Mole is the name for several sauces used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. In English, it often refers to a specific sauce which is known in Spanish by the more specific name mole poblano.
The word mole comes from the Nahuatl word mulli, which means "sauce", "mixture", "concoction," or "stew". The accented form molé, occasionally seen in English, is an error of hypercorrection, as the accent in mole is on the 'o', and no accent mark is needed in Spanish. This is probably done to emphasise the fact that the final 'e' is pronounced and to differentiate the sauce from the well-known burrowing mammal, the mole.
In contemporary Mexico, the word is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar from each other. The most popular kinds come from the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca, and there is an annual national mole fair in the town of San Pedro Actopan in the Milpa Alta borough of Mexico's Federal District, on the southern outskirts of Mexico City.
Mole poblano, whose name comes from the Mexican state of Puebla, is very popular in Mexico. Mole poblano is prepared with chile peppers, spices, unsweetened chocolate, and a variety of other ingredients. Various stories exist about its invention, but none are generally accepted. Mexico's national dish is mole poblano de guajalote, or turkey prepared with mole poblano. Mole is often used to prepare chicken- or cheese-filled enchiladas; it is also frequently ladled over chicken, rice, or chipped potatoes.
The recipe was refined by the nuns of the Order of Santa Rosa to impress visiting politicial and church officials in Mexico in the 17th cenury.
Mole can be bought ready-made from local markets or supermarkets. It comes as a kind of paste or powder that can vary in colour from deep black to green or even yellow depending on the ingredients used. In modern supermarkets and corner-shops mass-produced mole is sold — either canned, in glass jars, or in cubes that can be dissolved in water.