Pan-Seared Pork Medallions with Pistachio Mole

Pan-Seared Pork Medallions with Pistachio Mole

You probably know this already but the Pistachio Mole Sauce I present today is neither comprised of nor an homage to a rodent. Mole (pronounced moh-LAY) is, however, possibly the most talked-about but least understood of Mexico’s regional dishes. This is because the term mole is more general than most people believe it to be. American aficionados of Mexican food may know the traditional poblano version as an amazingly flavorful, deeply complex dish often compared to chocolate. But to my palate, mole is a much more intriguing mosaic of flavors and is as individual as any of the cooks who struggle to define its complex features. 

I’ve traveled through Mexico quite a bit and I dine in as many hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants here in Los Angeles as I can find. So I understand the diversity of Mexican cuisine fairly well. Still, I struggle to define exactly what makes a mole a mole. One popular food writer I read defines mole as a “thick, dark sauce”. But I’ve sampled enough of them to know that, in fact, mole is often neither dark nor particularly thick. A mole can be anything from traditionally dark brown to brightly colored with green, red, yellow and black moles each claiming aficionados in different regions. Meaning the poblano version, though delicious, is by no means the only and the holiest of all mole.

So what about a tomatillo and pistachio mole?

Well, generally speaking, a mole sauce contains fruit, chili pepper, nuts, and fragrant spices – exactly the formula I followed for this non-traditional (read easy to make) pistachio mole. Because the truth is I am not brave enough nor athletic enough, to attempt to make a traditional mole poblano from scratch. It’s an arduous process of seeding, roasting, drying, grinding, mixing, tasting and waiting. Too many steps to go into here. GREG

PS: The original mole, which is thought to come from the Aztec word molli (concoction) has been credited to the nuns of the Puebla de Los Angeles just outside of Mexico City. It’s said to have been created as an honorary dish for an Archbishop. I guess all that seeding, roasting, drying, grinding, mixing, tasting and waiting paid off. The Archbishop loved the sauce so much built the nuns a new convent. So, in other words, mole is 400-year-old political payback. Isn’t that how all the important work gets done?

Roasted Tomatillos

Pistachio Mole

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4 cupsSource Adapted from La Casita Mexicana via The L.A. CookbookPublished

Serving Suggestion: Serve as a thick pillow underneath pan-seared pork tenderloin medallions sprinkled with extra pistachios, oregano leaves, and cotija cheese as garnish.

pistachio mole


  • 3 pound fresh tomatillos (husked)
  • 2 serrano chilies (stemmed, and halved lenghthwise)
  • 1 red onion (peeled, halved, and thinly sliced)
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds (toasted)
  • 3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cup roasted shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • salt (as needed)


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Wash the tomatillos to remove their sticky residue, pat dry, and slice into wedges. Combine in a large bowl with the chiles, red onion, and garlic, and toss with the olive oil till well coated. Divide the vegetables in as close to a single layer as possible across the prepared baking sheets and roast until nicely browned but not burnt, about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them and shake, toss, and rotate the sheets several times during cooking. 

Transfer the charred vegetables to a large saucepan. Add the spices and stock and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the pistachios and simmer 10 more minutes.

Carefully transfer the hot mixture to a blender and puree. With the machine running, add the cilantro and continue to puree until smooth. Season with salt if needed. Serve while hot.

Pork Medallions with Pistachio Mole

Pan-Seared Pork Medallions 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Pan-Seared Pork Medallions


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 (1‑lb.) pork tenderloin ( trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 medallions)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Arrange pork medallions in a single layer on a work surface, and press each with the palm of your hand to flatten to an even thickness.

Combine salt, garlic powder, and pepper; sprinkle evenly over pork. Add pork to skillet in a single layer; cook just until done, about 3 minutes per side

Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes before serving.