Restaurant News & Reviews

Recipe: Edward Espe Brown's Dark Tomato Sauce with Chili Negro and Cocoa

This is my bare-bones version of a mole sauce, using unsweetened cocoa. More than just earthy, this sauce is distinctly dirty. The touch of cinnamon makes the flavor sparkle just a bit. See what you think.

Makes: 4 cups


  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili negro powder (a recipe to make your own by roasting and grinding chilies is in the cookbook)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 small pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt (optional)
  • 2 to 3 pinches sugar (optional)


1. Blend or coarsely chop the tomatoes with the juice in which they are packed and start it heating. Add the chili negro powder to the tomatoes to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon.

2. Add the unsweetened cocoa, again to taste (dark, earthy), and then the cinnamon, so that a little spiciness emerges (but not so much that you taste cinnamon).

3. Then add the vinegar too see what that does. See how you like the sauce. Consider whether or not you might like a bit of salt or sugar. Or perhaps more chili now that everything else is in there.

— Edward Espe Brown, “The Complete Tassajara Cookbook: Recipes, Techniques,and Reflections from the Famed Zen Kitchen”