Is Mole Healthy? A Latina Dietitian Explains the Benefits

If you’re wondering if mole is healthy, it may be because you’re not used to hearing about the health benefits of traditional Mexican foods. 

As a Latina dietitian, I’ve spent years talking to Latinos about food and nutrition. Time and time again, I hear them say they’ve been told to avoid traditional Latino foods.

But I’ve made it my mission as a Latina dietitian to help Latinos learn about the health benefits of our food culture. 

So if you’ve ever wondered about the nutritional benefits of mole sauce, this blog post is for you! We’ll cover nutrition facts for different types of mole, the health benefits, and how to build a healthy meal with mole.

Let’s get started!

plate of mole with mexican rice. text reads "is mole healthy?"

What is mole?

Big picture, “mole” really means “sauce” in Mexican cuisine. The word mole comes from the Nahuatl word “molli” which means sauce. 

It makes sense, then, that there are so many varieties of mole … because there are endless ways to make sauces. 

Guacamole, for instance, is avocado sauce!

Another example is chirmole. Growing up, I always heard my mom and aunt refer to a basic grilled tomato salsa as “chirmole.” This is a very regional term, and other areas may simply call it salsa roja.

But when people say “mole” they are typically referring to one of the very rich, complex sauces that Mexican food is known for. These moles blend chiles, nuts, seeds, spices, vegetables and sometimes even chocolate for sauces that may be sweet, spicy, and more.

Some of the most common types of mole out there (besides guacamole) are mole poblano, mole negro, mole coloradito, and pipián.

Honestly, this is just scratching the surface, there are so many different types of mole out there!

Is mole sauce healthy?

Mole sauces are very healthy! They contain a wide variety of healthy ingredients like chiles, nuts, spices, and vegetables. 

Nutrition facts

One reason it’s so important to me to write about the nutrition benefits of traditional Latino foods is because there’s still a real lack of information out there!

Normally, I include data from FoodData Central in my nutrition analysis. But for the mole entry, the ingredients aren’t really comparable to what you would find in a traditional mole recipe, so it doesn’t make sense for me to include it here. 

Luckily, I was able to find a Mexican nutrition database with more information. 

Here are the nutrition facts for a few different varieties of mole:

1 serving of mole poblano provides (100 g): 
Calories172 kcal
Protein17 g
Fiber0.5 g
Calcium16.4 mg (1% daily value)
Iron0.7 mg (4% daily value)
Potassium299 mg (9% daily value)
Magnesium27.2 mg (9% daily value)
Zinc1.5 mg (18% daily value)
Vitamin B10.13 mg (12% daily value)
Vitamin B20.55 mg (45% daily value)
1 serving of mole rojo provides (100 g): 
Calories528 kcal
Protein10 g
Fiber6 g
Calcium221 mg (18% daily value)
Iron8.3 mg (46% daily value)
Potassium840 mg (25% daily value)
Magnesium93 mg (30% daily value)
Zinc5 mg (63% daily value)

These differences show how difficult it is to talk about the nutrition in mole with broad strokes. There are so many different recipes out there. 

Even with the same type of mole, there may be different ingredients or quantities used. 

You also have to consider the differences between mole paste and fully prepared mole. 

Mole health benefits

I was also able to find some peer-reviewed research looking at the nutrient content of different types of mole. 

The main findings from that research are that while the individual numbers may vary by recipe, overall most mole has the following health benefits: 

plate of mole with mexican rice. text reads health benefits of mole.

High protein sauce

While it won’t be enough to meet your daily protein needs, mole can be anywhere from 5%-12% protein by weight (1).

This is thanks to the nuts and seeds you’ll find in mole, such as sesame seeds in mole poblano or pepitas in pipián.  

Source of healthy fats

Fat is the main nutrient in mole (2). While this may sound concerning, the fats in mole are mostly coming from nuts and seeds, which provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats

Rich in antioxidants

It’s no surprise that mole provides a lot of antioxidants. After all, chiles are rich in antioxidants, as are the seeds and spices used to make mole. 

Interestingly, researchers found that moles that use red chiles (like mole ranchero) have a higher antioxidant content than mole that uses fresh green vegetables like mole verde (3). 

Provides essential minerals

Thanks to the nuts and seeds, mole can be a great source of minerals like magnesium and calcium.

Certain mole recipes may provide a significant amount of potassium, as well (4). This is likely thanks to the use of vegetables like tomato and peppers (for the mole recipes that use them

Fiber source

It’s not surprising that mole would be a good source of fiber. All of the mole varieties featured in this study were found to be a good source of fiber. 

It makes sense! Mole is a sauce made from various vegetables, nuts, and seeds, all of which provide fiber. 

What about jarred mole?

While these health benefits are impressive, it should be noted they were found in homemade mole recipes.

Jarred moles will vary widely in the recipe used, and not all of them may have as many vegetables, nuts, or seeds. 

One very popular brand of ready-to-eat mole, for example, features water, soybean oil, and crackers as the first ingredients (this means these are the most abundant ingredients). 

This doesn’t make it unhealthy, necessarily, but it shows you might not be getting as many of the antioxidant and fiber benefits as a recipe that features more chiles and more nuts. 

If a pre-made jarred mole paste features chiles, nuts, or seeds as the first ingredients, it will likely provide a good amount of fiber and other health benefits. 

Building a healthy plate with mole

As we saw above, mole can provide some impressive health benefits, but it doesn’t make up a whole meal!

A complete, balanced meal will still need:

  • More protein–mole provides protein, but not enough for the entire meal. Luckily mole is usually served over chicken so that one’s easy!
  • A complex carbohydrate like corn tortillas, or rice and beans
  • Extra vegetables–the chiles in the mole will provide some, but you might need more. A quick side salad or adding vegetables to your rice can both help. 

Here are two balanced meal ideas using mole:

  • Chicken mole enchiladas with a side of avocado salad
  • Mole served over chicken, with a side of mexican rice, and beans. 

Final Thoughts

Mole is just one of the many reasons Mexican food was named part of the UNESCO intangible heritage list

Mole is a food unique to Mexican food culture. Not only does it demonstrate the uniqueness of Mexican food, but it also provides plenty of health benefits. 

Overall, most mole recipes provide a good amount of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats, thanks to the chiles, nuts, and seeds. 

This is a very different story from what we typically hear about nutrition and Mexican food from mainstream U.S. nutrition resources. 

Are you looking to build a healthy, nourishing diet with your favorite Latino foods? That’s exactly what I do! That’s why I created a free 1-week Mexican meal plan to get you started. Grab your copy when you sign up for my newsletter below.


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