My sister-in-law loves ordering enchiladas in molé sauce at Mexican restaurants — but without the melty cheese inside, since she abstains from dairy. This always results in puzzled looks from the waitstaff, since enchiladas traditionally feature a heavy amount of cheese both inside and on top.
In this recipe, (in honor of my sister-in-law), I have left the cheese out of the middle of the enchiladas and only added a light sprinkling of tangy and salty cotija cheese on top. The shrimp enchiladas get bathed in my quicker molé recipe. Traditional molé poblano takes hours to make and usually calls for dozens of ingredients, many of which must be individually toasted, charred, sauteed, crushed, and/or chopped by hand. My sweet and savory version may still have quite a few ingredients, but it takes a fraction of the time of the traditional version.
The Aztec word “molé” simply translates to “mix,” which helps explain why the term is something of a catchall for a large range of sauces. My version uses seeds, nuts, a dried chile and, of course, dark chocolate. I recommend purchasing your chocolate for this recipe from a fair-trade company that is single origin.
You can read more about supporting and purchasing fair-trade chocolate in my Ragged Coast article for Bluedot Living.
1 dried chile pepper, such as ancho or mulato, seeds and stem removed, torn or cut into small pieces
⅓ cup stale bread torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
¼ cup raisins
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1½ cups organic low-sodium chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
6 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate
The shrimp enchiladas
2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
12 ounces wild-caught, medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 (5-inch) corn tortillas
½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (optional)
1 cup cilantro leaves or cilantro microgreens
1 just ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
For the molé: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until just beginning to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the chile pepper, bread, and sesame seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are lightly toasted, about 6 minutes. Add the raisins, garlic, and pumpkin seeds and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Pour in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil at high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chile softens, about 5 minutes.
Pour the broth mixture into a high-powered blender along with the peanuts, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and chopped chocolate and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.
For the enchiladas: Have a 9 x 13 inch baking dish ready. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap 12 corn tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven until pliable, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large, cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and the shrimp. Cook the shrimp until just opaque and beginning to curl, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add ½ cup molé to the shrimp and stir to combine.
Spoon ½ cup molé into the bottom of the baking dish and spread it around.
Remove the tortillas from the oven. Fill a tortilla with a few shrimp, roll the tortilla into a cigar shape, and place it into the prepared baking dish seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and shrimp.
Spoon the remaining molé over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese, if using. Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with the cilantro and avocado. Serve immediately with a fresh squeeze of lime, if desired.
Vanessa Seder has worked in the food industry for close to 20 years as a recipe developer, food stylist, chef instructor, and author. Her cookbooks include: Eat Cool, (which received positive reviews from the New York Times and elsewhere) and the award-winning Secret Sauces. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, Vanessa has developed recipes for Real Simple, All You, Health, Cooking Light, Hannaford’s Fresh, Ladies Home Journal—where she previously served as an associate food editor, and Maine The Way, among others. She lives with her family in Portland, Maine. She can be found online at vanessaseder.com and Instagram @vseder.