Hot Date! (fermented mole sauce with honey fermented dates)


Like mole, this sauce relies heavily on dried peppers. They can indeed be used in fermentation, but you need sources of fresh produce in there – I advise roughly 50% – in order to provide the healthy bacteria that makes fermentation possible.

Although the sweetness of traditional mole comes in large part from raisins, for this recipe I used honey fermented dates. In the future, I’d like to try honey fermented raisins and other options, but I have to say I love how this sauce came out. (UPDATE: I made this with raisins and some star anise pods fermented in honey and it was equally delicious, no surprises!)

It’s very reminiscent of mole but also unique in its own right. There’s a bit of work here compared to other sauce recipes I’ve posted, but I think you’re going to absolutely love the outcome.

This sauce is super versatile. It has a tangy sweetness that works really well as a barbecue sauce or glaze, but it can be used like a mole for tamales and enchiladas. It’s great on eggs, as a chip dip, and so much more.

So let’s do this!

You will need:

The dried and fresh peppers


Mole base:

  • 4 cups distilled or filtered water
  • 2 TBSP additive-free salt
  • ~1/2 lb. (225 – 230g) mixed dried peppers (choose 2 or more of the following: ancho, pasilla, guajillo, chipotle); seeds and stems removed
  • 150 – 200g fresh red (or orange) habanero peppers (~15-20 pods); seeds and stems removed
  • 1 small (~225g) Vidalia or sweet onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large tomatillo (~60g), cut in half
  • 1 large Roma tomato (~65g), cut in half
  • 1 head garlic (~30g)
  • 3 TBSP cocoa nibs (~15g)
  • 1 TBSP cumin, ground
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (1 optional for after the ferment)
  • 1 – 2 cups retained brine (for after the ferment)
  • After the ferment: 3 TBSP pure cocoa powder

Honey-Fermented Dates:

  • 150g dates, pitted (have also done with raisins, which are more traditional in mole sauce, with great results)
  • ~2/3 lb. honey (~10-11 oz.)
  • 1 TBSP filtered or distilled water

(Double the quantities to have extra left over honey dates, or for a larger batch of sauce)


1.) For the dates: In the smaller jar, combine the dates, honey, and water. There is no need to cut the dates, but you may. Open and stir daily for one week, then periodically after that, especially if dates do not fully submerge. No special lid is required. Allow to stand at room temperature in this manner for at least one month. (All sauce components in photo were fermented about 3 months.) Optional: add a few star anise pods for deeper flavor.

2.) For the mole: Using the mortar & pestle, coarsely crush the cocoa nibs, allspice, thyme, and cloves. Place all spices, plus the ground cumin and cinnamon stick, in the saucepan with the water and salt, bring to a low boil, stirring until the salt is fully dissolved.

3.) Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, strain out all the spices (including the cinnamon stick) and place them in the spice bag. Retain the brine.

4.) Place the spice bag with the spices still in it in the half-gallon jar, followed by all the prepared peppers (dried & fresh), vidalia onion, tomatillo, tomato, and garlic.

5.) Add the cooled brine to the half gallon jar until within an inch of the jar’s shoulder. There may be excess brine which doesn’t need to be used. Add the fermentation weight. With the addition of the weight, the brine level should be around the shoulder of the jar or only slightly higher. Moisture will continue to be released from the produce and increase the brine level over the next day or so. Add the airlock lid and ferment for a minimum of a month.

6.) After the allotted time, seperate the ferment brine from the fermented produce. Make sure to retain all the brine and the spice bag. Remove all the fermented produce from the jar and place in blender. Add one cup of retained brine to the blender as well, and blend on high for several minutes.

The fermented mole and dates after three months. From the dried peppers, it is normal for the brine to be dark.

7.) Transfer the blended sauce, along with 3 TBSP pure cocoa powder, the spice bag (with everything still in it), an optional fresh (new) cinnamon stick if you want a more strongly cinnamon flavor (it’s good both ways), and the honey fermented dates (along with a few tablespoons of the honey to desired taste), to the saucepan and heat on high. Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Allow to cool some before lifting lid and stirring.

8.) Before blending, discard the cinnamon stick and spice bag. Return all contents to the blender and blend on high for 5 minutes, pulsing frequently for the last minute. The sauce can be considered complete, but if you prefer a thinner sauce which flows more easily from a thin-neck woozy bottle, bring an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of the reserved brine to a boil, add it to the blender, and blend again for a couple minutes.

Hot Date! on some tamales

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  1. If you were to use raisins instead how much would you use? I LOVE mole and this sounds like something I’d really love to try!

    • Daniel Berke

      The sugar levels between dates and raisins is very similar, raisins having slightly more. You could use the exact same measurements as for the dates and honey in the recipe and expect a very similar sweetness and caloric level. I think you’ll really enjoy it if you love mole! Keep me posted.

  2. I’m just making this recipe now. Looking forward to it. Using the proportions you listened my 1/2gal jar is overfull and I don’t have enough brine. I had to crush the solid components down to make room. Not quite enough brine to cover the solids – I’ll make another batch of brine to cover. Will let you know.

    • Daniel Berke

      Gld you’re giving it a try, it’s one of my all-time favorite sauces. I’m surprised you don’t have enough brine since you mentioned the jar was overfull and the recipe indicates making 3 cups of brine; normally there is excess brine. But sometimes that’s how it can go. The way each person cuts and breaks down their produce can be different, and the weights and volume of veggies will invariably differ from someone else’s. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll work it out. Let me know how the end product turns out!

  3. Hi! Just came across this recipe! Im going to try it sooner. However, my question is for the final product that is the blended sauce. How long does it stay? And how would you store the sauce? also can it be left at room temperature?

    • Daniel Berke

      You can keep it sealed at room temperature but once you open it and start using it, it should be kept refrigerated. It should keep for about a year.

  4. Tyler Vanston

    Would there be any issues doing the same pasteurizing method as in the Pissed off Peach hot sauce? I got about 2 quart yield and want to make sure I’m extending the life best I can.

  5. Katrina Tickle

    I bought woozy bottles with plastic tops. Do I boil bath the jars with lids on to make them shelf safe?

    • Yes, it’s completely fine, the plastic won’t melt or anything like that. Let me know how it turns out!

      • This looks so interesting! I have a potentially silly question- do you use dried or fresh dates? I assume dried because of the possible raisin substitution, but I’m fairly new at this and wanted to double check!

  6. Step 7…. “Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-60 minutes”. What do you suppose the sauce would be like without the final cooking in order to preserve probiotics? This sounds very interesting and I’ll have to give it a whirl!

    • The issue with this sauce is that with all that honey and date (or raisins), you’ve introduced a ton of sugar at the end to the ferment. Although the flavor could be just fine at first, it’s going to keep actively fermenting, creating more and more lactic acid. I’m also not sure the texture would be right. Finally, you’d really not want your jars or bottles of sauce to become explosive so mailing or sharing becomes questionable. I do love the concept of probiotic sauces but you just need to be eating so much sauce to get any probiotic benefit, it’s not really realistic. Common guidance suggests eating an overall healthy diet rich in probiotics is the best way to support your gut, and sauce is just not going to get you there on its own. Well, keep me posted what you do!


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