Overview of a Mortar and Pestle

We will be discussing another ancient kitchen gadget in this post which is the mortar and pestle. This traditional kitchen tool is used to prepare ingredients, food, and herbs by crushing, grinding and blending into powder or paste.

The mortar is the bowl where the food, ingredients or spice to be crushed or mashed are placed while the pestle is the heavy and blunt club used to crush or grind the food. Having a mortar and pestle as part of your kitchen gadgets is not a bad idea most especially if you are a chef or an herbalist. A good cook understands there is a depth of flavor you desire in every gadget and earthen materials give you this flavor or taste you crave for. The work of a mortar and pestle can also be performed by a food processor or a hand blender but the flavor you get from the mortar would have been lost if you use any of these other gadgets.

In my house, I cook for the taste and the flavor and this is what makes me go for some ancient kitchen wares. My most used kitchen gadgets are my mortar and pestle, enamelware, mezzaluna, knives and my bamboo cutting board. These old materials give my food a homely taste.

Mortar and pestle are good for grinding spice in your kitchen instead of buying pre-packaged ones that might have lost their flavors. You can use it to grind cinnamon, peppercorn, cumin and more. The interesting part is that it can also be used to prepare some traditional meals and herbs. This post will guide you on how to use a mortar and pestle, traditional meals you can use the gadget to prepare and maintenance of your gadget.

5 awesome ways to use a Mortar and Pestle

how to use a mortar and pestle

Number one

The first thing is picking the right mortar and pestle for your needs. These tools are made from different material and your preference should not be based on how beautiful a material looks alone but on your culinary needs as well. The gadget is made from three materials namely; wood, stone, and ceramic.

Wood mortar and pestle are very good and last long but they are subject to stains. Additionally while using the gadget often, it’s possible for a flavor of one spice to stick to the mortar and these will taint the flavor of another ground spice. But for some traditional food, the wood mortar and pestle is the only preferred option.

Stone mortar and pestle are good as well and they grind finely. But they have the disadvantage of getting the stone into your spices while grinding except they are conditioned properly.

Ceramic mortar and pestle is my favorite as they grind your spices finely as well but they are very fragile compared to other types.

Number two

The next step is determining the texture of the item you want to grind. The texture of the ingredient or food you want to prepare will determine the technique to use (crushing, mashing, or blending).

Number three

After determining the texture of the food you want to prepare in your mortar and pestle, you introduce the technique you want to use. For hard food like peppercorns, you have to crack them before you can grind them. Cracking can be done by pressing your ingredients to the side of the bowl to break it. While soft food or spices have to be ground softly without cracking and this has to be done slowly.

Number four

The fourth step after knowing your technique is the strokes of your pestle. The use of the pestle is a major work of your wrist movement hence you have to hold on it. If you start grinding the ingredient too fast, you might end up messing the whole place with the spice. If you grind too slowly as well, it might take you forever to grind the spice and for those mashing hot food, your food might get cold. Therefore you have to stroke your pestle in a way that you won’t be too fast and too slow as well.

Number five

Lastly, after grinding, crushing or mashing you should be careful when scooping your spice or food. The food or spice should be packed with a blunt material, not a sharp one, to avoid damaging the mortar. Most especially for those using a wooden mortar and pestle.

Things to prepare with a Mortar and Pestle


guacamole in a mortar and pestle

The first ingredient I will recommend you use your mortar and pestle for is the Guacamole. You will need the Mexicans molcajete to efficiently marsh the spices and fresh ingredient for this sauce.


pesto in a mortar and pestle

This is one of the most classic ingredients everyone uses the mortar and pestle to prepare. You get more result from crushing the ingredient instead of just chopping them or throwing into a food processor. You can try it out when making a pumpkin seed pesto.

Caesar Dressing

Another of using this awesome gadget is mashing of garlic and anchovies into a paste for Caeser dressing. It’s quite easy. You just have to pour your paste into the egg yolk and oil for the dressing.

Pounded yam

mortar and pestle

This a traditional meal of a tribe in Africa. They use the mortar and pestle to mash boiled yam into a paste. This meal brings out the beauty of the gadget as it requires techniques and expertise to prepare a good pounded yam.

The uses of your mortar and pestle are not constrained to these four options. It can be used for several other recipes, ingredients, and food.

Maintenance of your Mortar and Pestle

Maintaining your gadget requires cleaning. That is your gadget should be cleaned after every use. If the mortar and pestle are dishwasher safe, you can wash in the dishwasher. Dry it before storing. To know if your gadget is dishwasher safe, read through the manual that comes with it.

Some smells don’t leave even after washing the tool. So you can use dry rice to remove these smells and stains. All you have to do is pour raw rice into your mortar and grind it finely with the pestle. The rice absorbs the stain and odor of the spice previously ground. For more effective removal, you might have to try this procedure more than three times. Discarding the rice after each trial.

You should be careful not to use this gadget when it’s empty. Most mortars can be fractured when you struck them too hard when they are empty.

Mortar and pestle are a great gadget for your kitchen when used rightly.


You can add your suggestion to the comment box below or tell us what you use this gadget for in your kitchen.

One Response to 5 awesome ways to use a Mortar and Pestle

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