Thousands of years ago, our ancestors relied heavily on a tool that many of us today look at as unnecessary—the mortar and pestle. Seen by many as obsolete, the simple mortar and pestle is more than just an ancient artifact—it's an essential tool that everyone can use. From grinding up mint for mojitos to making a knock-your-socks-off Thai curry paste, the best mortar and pestle can help you create delicious appetizers, meals, and drinks.Though these mechanisms have waned in popularity through the decades, they have seen a resurgence as more people aim to create fresh, healthy, and delectable foods in their own homes. There is a wide range of mortars and pestles on the market today, so choosing one can be difficult if you aren't knowledgeable about them. That's where this article comes in—we're here to offer expert advice so you can make an informed decision about which mortar and pestle is the right one for you!
The ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set is our best pick because of its heavy granite stone construction and 2-cup capacity with high sides.
The HIC Mortar and Pestle Spice Herb Grinder Pill Crusher Set is our budget pick thanks to its durable porcelain construction and easy-to-clean design.
Quick Comparison: Top 12 Best Mortar and Pestle Options
1. ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
Preserving the essential design and construction of ancient mortar and pestles, the ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set helps to maintain the dynamic characteristics and bright taste of cooking ingredients. From salsas to chutneys to salad dressings, prepare your favorite dishes while preserving the depth of flavors you love.Constructed of ultra-durable unpolished granite stone, this mortar and pestle set can stand up to heavy use. Grinding is made more comfortable thanks to the easy to hold pestle, while the rounded tip keeps ingredients from popping and slipping away. Clean-up is smooth, and as a bonus, this set looks stylish while sitting on your counter.
2. HIC Mortar and Pestle Spice Herb Grinder Pill Crusher Set
From nut butters to homeopathic remedies, the HIC Mortar and Pestle is designed for easy grinding and crushing of ingredients. High-quality porcelain is made to last and is tough enough to pulverize even the hardest nuts and seeds.Small in size, this mortar and pestle set can be stored away easily when you are not using it, while the stylish design looks good on your counter if you choose to leave it out. Plus, the material is dishwasher-safe, so clean-up is a breeze.
3. Greenco Marble Mortar and Pestle
Not only is the Greenco Marble Mortar and Pestle designed for quality grinding of everything from nuts and seeds to medicinal pills, but it's also attractive enough to add style to your kitchen. The set is made of white marble with grey throughout for stunning good looks.Naturally unpolished for the best grinding experience, this set allows you to get a good grip and makes crushing seeds and nuts easier. Cleaning up is quick as well, as you can easily wipe it down with a cloth when you are finished.
4. Bekith Mortar and Pestle Sets
Offering a modern take on an ancient tool, the Bekith Mortar and Pestle features stainless steel construction for lasting quality. It's easy to clean in the dishwasher, reducing clean-up time. Boasting a rubber construction, the base is anti-slip, so it stays put as you crush ingredients or medicines.The rounded pestle is crafted for ease of use and works well with the rounded interior of the mortar.
5. EZ-Grip Silicone & Porcelain Mortar and Pestle With Non-Slip Detachable Silicone Base
Whether you’re powdering herbs, muddling mint for a mojito, or grinding spices, the EZ-Grip Silicone & Porcelain Mortar and Pestle is designed to get the job done. Boasting a silicone handle and silicone on the bottom of the bowl, you can grind and crush without either tool slipping away. Apothecary-grade porcelain won’t flake or powder, and is designed to last.Cleaning up is also a breeze, thanks to the dishwasher-safe design. Small size makes it simple to store away in cabinets or even a large drawer, and the stylish good looks also make this a great addition to your kitchen décor.
6. JAMIE OLIVER Mortar and Pestle
Designed with ease of use and lasting durability in mind, the Jamie Oliver Mortar and Pestle is made of heavy-duty granite. With a polished exterior of the mortar and the pestle and an unpolished interior, you can grind anything easier. A stylish design also adds an attractive accent to any kitchen.The 6-inch diameter bowl and 6-inch tall pestle and created to work together cohesively for the best crushing experience. It is recommended that you wash by hand after each use. Use rice to season the mortar and pestle before your first use to prevent granite powder.
7. Granite Mortar and Pestle by HiCoupt
From cracking peppercorns to crushing herbs for pesto, the HiCoup Granite Mortar and Pestle can do it all. Sturdy granite stands up to wear and tear and makes grinding more manageable, while the high bowl sides keep herbs and seeds from flying. Rock hard granite is also non-porous, so it doesn’t absorb aromas or flavors.To protect the longevity of this mortar and pestle, make sure you season it using a rice method before use. Care for this tool by hand washing and avoiding soap. Durable and easy to use, this is a must-have gadget for culinary whizzes.
8. Vasconia 5031764 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle
With authentic good looks and a large capacity, the Vasconia Molcajete Mortar and Pestle is designed to stand up to heavy use. Crush herbs and spices for everything from salad dressing to guacamole with this classic mortar and pestle.Clean this tool by hand washing after use, then air dry. It is not safe to use in the dishwasher. The good looks also make this mortar and pestle set an attractive accent in any kitchen.
9. Ironwood Gourmet 28341 Olmec Mortar and Pestle
Crafted from high-quality Acacia wood, the Ironwood Gourmet Mortar and Pestle is a sturdy wood model that has good looks to spare. Acacia is known for its unique and stunning patterns, elevating this tool to show-off worthy status. Plus, it's attractive enough to give as a hostess or housewarming gift.The sturdy wood isn’t just for show, either. It’s hard enough to maintain its integrity grind after grind, while the curved bowl and pestle work well together to smash anything effectively.
10. 3S Stainless Steel Spice Grinder/Mortar and Pestle Set
Delivering a modern take on an ancient original, the 3S Stainless Steel Spice Grinder/Mortar and Pestle Set is essential for contemporary kitchens. See why the mortar and pestle has been a necessary tool since our ancestors invented it when you use this upgraded model. Sturdy stainless steel lasts for nearly a decade, ensuring you can use this product for many years to come.Make everything from chutney to curry paste to spice mixes with this high-quality mortar and pestle set. With a large bowl and rounded pestle, you can ensure there’s plenty of room for your ingredients. Plus, a plastic lid allows you to crush spices and herbs without getting them all over your kitchen.
11. IMUSA USA LIS-003 Small Wood Mortar & Pestle
Tiny but mighty, the IMUSA Small Wood Mortar & Pestle is a powerhouse when it comes to crushing aromatic herbs and spices. Make spice blends that elevate all of your meals to chef-worthy status with this little set.All-wood construction ensures durability for years to come. The attractive design also looks great on any table or the counters. Plus, wood is easy to clean and maintain.
12. Single Quality Marble Mortar And Pestle
Level up your kitchen prowess with a mortar and pestle that’s designed with quality and durability in mind. The Single Quality Marble Mortar and Pestle is made of 100% marble, so you can trust that it won’t flake or crack. It’s also crafted with food safety in mind, so you don’t have to worry about marble chalk tarnishing your food.Prepare everything from salsa to aioli with this mortar and pestle set. The stunning white color with gray stripes adds style, while the bowl and pestle size coordinate well together.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Mortar and Pestle
While it’s easy to go to the store and buy many of the things that you might make with a mortar and pestle, these items lack the freshness, quality, and ideal texture that you can achieve using this tool. While many have turned their back on this classic device, those who have tried it understand: A mortar and pestle are second to none when it comes to crushing spices for whatever you’re making.
There are still naysayers when it comes to this device who say that a blender, grinder, or even a food processor is a better choice. Sure, these small appliances blend or chop spices and other ingredients, but the mortar and pestle doesn’t do that. It crushes the spices up, helping to release the aroma into the air, and preserving more of the natural texture.
There's a reason why the simple mortar and pestle has lived on as a mainstay in the kitchens top chefs around the world: Because it works. When something isn't broken, there's no need to fix it.
A mortar and pestle also has a leg up on any device that uses a motor, because the heat from the motor can affect the taste and scent of the ingredients. With the mortar and pestle, there is no motor to reduce the rich flavor of whatever you're whipping up.
To understand more about why people are still turning to this ancient device, let’s look at the history of the tool, how it works, and what can be made with it. Then, we’ll discuss how you can select the best mortar and pestle for you.
The Mortar and Pestle: A History Lesson
Before electricity and the innovative, modern kitchen equipment of today, people had to make food somehow. They had fires, they had sharp rocks for cutting, and they had a much-loved tool for crushing ingredients: The mortar and pestle.
It started as rocks being ground on other hard surfaces to crush or break up food items, and eventually evolved into a bowl-shaped piece of stone with a more extended stone tool that we know as the mortar and pestle today.
The mortar is a bowl that's typically made of metal, wood, ceramic or a hard stone like granite. Back in ancient times and even up until the turn of the 20th century, people usually used mortars made of hard rock.
The pestle is a blunt, heavy tool that is used to pulverize an herb, spice, or other ingredients in the mortar. Usually, the pestle is also made of hard, sturdy, and non-porous materials, just like the bowl. When contemporary devices like food processors, blenders and grinders weren't in existence, everyone from the village pharmacist to home cooks was using this device.
As the decades progressed and kitchen gadgets did as well, the pestle and mortar became less widely used. But the most famous chefs in the world continue to use the tools, as did bartenders, spice makers, and those who understood that crushing a spice helps to preserve the scent and taste better than grinding or chopping.
Another reason why the mortar and pestle is a must-have? Because the act of smashing the cells and fibers of spice or herb apart helps to transform the texture, as well as release the intense aroma and flavor held within. A blade just cannot do that. The act of cutting and shredding reduces the scent and the essential texture.
With fewer people in the know about this old-school device, manufacturers began cutting corners with the quality and the materials used. If people don’t know that the device is being made correctly, then they aren’t aware that other constructions are better. Thus, the quality began to slip away.
This is why it can be so challenging to find a good mortar and pestle. There are many out there that are high-quality, but for every excellent one, there’s three that are sub-par. Now that we’ve covered how the tool came to be and why it’s still an excellent choice for home chefs, let’s look at what you can do with a set and the factors that make up a good mortar and pestle set.
A Necessary Tool: What You Can Do with a Mortar and Pestle
We've discussed how crushing seeds, herbs, and more with a mortar and pestle helps to preserve the flavor of the ingredients. Now, let's look at some of the many delectable foods and essential medicines this handy kitchen must-have can create.
- Curry pastes
- Salad dressings
- Pasta sauces
- Spice blends
We’re only just scratching the surface here of what this little wonder can do. Whether grinding garlic or bruising mint leaves, there are thousands of ways you can use this ancient device for modern purposes.
And it’s not just for food. The mortar and pestle set you choose can also be used for health and wellness. Some of the many non-food ways to use this tool include smashing medicinal pills into powders for easier ingesting, grinding vitamins, and even making essential oils.
Also, if you have a pet, you know how hard it can be to give them medications. With this device, you can quickly turn their nightly arthritis pill into a powder that can be added to their food. It's just that easy.
How to Choose the Best Mortar and Pestle
When you’re deciding on which of these mortar and pestles to select, there’s a lot of factors to consider. One of the most important is the material, but there are other vital considerations as well. Quality, size, and shape are just some of the many aspects to think about when you’re in the market for one of these essential grinding and crushing tools.
Material of Both Pieces
Material truly is one of the most critical factors in your decision. There are many popular construction choices for mortars and pestles, but they don't all give the best results. Let's take a closer look:
- Wood – Wood is dense and durable, but doesn't make the best mortar. It has a density that is very close to many of the foods that you will be grinding, which makes it less effective as the vehicle that is used for grinding in. It can make a good pestle, but the overall problem with wood is that it can sometimes soak up the aromas of the ingredients that it comes into contact with.
- Granite or marble stone – Heavy-duty and durable, stone is the material our ancestors used, and for a good reason. It can stand up to wear and tear, and it's harder than nearly anything you could want to crush or grind. Stone can create a powder when you are grinding, so make sure you season your granite or marble mortar and pestle—more on that later.
- Ceramic – Though it can be hard enough, usually ceramic can't withstand the force of grinding for long. It can crack, chip, and break off.
- Stainless steel – While cracking and powdering aren't an issue with stainless steel, this material can be too slick to make an excellent grinding surface. Plus, it tends to rust.
Overall, the material that wins when it comes to crushing anything on your list is stone. It's reliable and hard-wearing and isn't porous enough to soak in any of the ingredients you're smashing.
Size of the Pestle
When it comes to pestle size, bigger is much better. Just like you wouldn't use a tiny hammer to put a nail in, you need a pestle that is large enough to grind even the hardest ingredients. Plus, you want to make sure it has a rounded tip to dig in and keep seeds and nuts from jumping away.
Overall, a larger pestle is better (as long as it isn’t too large for the bowl, as mentioned below).
Size of the Bowl
The mortar that you select should be rounded and have high sides. A more bottomless bowl ensures that ingredients stay right where you want them, ensuring that they don't end up all over your countertops.
The bowl size should also coordinate well with the size of the pestle. If the pulverizer is too short, you won't be able to keep a good grip on it while it's in the bowl. Too long, and it's just plain hard to get a good hold.
Overall, a deeper bowl with a rounded center is the top choice.
Polished or Unpolished Surface
Sure, a polished surface has a better shine and might look more attractive, but if your mortar and pestle are polished, there's going to be a lot of slipping and sliding. That's not an ideal situation when you're trying to crush a piece of pepper.
In contrast, an unpolished surface will be more natural to get a grip on and will keep ingredients from jumping ship. Overall, an unfinished surface is the way to go.
Caring for Your Mortar and Pestle Set
Once you’ve taken the plunge and entered the world of mortar and pestle sets, you’ll need to learn a few basics to keep yours in top condition.
First things first, before you use your tools for the first time, you need to season them. This essential step helps to get rid of stone dust and help prevent it in the future. Anytime you need to clean a stone mortar and pestle, follow this method:
- Wash with clean water and air dry. Never use soap.
- Grind a handful of white rice. Toss and repeat until the grinds are white. If you have a white mortar and pestle, do the process three times.
- Mash and muddle four cloves of garlic.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the muddled garlic. Grind some more, then discard everything.
- Rinse again with clean water, then air dry.
Your stone mortar and pestle is now ready for use. Time to get grinding!
Just like seasoning before use, you'll also want to clean your mortar and pestle after each use. A stone set can be cleaned using only water. Never use detergent or soap on granite or marble.
After rinsing with water, let air dry. This should be plenty for any granite mortar and pestle. If you find that there is more stone powder coming off of your tools, follow the above seasoning method to get rid of the dust.