Mole Verde with Butter Beans

This is fast becoming a green favourite. But I have to confess, it took a while to make it yummy enough without the chicken and the tomatillos, a small green tomato-like fruit that doesn’t seem to grow in shops around here.

When we’ve been served this is Mexican restaurants, there was lots of sauce and chunks of chicken (sorry! long time ago…) poured over a huge pile of Mexican tomato rice. So I went through all the various substitutes that would fit. Soy mince, tofu, lentils? None of them quite cut it. It’s a sauce that doesn’t want too much interference in terms of colour, texture, and taste. So I ended up making it with big fat white butter beans. And the contrast was pleasantly pleasing both to the palate and to the eye. Still, I can imagine that the new varieties of fake chicken from the supermarkets could work out well. This is definitely comfort food made to satisfy.

In spite of it’s placid nature and plain-Jane appearance, the spice that really pulls it together is hot chilli, and if you have smoked chilli chipotles, that’s even better. Otherwise, combine regular chilli powder with smoked paprika powder. This one has got to be hot!


250 g (1½ cups) dried butter beans or; three 425 g (15 oz) cans butter beans, drained
1 medium clove garlic
100 g (½ small) onion
1 courgette (zucchini)
½ green bell pepper
75 g (½ cup) toasted pumpkin seeds

60 g (½ cup) toasted sesame seeds
1 jalapeno or hot chilli chipotle (smoked) pepper
100 g (⅔ cup) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
15 g (½ ounce) fresh coriander (cilantro) or thereabouts
1 tablespoon dried or; 3 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
350-450 ml (1½-2 cups) light vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lime juice
A strip of lime peel

Salt and chilli powder to taste

  • If using dry butter beans, soak overnight, or for eight hours, in triple the amount of freshwater.
  • The next day, drain and put the beans into a large pot. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce the flame and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Add more water as needed to keep the beans covered. Skim any foam off as it appears.
  • Alternatively, cook the beans in a pressure cooker, covered with 2 cm (1 inch) of water, on high pressure for about 30 minutes.

TIP: If you cook the beans a few hours before, keep them in the water they cooked in. This way they can be reheated quickly before draining and adding to the sauce.

Dried butter beans

  • Toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds, then grind either in a food processor or by using a pestle and mortar.
  • Peel the garlic.
  • Peel and medium-dice the onions.
  • Deseed and medium dice the green bell pepper.
  • Medium-dice the courgette.
  • Snip the coriander into short lengths.
  • Roughly chop the fresh oregano, if using.
  • Mince the lime peel.

  • To make the green mole Verde sauce, combine the garlic, onion, courgette, ground pumpkin and sesame seeds, chilli pepper, spinach, coriander, oregano, vegetable stock, lime juice, lime peel, salt and chilli powder in a bowl. In small batches, ladle the mixture in equal proportions into a food processor and whizz until smooth. Add a tablespoon of water to help the sauce blend easily if needed. (The stronger the engine the food processor has, the smoother the sauce.) Season to taste.
  • Put the mole Verde sauce into a stew pot. Bring to a gentle simmer over a low flame for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
  • Heat the cooked butter beans, drain well, and combine with the mole Verde.
  • Season to taste.
  • Serve with rice.

Photo from Marloes Harkema


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