Oaxacan Tip Sheet

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Interested in truly savoring your next vacation? Try the following cooking schools for a delicious experience.

La Casa de los Sabores B&B (011-52-951-516-5704; lasbugambilias.com) A lovely, outdoor kitchen in a vintage, colonial home is Pilar Cabrera’s classroom.

El Naranjo (011-52-951-514-1878; elnaranjo.com.mx) Known for her lighter version (read: no lard) of Oaxacan cuisine, Iliana de la Vega shares her recipe secrets in her internationally acclaimed eatery.

Seasons of My Heart (011-52-951-508-0044; seasonsofmyheart.com) Susana Trilling, one of the first to offer cooking lessons in Oaxaca, organizes daylong and multi-day culinary lessons.

A Cook’s Tour (In the U.S.: 800-726-6388; acookstour.com) This U.S. company organizes week-long, group and private trips to Italy, France, South Africa and, of course, Oaxaca


The following recipes are courtesy of Pilar Cabrera at Casa de los Sabores B&B in Oaxaca, Mexico. Ingredients such as dried chilis and Mexican chocolate can usually be found in the international food aisles of your local supermarket or through specialty websites such as Ethnic Grocer or MexGrocer.com. These recipes serve six people.

Mango-Jicama Salad with Cilantro-Garlic Vinaigrette

This is perfect as a cooling side dish when served with spicy entrees such as mole negro. It also makes a delicious summer salad on its own.

2 heads of red-leaf lettuce
2 heads of green-leaf lettuce
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into wedges
2 ripe mangos, peeled and julienned
1 jicama, peeled and julienned
2 avocados, sliced

1/3 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Place the salad ingredients in a big bowl.
2. Put the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Add the dressing and toss just before serving.
4. Garnish with avocado wedges.

Mole Negro Sauce

The region of Oaxaca in Mexico boasts one mole (sauce) for each day of the week. Mole negro is perhaps the state’s most famous one and is typically served with chicken. (The instructions for the chicken are below.) The sauce takes about 90 minutes to prepare.

4 dried chilhuacle chilis (optional)
8 dried mulato chilis
8 dried pasilla mexicano chilis
3 tsp. lard (or olive oil)
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup shelled pecans
1/4 cup shelled peanuts
4 slices of egg bread or other semi-sweet bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 tsp thyme
1/3 tsp marjoram
1/3 tsp oregano
4 avocado leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 tsp anise
3 whole cloves
1/8 tsp cumin
3 whole black peppercorns
1 tomato, roasted
3 tomatillos, roasted
3 cloves of peeled garlic, roasted
1/2 medium peeled onion, roasted
4 cups of chicken broth (from the chicken recipe below)
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup Mexican chocolate
salt to taste

1. Clean the dried chilis with a damp cloth. Open the chilis with a knife by making a lengthwise slit down the side. Remove the seeds, stems and veins. Reserve the seeds.
2. Sautee the chilis in a saucepan in a bit lard, vegetable or olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) at medium heat. Remove each chili as it begins to change colors and becomes puffy. Place them in a bowl lined with paper towel. If the chilis start to burn, lower the heat.
3. In the same pan, sauté the raisins until they puff up and brown a bit. Set them aside and sauté the almonds, pumpkin seeds, pecans and peanuts together for about 5 minutes. Set aside. Next, fry the dried bread pieces on both sides for about 2 minutes in the remaining oil or lard. Next, fry the sesame seeds until they obtain a deep brown color. (Add salt to prevent the seeds from splattering out.) Remove seeds and sauté the thyme, marjoram, oregano, cinnamon, avocado leaves, cloves and black peppercorns for 1 minute.
4. Roast the tomatoes, tomatillos and peeled onion and garlic in a heavy, open skillet on high. Do not use oil. (If you have a roasting rack that can be placed over a gas range, that will work well. You can also put the vegetables on a foil-lined tray in the oven with the temperature on broil. Keep a close eye, though; tomatoes roast faster than the other items and will likely need to be removed first.) Once the skins wrinkle and the edges are slightly burned, remove. Peel the tomatoes.
5. Place the spices, tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken broth in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
6. Place the sautéed chilis and 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth into the blender. Blend until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.
7. Heat the remaining unused lard/oil at a medium temperature in a deep pot and pour in the spice mixture. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the blended chilis and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the sugar and chocolate and stir for 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken. The sauce is ready when you can catch glimpses of the bottom of the pot while stirring.
8. Add the rest of the chicken broth and season with salt. Cook for 3 more minutes over medium heat. Add chicken pieces a few minutes prior to serving.


Make the chicken prior to beginning the mole sauce.

1 whole chicken (or pre-cut chicken pieces equivalent to a whole chicken)
1 onion chopped into quarters
2 garlic cloves
sea salt to taste

Place the chicken in a deep pot in six cups of water. Add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil at medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked all the way through (a minimum of 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken). Reserve the broth for the mole sauce. If using a whole chicken, remove it from the broth after cooking. Cool and cut into serving sized pieces. Reserve at room temperature until the mole sauce is ready.

Mexican Rice

This side dish goes perfectly with mole. The starch balances the spiciness of the chicken and its light red color goes beautifully with the dark, brown sauce.

2 cups white long-grain rice (do not use converted rice)
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup corn oil
1/3 onion in a chunk
3 garlic cloves
4 cups chicken stock or water
1 sprig parsley
3 whole fresh Serrano chilis (jalapeños can work as a replacement)
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup shelled fresh peas

1. Soak the rice for 5 minutes in warm water. Rinse and drain.
2. Heat the oil in a wide pot at medium-high heat. Add rice and sauté, stirring occasionally until the rice becomes transparent and the grains start to separate. Pour off any excess oil. Add carrots and peas and sauté for two more minutes.
3. Add pureed tomatoes to the rice and cook for 4 minutes. Next, add stock/water. Arrange the chilis and parsley on top.
4. Bring to a boil.
5. As soon as it boils, reduce the flame to medium and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until all of the rice is tender.