Mole de Olla {Mexican Beef Veggie & Chile Soup}

Made with bone-in beef, vegetables and a combination of dried chiles, this Mexican beef and vegetable soup recipe is amped up "caldo de res." Mole de olla is a perfect bowl of comforting warmth on a chilly night.

What do you crave when the weather turns chilly? Top of my list is soup. But not just any soup. It has to be made from a hearty homemade broth filled with plenty of veggies and just the right amount of protein, preferably meat but I'll take beans if I must. Bonus points if it utilizes some sort of dried chile (like my Sopa Azteca!).

Today's recipe hits those marks and then some. Mole de olla is a richly flavored soup traditionally made with beef. Cheaper cuts of tougher meats with bones work great here as the long cooking time coaxes out the healthy, healing collagen and minerals in the bones while the meat becomes fork tender.

The soup is also filled with plenty of vegetables making it a perfect one-pot meal. (As previously established, I LOVE one-pot meals!)

Thick wheels of corn-on-the-cob play in the broth alongside Mexican (or Italian) squash and the pear-shaped chayote (another kind of Mexican squash that is a nutrient powerhouse and tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a potato). Large chunks of carrots come to the party too, as do green beans and, traditionally, potatoes, though I left them out since a) I didn't have any in the house and b) that's because I'm trying my darnedest to cut down white foods again, at least during the week. But feel free to add some quartered red potatoes.

And while the meat is simmered with onions and herbs to get the broth going, Mexican cooking is, like most cuisines, all about the layering of flavor, so towards the end of the cooking, a rich chile-based sauce gets stirred in.

The sauce itself is also made with it's various components being treated differently, all in the quest to add more layers of flavor and spice. First the tomatoes and tomatillos get roasted in the oven to develop some char on their skins. Thick rings of onion and fat cloves of garlic get saut̩ed in avocado oil until golden. Next to hit the hot, lightly oiled skillet are the deseeded red chiles Рhere, a combination of nutty guajillo; mild but chocolatey California; rich and sweet ancho; smokey flavored spicy morita chiles. They get to kiss the heat just long enough to wake up their flavor before getting tossed into a pot of boiling water to soften. The softened chiles, along with the onions, garlic, tomatoes and tomatillos get blitzed in a blender until smooth. The sauce gets returned to the skillet and fried with the addition of spices like cumin, Mexican oregano, coriander, and toasted and ground sesame seeds, then simmered until slightly thickened.

After the heartier veggies like the corn and carrots have had a chance to cook in the broth, the chile sauce gets strained then added to the soup pot, bringing a beautiful red color along with it's slight, smokey heat to the flavor party. Lastly, the quicker cooking vegetables of squash and green beans gets added and the soup simmered just until the squash is slightly softened and the green beans are crisp-tender. Serve the soup in large bowls with the juice from thick wedges of lime to be added at the table (don't skip the lime! It brightens everything and makes the chiles shine). Optional garnishes include chopped cilantro and crisp dices of white onion and even some shredded cabbage just for good measure.

Mole de olla: A nutritious bowl of comfort food to keep you warm on a chilly evening.

I hope you try it.

Until next time, friends. ¡Buen Provecho! xo, ani

Mole de Olla 
{Mexican Beef Veggie & Chile Soup}

My stove has two timers. I use them both to keep track of the different cooking times as I go through the recipe. You might want to, as well. If your stove only has one, I suggest using the one on your smartphone as a backup/second timer. Basically, the first cook of the soup is at minimum an hour-and-a-half of simmering to cook the meat and get the rich bone broth going. While the meat is cooking, you'll prep the veggies, dry-toast then grind the spices, get the tomatoes roasting, deseed the chiles then make the sauce.  

Serves 6-8


1½ to 2 pounds bone-in beef shank
1½ to 2 pounds beef neck bones
coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
avocado oil, or other neutral cooking oil, for frying
1 large white onion, cut in half, divided
2 large bay leaves
half-bunch cilantro, bundled with kitchen twine to make it easier to remove later
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons beef bouillon (I like Knorr or Better than Bouillon)
½ pound tomatoes (about 2-3)
¼ pound tomatillos (about 2-3)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole Mexican oregano
2 to 3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
6 dried guajillo chiles, deseeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
6 dried California chiles, deseeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 dried ancho (also called ancho-pasilla) chiles, deseeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 to 2 dried morita chiles, deseeded and cut in half
2 ears of corn, husks and silk removed, then cut into fourths
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
½ pound Mexican or Italian squash, quartered
2 chayotes, peeled and cut into about 1-1½-inch chunks 
1 pound green beans, tops trimmed away, then cut in half

To serve:
2 limes, each quartered into wedges
½ cup diced white onions (about ½ a large onion), optional
½ bunch cilantro, rough chopped, optional
¼ large cabbage, shredded, optional
Fresh corn tortillas, optional


Prep the meat and start the broth: Generously season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a hot, 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat. Cooking in batches, add the meat and cook until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate and repeat until all meat has been browned. In the meantime, add 10 cups of water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Once all meat has browned, add to the stock pot along with any of the meat juices collected in the plate. Don't wash the skillet; set it aside for now. To the stock pot, add half of a white onion, preferably the half with the root; add the cilantro bundle, cinnamon stick, bouillon and 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 1½ to 2 hours, covered.

Prep the spices: Heat a small, dry skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add the sesame, coriander and cumin seeds. Toast, shaking the pan continuously, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove to a spice grinder, add the oregano and grind until fine; set aside.

Prep the veggies: Use the time the meat is cooking to wash, cut, peel and prep the veggies as instructed in the ingredient list. Set the veggies aside and move onto the next step which is making the sauce.

Make the sauce: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a quarter sheet baking pan with foil. Remove and discard the husks from the tomatillos then give the fruit a good rinse to remove the sticky sap. Add them and the tomatoes to the sheet pan and roast for 18 minutes, flipping them over half-way through the roasting time. Remove from the oven and place them and any juices into a blender. Set aside for now.

While the tomatoes are roasting, fill a medium to large sauce pan two-thirds of the way with water and bring to a boil.

To the skillet the meat was cooked in, add 1 generous tablespoon of oil and heat on medium-high until shimmering. Cut the remaining half onion into two ½-inch or so thick rings. Add them to the pan along with the peeled garlic. Cook on all sides until golden. Remove them to the blender jar with the tomatoes. To the same pan, add the chiles and fry, stirring the chiles continuously to keep them from burning, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the chiles are fragrant. Add the chiles to the boiling water, turn off the heat and allow the chiles to steep for 20 minutes; set aside the skillet for now. After the chiles have steeped, add them to the blender along with ½ cup of the steeping liquid. Blend on high until completely smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, discarding the pulp left behind. Put the skillet back on medium heat and once hot, carefully pour in the chile sauce (caution is needed as it will splutter). Whisk in the sesame seed spice mixture, turn heat down to lowest setting, cover and lit simmer for 10 minutes; turn off heat and reserve until the meat is finished cooking.

Finish the soup: After the meat has cooked for 1½ to 2 hours (or until the meat is fall apart fork tender) remove and discard the bay leaves, cilantro, cinnamon stick and onion. To the stock pot, pour in the fried chile sauce. Add the corn and simmer on medium heat for 25 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for another 10 minutes. At this point, taste the soup for salt, adding more to taste, if needed. Next, add the squash and green beans and cook until the squash is easily pierced with a fork but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Turn off heat and let the soup sit for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve in large bowls with a wedge of lime on the side, adding the juice of the lime just before eating. Garnish with cilantro, diced raw white onion and shredded cabbage, if desired and some hot corn tortillas to dip into the broth.

To store: Allow soup to cool completely before storing in tightly covered, preferably glass, containers in the refrigerator (the red of the sauce will stain most plastic containers). It should keep for up to 5 days though the squash will be a bit mushy come day 5.