If you’re looking for a fun culinary cultural experience in Puerto Vallarta, look no further than Chocomuseo. Located just off the malecon, this three-story chocolate museum offers bean-to-bar chocolate-making classes and a market-to-plate mole cooking class.
*FUN FACT* – The top three countries that produce the most cacao are: the Ivory Coast in Africa, followed by Ghana, then Indonesia. The country that consumes the most chocolate is Switzerland!
What is mole (Mo-lay) and where does it come from? Mole is a type of sauce containing up to 100+ ingredients, made from intricate blends of dried chilis, fruits, spices and seasonings. Mole has a highly complex flavor profile because each batch is different based on your ingredients (and even your mood when you make it!), and is a labor of love, taking anywhere from 4 to 24 hours to make. Therefore, making mole is typically reserved for special occasions when made in a family home. Mole comes from the regions of Oaxaca and Puebla, and is a beloved dish all throughout the country of Mexico. There are eight main types of mole, however, contrary to popular belief, not all mole sauces contain chocolate!
- Mole Poblano
- Mole Verde
- Mole Coloradito
- Black Mole
- Xico Mole
- Mole Chihilo
- Mole Amarillo
- Mole Manchamantel
Our mole contained the following ingredients:
- Cacao beans
- Black pepper
- White sesame seeds
- Animal cookies (for consistency)
- Dried chiles
All tours begin at the museum in downtown Puerto Vallarta, where you’ll hop into an Uber (paid for by the company) and drive five minutes to a local market on the outskirts of the main part of town called Frutas Baca. This is where you’ll select and hand-pick the ingredients that will go into your mole! Chocomuseo outfits you with baskets and an adorable apron to walk around town like this so you can feel like a true chef! 😀
Because there are virtually no tourists in Mexico at the moment because of strict border controls from Canada, and quarantine mandates upon return to the U.S., my husband and I were lucky enough to have the tour to ourselves, so it was a private class with our cooking instructor and guide, Jorge. Masks are mandatory, and the kitchen has plenty of windows and doors with open air.
This particular mole poblano recipe calls for one platano. Plantains are different than bananas and are firmer in texture and sweeter in taste. Plantains are what gives mole its sweetness, along with carrots.
The first stop at the market is to select the produce, followed by the chiles, and finally the spices! If you’re learning Spanish, this is a great time to practice new words!
*FUN FACT* – did you know that chiles have a different name when they’re dried?! For example, the Jalapeño turns into a chipotle when it’s dried! The fresh and dried version of the same species has such a different taste profile, so you would never guess that it starts out as the same chile!
TIP: To pick a chile, make sure there are no holes otherwise there may be bugs inside (not a big deal, extra protein.)
The next stop is the tortilleria, just across the street from the mercado (market). Here you can watch as complex machinery takes the dough and pumps out the flattened discs, juxtaposed with women making the dough by hand and placing it into the machine. I’ve been eating and cooking Mexican food my whole life, having spent a chunk of my childhood in California, but let me tell you, there is nothing like the real thing buying a huge stack of freshly made tortillas, wrapped in paper, still hot, for $2 USD. The fresh tortillas taste absolutely nothing like the ones we purchase in bags in grocery stores in the U.S., even the ones at Whole Foods without preservatives.
Nixtamalizado is the process to make the masa for the tortillas (which takes several hours.) You must soak the corn to remove the bacteria, otherwise it can make you very sick.
After perusing and selecting your fresh ingredients at the market, you’ll return back to the museum where you’ll be cooking on the second floor.
The original way to pulverize the cacao beans was to use a volcanic rock by hand to crush the beans in a rolling downward motion (left), which is still used today in many places around the world. With modern machinery, we now use a grinder (right).
When you roast your cacao beans, roast in a ceramic pot (preferable) and roast on low heat. Be sure to constantly move them around otherwise they will burn. You’ll know when they’re done when a delicious chocolate aroma begins to permeate the air and they’ll start popping loudly due to the expansion from the heat (watch your eyeballs!)
When slicing the chiles, you’ll want to remove the stem, the veins and the seeds, unless you prefer spicy, then you can leave in some seeds. Chiles are soaked in hot water to loosen the skin before they’re fried in oil and then added to the grinder.
You’ll chop all the ingredients ahead of time, meanwhile chatting with your guide!
After the cacao beans are finished roasting on the ceramic pot (approximately 7 minutes), you’ll pour them onto the marble countertop to cool, wait a few minutes, then remove the bean from the shell husk by rolling it in your hands (a tedious process but it smells oh-so-good!) I’ll have chocolate-smelling hands any day!
By this point, we were about 3 hours into our cooking class and we were getting hungry! Thankfully Jorge had some chocolate on hand to feed us while we worked!
The next step was to grind all the various seeds and dry ingredients by turning a hand-crank grinder (people who make mole frequently must have some great upper body strength, because this was a workout!)
The next step is to (intentionally) light fire to exactly three tortillas literally to a burnt, black crisp. This adds smokey flavor to the mole paste (and lighting food on fire is pretty fun – who said you can’t play with your food?) 😉
We’re nearly there! Whilst the rice and veggies were boiling on the stove, it was then time to mix all the ingredients together by hand (be careful, it’s hot! Hence the gloves), forming a thick, dark brown paste.
And voila! It’s complete!
You mix part paste, part hot water or chicken or vegetable broth / stock to get the mole consistency to your desired preference. For a more runny mole, add more liquid broth. For a thicker sauce, add more paste. It’s traditional to top it with sesame seeds for presentation.
Don’t forget to save room for dessert! A delicious cacao chocolate cake made in house.
And finally, you’ll get to take home your very own jar of mole that you just spent four hours creating!
So, was the juice worth the squeeze? Taking a mole class was so much fun, and I highly recommend it, but would I make traditional mole again? Probably not, unless I had an army of helpers! I can imagine it would be a fun holiday tradition with family members participating, but finding the ingredients back in the states may prove to be a wild goose chase unless you happen to live near a Mexican or Latin market.
The mole tasted delicious, and talk about really appreciating your food when you’ve put such hard work into it! Mole is not a dish you can just whip up quickly on a work night, that’s for sure!
MOLE COOKING CLASS COST: 911 MXN = $45.50 USD per person
If you’re a travel or food blogger, they offer a generous discount of 40% off. I also recommend checking out their chocolate making classes as well! They’ve got bean-to-bar and truffle classes. Book your tour here.
What’s Included In The Mole Cooking Class?
- Uber ride to and from Chocomuseo to the market
- All ingredients
- Cooking class
- A (very generous portion) of lunch, including chicken (or veggies if you’re vegan or vegetarian), rice, and mole
- Chocolate cake dessert
- Your mole in a jar to take home
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