What Makes Oaxaca's Mole Blanco Unique?

The seven moles of Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico are often touted as the backbone and centerpiece of its food culture. Yet beyond this septet of rich sauces, there is an eighth so rare that, according to Atlas Obscura, many don't even know it exists at all — mole blanco.

Otherwise known as "mole de novia" (bridal mole), the sauce's paleness seems to match its character, as it verges on being a ghost haunting local cuisine. You won't see it show up in family restaurants or feature in the moreish street food scene of a gastronomical hub, Oaxaca City. It just seems to hover in the background, practically invisible.  

In fact, mole blanco is so scarce that its seven siblings have long overshadowed it: negro (black), rojo (red), verde (green), amarillo (yellow), manchamantele, chichilo, and coloradito. What unites them is that these are all complex, historical sauces. According to The Spicery, they can contain more than 25 ingredients and are prepared via a rigorous process that might include grinding, pounding, and blending. 

With its rich dark chocolate and almost intoxicatingly complex flavors, smoky mole negro is one of the most famous (and can take days to prepare), per The Spicery. Yet its polar opposite on the color wheel, mole blanco, remains pretty obscure.

It only extended a toe into the limelight when it showed up at a family-run New York restaurant, La Morada. But even then, it wasn't a regular menu item. As described by Serious Eats, you had to make an appointment with the owners to try it. But beyond its rarity, what exactly is so special about this coquettishly hard-to-get sauce?

Mole blanco is a complex, rich sauce reserved for special occasions

Enigmatic mole blanco is native to the Mixteca region in Oaxaca state. The reason it's not a regular feature of local cuisine is because it's reserved for special occasions like Easter, Christmas, and weddings. According to Serious Eats, this celebration recipe is usually served on top of edible tree blossoms known as pípí or chitapí. It's also typically accompanied by rabbit or chiles rellenos.

But what's actually in the recipe for mole negro? Well, for one thing, white chocolate, which already makes it pretty enticing (via Friday Night Snacks and More). Other ingredients include coconut oil, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, corn tortillas, plantains, apple, blonde raisins, onion, and seeds. You'll also find two types of chili such as serrano and habanero. All of this is blended with chicken broth or water alongside cloves, cinnamon, anise, allspice, and garlic. As described by Atlas Obscura, it results in a luxuriously creamy and decadent sauce.

Yet Friday Night Snacks and More pinpoints what actually makes mole blanco so unique — the flavor itself. Like its dark twin, mole negro, it is so rich, complicated, and layered that it surprises anyone who tastes it. And that's probably because it encompasses fruitiness, spiciness, and floral notes wrapped in a thick, velvety texture.

Combined with a robust garlic punch and subtle heat from the chilies, this rare and intriguing mole is more than just a sauce — it's an entire tasting experience.