and I’ve bookmarked this one as well. 🙂

  6. This looks absolutely delicious! I am dying to try this as I have never had mole, but I am obsessed with anything spicy. Looking forward to this warming dish on a cold winter’s night. I’d probably serve it with some avocado as well for some veggies and to have a cooling creamy side to go with spicy tofu. Thanks for this!

    Teenie Foodie

  7. I think you read my mind with this recipe. I’ve been lamenting the fact that I can’t find a good veg. mole recipe. Wil be trying this one soon!

    • Let me know what you think if you give it a try. I’ve been thinking that beans would be even better than tofu, actually, as they’d soak up more of the sauce flavors. . . next time!

  8. I love mexican dishes, I think I could eat them every day if need be. I will try this Ricki! Perhaps with beans as I am quite sure that soy is not my friend 🙁 Not the first vegetarian that happened to, right? Thanks for linking to my delightfully dangerous squares. xo

    • Maggie, have you tried fermented soy (tempeh)? It’s more easily digested by some people. I don’t have a problem with tofu, but I know that lots of folks do.

  9. Hehe, I love veganizing Paula Deen 🙂 The mole looks delicious! I’ve been wanting to make some for awhile, now I don’t have to do the hard work of figuring it out!

  10. Tehehe–I love that you adapted this from Paula Deen! Did you have to cut out a pound of butter from the original recipe, lol?!

    You know, I have always been scared of mole…it has seemed so intimidating, but your recipe sounds really good and actually doable. I am going to give it a try soon!


    • Strangely, except for the chicken, this recipe was pretty much vegan anyway 😉 I changed the chocolate (she used semisweet, which has sugar) and added a couple more spices, plus a different cooking method. Let me know what you think if you do give it a try! 🙂

  11. What a great recipe, Ricki!

    Happy New Year, I hope 2011 will be wonderful for you and hope you’ll reach your goals. You rock! (I read your last post)

  12. I looove Cesar! Dog does not…Oh and I do enjoy Paula’s enthusiasm . Recipe is so intriguing… will have to try

  13. My mouth is watering looking at this Ricki, I am going to try it out. Wish I could have a bowl of this tonight.

  14. Ah! I can’t wait to make this. I was about to head out to grocery shop at Fiesta Farms, unsure of what to make for dinner tonight. I thought, “I bet Ricki has a great recipe featured today”. A few clicks and here am I, looking at your Tofu Mole! Can’t wait to make it!!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out for me.
    🙂 Lisa

  15. I made my first mole a few months ago, but unfortunately I’m not sure I’ve ever had a truly authentic version to compare it to. I just gotta say, I’m sure if you and Ms. Mate were to cross paths nowadays, she’d have plenty to be in awe of!

    • Thanksk so much! But you have to meet Ms. Mate to know what I mean. 😉 I’m not sure this mole is any more authentic, but it sure is good. 🙂

  16. This looks like a great way to use all the dark chocolate I got for Christmas. Yum!

  17. I hadn’t thought of doing a bean mole. I can’t eat tofu, but I bet this would be delicious with beans!

  18. Sounds great.
    Glad I found you. I am also ‘curing’ myself from Candida.

  19. That looks so tasty! I’ve never tried mole sauce before, I’ll be giving this one a try.

  20. Come check out my blog…you got an award.

  21. Thanks so much for mentioning my site, and for coming up with such an awesome recipe for me to try! I wish I could make that gratin every day. Just a note, though, that you have my name listed as Kim rather than Kris…an easy mistake. Thanks Ricki!

  22. Mia, Stockholm says

    I made this yesterday and it was sooo good! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes, your site is a goldmine for a new vegan like me! 🙂

  23. “How Madonna-like of her” Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that! 😛

    Oh man, I *LOVE* mole! There’s something about that chocolate in there that makes it so different from any other dish. Last time I made mole I forgot to add the chocolate and when I took the first bite I wanted to cry! The chocolate is the best part! That will teach me not to multitask.

  24. This looks so delicious. I love the idea of combining tofu and mole. Can’t wait to try it!

  25. Hi Ricki, I made this mole tonight. I’m an omnivore so I did use chicken/chicken stock instead of tofu and the flavour was still wonderful. I also subbed peanut butter for almond butter and 1/4 c cocoa powder + 1 tbsp cane sugar for the chocolate. Oh, and I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (which I cannot find here in Calgary… I had to get an American friend to ship some up here!). They were a nice addition. Thanks again for a great recipe!

  26. Ricki, I just made this for dinner tonight, and it was fab 🙂 I’m doing a lower-fat phase in my diet, so I replaced the unsweetened chocolate with some cocoa powder, and I used OB2 in place of almond butter. I served it over a mixture of cooked brown rice and raw cauliflower “rice.” It was a winner! Especially with some habañero hot sauce 😉 Thanks for the recipe – and I’m glad to see there are other people who still eat and enjoy soy!

  27. This recipe was awesome! I made it for dinner tonight (with a couple of substitutions so I could use what I had on hand), and blogged about it here – .

    Thanks for posting it!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by leatrice lloyd. and Ricki Heller, Ricki Heller. Ricki Heller said: An all-time favorite meal (and party trick): […]

  2. […] would make a Oaxacan-food purist shriek, but this recipe for tofu mole actually sounds pretty good. [Diet, Dessert and […]

  3. […] protein bar Lunch: Curried lentil stew (above, adapted from Vegan Yum Yum) Dinner: Ricki‘s tofu mole (below) over a mixture of cooked brown rice and cauliflower “rice” (RAW) Snacks: Dried […]

  4. […] protein bar Lunch: Curried lentil stew (above, adapted from Vegan Yum Yum) Dinner: Ricki‘s tofu mole (below) over a mixture of cooked brown rice andcauliflower “rice” (RAW) Snacks: Dried […]

  5. […] the HH and I don’t play those kind of games! I meant for candy molds, or the odd piece in a mole. Silly!). I use chocolate in my baked goods, in raw treats, and as a […]

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