Smoky Mexican Molletes Recipe

While molletes may seem simple, they are a perfect encapsulation of Mexican cuisine. They are fast and easy to prepare, but with carefully selected ingredients, skillful preparation, and a splash of color, they turn into a culinary delight. A combination of beans, bread, and cheese, these smoky Mexican molletes are perfect for a lunch on the go, a quick afternoon snack, or a relaxed brunch with friends. However you choose to eat them, you will not be disappointed by the complex flavors of this seemingly simple dish.

Hailing originally from Mexico City, molletes are traditionally made with bolillos, a crusty roll similar to French bread, which is sliced and topped with refried beans and cheese. The open-faced sandwich is briefly broiled to melt the cheese and then finished with any of a variety of toppings including salsa, as in this recipe, or other delicious options such as ham, chorizo, or chiles.

In this recipe, the refried beans are made using pinto beans and smoky chipotles in adobo, gently mashed with onion, garlic, spices, and broth to make a creamy, delicious filling. Topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese and vibrant salsa fresca, they are full of flavor and make a wonderful meal at any time of day.

Gather the ingredients for the smoky Mexican molletes recipe

For this recipe you will need bolillo rolls and shredded cheese as well as everything to make refried beans and salsa fresca. The refried beans are made with pinto beans, onion, garlic, chipotles in adobo, vegetable broth, cumin, and oregano. For the salsa fresca you will use roma tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime, and a bit of salt.

Step 1: Heat the skillet

Bring a skillet to medium-low heat and add the oil.

Step 2: Cook the onion and garlic

Saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, until softened and fragrant.

Step 3: Add the rest of the refried beans ingredients

Add the beans, chipotles, cumin, oregano, and broth.

Step 4: Mash the beans

Simmer and gently mash the beans for 7-10 minutes, until they have reached the desired consistency. Add more broth or water if they dry out too much.

Step 5: Make the salsa fresca

While the beans are simmering, make the salsa fresca. Combine the diced tomato, onion, and cilantro in a bowl and dress with lime juice and salt.

Step 6: Toast the bolillo rolls

Slice the bolillo rolls in half and place them cut-side up under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until lightly toasted.

Step 7: Spread the beans on the rolls

Cover the toasted bolillo halves with a hearty amount of refried beans.

Step 8: Top with cheese

Top the beans with plenty of Monterey Jack.

Step 9: Melt the cheese

Place the rolls back under the broiler for around 5 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted.

Step 10: Top with salsa fresca

Serve warm, topped with salsa fresca.

What can I use if chipotles are too spicy?

With only a few tablespoons of minced chipotles in adobo (a sauce made with not only chipotle peppers but also onion and tomato) in the refried beans, the beans in this recipe are not particularly spicy. If, however, you are very sensitive to spicy foods, there are a few options. First, you can remove the seeds from the chipotles. Much of the spiciness in chiles comes from the seeds, so removing them can significantly tame the spice level. That said, chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos, so some of the inherent spiciness will remain. To remove the seeds, simply slice the peppers open and use a knife to scrape out the seeds. 

If you'd rather not use chipotle peppers at all, smoked paprika makes a decent replacement, allowing you to keep the smoky flavor while further reducing the spice levels in the dish. Most smoked paprika is made by smoking and drying sweet peppers, so unless you have a jar that is specifically made with spicy peppers, it is unlikely to add heat to a dish. If you want to up the smoke factor and don't mind the spice, you can add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in addition to smoked paprika. Finally, if you wish to skip the chiles entirely, you can also make refried beans without them.

How do you store leftover molletes?

Because of the toasted bread used in this recipe, fully-constructed molletes do not make particularly good leftovers. Once put together they should be eaten right away, as any leftovers are likely to get soggy in the refrigerator. The best method to avoid soggy molletes is to only make as many sandwiches as you wish to eat at the time. However, you can make the individual components in advance to be put together in a short time.

Once the refried beans and salsa fresca are made, they can be stored in the refrigerator in separate airtight containers for several days, ready for use whenever you are hungry for another mollete. Once you have all of the components ready-made and on hand, it only takes a few minutes to toast the bread, melt the cheese, and sprinkle over the salsa fresca. If you make one batch each of beans and salsa you can be whipping up molletes for breakfast or lunch all week with hardly any effort. Crusty bread is also prone to going stale relatively quickly, so proper storage of the bolillos is also important.

What can I use for molletes if I can't find bolillos?

Bolillos are a type of Mexican roll that is based on the classic French baguette. In fact, the same rolls in other Central American countries are often called pan Frances, which translates as simply "French bread." Bolillos are just a shortened variation on a baguette — a single-serving size — typically made in stone ovens and formed in a slight oval shape. 

While bolillos do serve a significant role in Mexican culture, even being considered a quick remedy for a scare, they are, at their core, very similar to other crusty white breads known the world over. So, if you want to make a batch of molletes but don't have access to the traditional bolillo rolls at your local market, similarly-sized French bread rolls, or even a baguette sliced to size, would make a perfect substitute. Both would have just the right crumb and crust, if not the trademark ovoid shape.

Smoky Mexican Molletes Recipe
4.8 from 19 ratings
A combination of pinto beans, bread, and melted cheese, these smoky Mexican molletes are perfect for a lunch on the go or a relaxed brunch with friends.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
25
minutes
Servings
4
Open-face sandwiches
tray of molletes
Total time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the Chipotle Refried Beans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 16-ounce can pinto beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced chipotles in adobo
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth
  • For the Salsa Fresca
  • 1 cup diced roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • juice from ½ lime
  • salt, to taste
  • For the Sandwich
  • 2 bolillo rolls
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
Directions
  1. Bring a skillet to medium-low heat and add the oil.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the beans, chipotles, cumin, oregano, and broth.
  4. Simmer and gently mash the beans for 7-10 minutes, until they have reached the desired consistency. Add more broth or water if they dry out too much.
  5. While the beans are simmering, make the salsa fresca. Combine the diced tomato, onion, and cilantro in a bowl and dress with lime juice and salt.
  6. Slice the bolillo rolls in half and place them cut-side up under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until lightly toasted.
  7. Cover the toasted bolillo halves with a hearty amount of refried beans.
  8. Top the beans with plenty of Monterey Jack.
  9. Place the rolls back under the broiler for around 5 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted.
  10. Serve warm, topped with salsa fresca.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 361
Total Fat 15.5 g
Saturated Fat 6.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 29.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 38.6 g
Dietary Fiber 8.2 g
Total Sugars 3.4 g
Sodium 633.9 mg
Protein 18.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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