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A mortar and pestle may seem like a needless purchase when so many kitchens have food processors, but once you try a mortar and pestle, you will know why you need it. There is no tool more adept at releasing essential oils and flavors from ingredients. And, if you have ever experienced tableside guacamole, you understand the power of layering the pulverized onion, cilantro, and garlic before bringing on the buttery avocados—the flavor is unparalleled. An electric appliance cannot compete.
From a large granite model that offers maximum grind, to a rustic wooden model that looks great on the table, and makes short work of fresh herbs, these are the best mortars and pestle sets.
Best Overall: ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
What We Like: Includes nonslip pad, tall pestle, heavy-duty
What We Don't Like: Needs to be seasoned before use, not dishwasher safe
There is a lot to love about our top choice. The unpolished granite surface is rough enough to make quick work of any grinding or pureeing job, and the heavy pestle allows you to easily pulverize ingredients to a fine powder without much effort. Speaking of the pestle, it is enviably long at 6.5 inches, which will keep your knuckles from grazing the mortar while you process ingredients.
The ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle also stays secure while you are working. The self-adhesive anti-scratch protection pad keeps it from slipping around and protects counter surfaces from scratches. And, the heavy-duty design does not occupy a large footprint on the counter. The 2-cup capacity is ample space for a batch of pesto or fragrant curry paste.
A downfall of this model is it does require initial seasoning before use. But once seasoned, this mortar and pestle is great for wet or dry ingredients and looks fantastic as a serving vessel.
Dimensions (WxH): 6 x 4 inches | Capacity: 2 cups | Weight: 7 pounds
Best Budget: Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip Silicone and Porcelain Mortar and Pestle
What We Like: Dishwasher safe, ceramic will not absorb odors, detachable silicone base, lifetime warranty
What We Don't Like: Porcelain interior has no traction
If you want to give the mortar and pestle a try, but don’t want to make a big investment, the Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip is a great choice. It is affordable, dishwasher safe, and has a non-slip detachable silicone base to keep it secure while in use.
Crafted from apothecary-grade porcelain, this mortar and pestle has a nonporous surface that will not absorb odors or transfer flavors between ingredients. The ergonomic design of the silicone handle and base ensures your hand will not get overworked processing ingredients. The ease of cleanup, generous 2-cup capacity, and budget price make the Cooler Kitchen EZ Grip a great addition for maximizing flavors in all your pastes and salsas.
Dimensions (WxH): 4.5 x 3.25 inches | Capacity: 2 cups | Weight: 2.5 pounds
Best for Herbs: Ironwood Gourmet Olmec
What We Like: Wide pestle tip, easy to clean
What We Don't Like: Needs extra care, expensive
Crafted from elegant acacia wood, the Ironwood Gourmet Olmec is a solid choice for pulverizing herbs. Though wood is known to absorb odors, it is also the best material for releasing natural flavors and fragrances. And, the Olmec-influenced design makes an attractive condiment server on any table.
This model comes with a few extra care requirements. As with your wooden cutting boards, the rich, natural wood grain needs to be rubbed with food-safe mineral oil occasionally for maintenance. Also, on the cleaning front, it is recommended you wash with warm, soapy water, and rinse thoroughly, but do not soak it in water. Allow to air dry completely before next use. If you keep this in tiptop shape, the compact and attractive set will yield excellent flavors for years to come.
Dimensions (WxH): 5.75 x 3 inches | Capacity: 1 cup | Weight: 1 pound
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Best Wooden: GoCraft Wooden Carved Mortar and Pestle
What We Like: Ergonomic, sturdy base, wide opening, easy to clean
What We Don't Like: Small surface area, retain the flavors of herbs and spices
The beauty of this mortar and pestle cannot be overstated. Crafted from rich brown mango wood with intricate hand-carved detail, the GoCraft Wooden Mortar and Pestle is not only a useful kitchen tool but is also an elegant addition to your table decor. The food-grade, seasoned hardwood is the best choice when working with herbs, seeds, and spices. And, the wide bowl of the mortar makes condiment preparation easy.
The round shape fits comfortably in your hand, and the non-skid base keeps the mortar secure while in use. And, it wipes out with a damp cloth for simple cleanup. Mango wood is extremely durable and will last a long time with care, like the occasional mineral oil rub to prevent cracking, and it should not be submerged in water. Plus, this mortar and pestle come with a bonus spoon.
Dimensions (WxH): 3.5 x 4 inches | Capacity: 1.75 cups | Weight: 1 pound
Best Large: Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle
What We Like: Large capacity, wide bowl, doubles as serving dish
What We Don't Like: Pestle is a little small, heavy
Sometimes you just need a big mortar and pestle, like when you are hosting a taco party and need a party-size batch of guacamole. And, the Vasconia Granite Molcajete mortar and pestle set provides just the right amount of abrasion on the interior for even the toughest ingredients.
This set comes in at a whopping nine pounds, and with that heft comes a sturdy pestle up to even the smallest spice grinding jobs. The 4-cup capacity easily holds a family-size serving of fresh salsa, and because it is so lovely, it can double as a piece of serving ware. It does require seasoning before use and should be hand washed to ensure longevity.
Dimensions (WxH): 7.9 x 3.4 inches | Capacity: 4 cups | Weight: 9 pounds
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Best Stainless Steel: Bekith Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle Set
What We Like: Easy to clean, comes with lid, nonslip base, nonporous surface
What We Don't Like: Mortar is shallow, smooth interior has no traction
The 18/8 gauge stainless steel design of the Bekith mortar and pestle offers a durable, easy-to-clean choice. Equipped with a non-skid base, this model will not absorb odors or flavors, and will not stain.
On the smaller side, the Bekith mortar and pestle will not take up much space on the counter and will blend right in with your other appliances. The pestle has a substantial head for crushing spices to a fine powder, and the translucent lid keeps any debris from exiting the mortar while in use. The downside of this model is the smooth interior—it offers very little abrasion to help muddle herbs or vegetables. But, it is easy to clean with warm water and soap. Be sure to dry immediately to prevent rusting or discoloration of the stainless steel exterior.
Dimensions (WxH): 3.9 x 3.75 inches | Capacity: 1 cup | Weight: 1 pound
Related: The Best Garlic Presses
If you are looking to equip your kitchen with a sturdy mortar and pestle that maximizes aromatics and has ample capacity for your next homemade dip, we recommend the ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set (view at Amazon). If you want a mortar and pestle that will double as a beautiful serving dish, choose the GoCraft Wooden Carved Mortar and Pestle set (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Mortar and Pestle Set
Granite: The abrasiveness of unpolished granite is hard to deny when choosing a mortar and pestle. The coarse surface grinds ingredients to a fine consistency in a way smooth interior mortar and pestles cannot. It is also a very attractive material and can often double as a serving dish. The disadvantages are the porous surface can grab food particles that then must be removed, but you have to be careful because just like food debris, soap can get caught in the surface and affect the flavor of future ingredients. Also, granite mortars and pestles usually require seasoning prior to use, but once properly prepared, granite does not absorb flavors of ground spices.
Marble: Like granite, marble is extremely strong and durable. Typically, marble mortar and pestles have a smooth interior which will not yield as fine a grind as granite. But, it is beautiful, and the stone base gives a good surface for pulverizing ingredients. It also cleans up easily.
Porcelain/Ceramic: Though delicate, porcelain or ceramic yield excellent results with wet and oily ingredients. The interior surface is smooth, and not porous keeping hidden food particles from sticking or odors from absorbing. But, the surface can stain after repeated use. Apothecary-grade porcelain or ceramic offers a slight advantage as it has a rougher interior, and is useful for grinding spices, medicine, and nuts. It is easy to clean, but breakable.
Stainless Steel: If you are going for a complete stainless steel kitchen, this material might be the choice for you. It cleans very easily, and some are even dishwasher safe. The downside of this material is it is very smooth and has no grab on the surface for grinding and pulverizing. It is slippery which means no traction, and you need to be careful of rusting. If choosing this surface, know it is best for wet or oily ingredients.
Wood: Lightweight, and beautiful, wood makes an excellent choice for releasing the essential oils in herbs and spices. It is less durable than stone, often needs to be oiled, and is porous, but for salad dressings, it cannot be beaten for maximum flavor. It also makes an elegant piece of your tablescape.
The size of your mortar and pestle depends on your intended purpose, and counter space. They come in compact versions with a 1-cup capacity all the way up to 5-cup mortars you can use to make guacamole or other dips. If you have a cozy kitchen, and counter space is at a premium, a smaller model will allow you to grind spices, and pulverize aromatics. If you have more kitchen space, a larger model will offer versatility. Hummus, pesto, and fresh salsa can be tackled easily in a bigger model.
The other size consideration is the length and width of your pestle. Make sure you choose one long enough to clear the mortar comfortably with a head wide enough to complete the tasks you intend.
How should you clean a mortar and pestle?
The answer depends on the material of your mortar and pestle. Generally a quick wipe with a soapy cloth will suffice, but some models are dishwasher safe. With wood, drying immediately after is recommended so the water does not mar the wood. Stainless steel should also be dried immediately to maintain that shiny metal. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure of care for your particular mortar and pestle.
How do you season a mortar and pestle?
First check to be sure your mortar and pestle set needs to be seasoned, some models come already prepared for use. If yours does need seasoning, follow the below steps to get it ready.
- Scrub interior with warm water, no soap. Let it air dry.
- Put a small amount of white rice in the bowl and grind with the pestle. Repeat until rice grinds white, indicating all-natural debris is removed from the mortar.
- Add four cloves of garlic to rice, muddle together with the pestle.
- Add a few whole cumin seeds, salt, and pepper. Pulverize together, and discard.
- Scrub mortar interior with warm water again, no soap, and allow to air dry.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who has muddled many ingredients over the years. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the value of utilizing the best tool for the job. She loves her Vasconia Granite Molcajete mortar and pestle for its rough stone interior and cavernous interior—she would not do Taco Tuesday without it. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
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