Cooks have used mortars and pestles for food preparation for thousands of years. In cultures around the world, culinarians have filled mortars with herbs, spices, nuts, fruits, and vegetables and pressed, ground, or pulverized them with a pestle.
Blenders and food processors may be the champions of mincing and chopping, but using a mortar and pestle is a better way to extract the full range of flavors and aromatics of food ingredients. Read on to learn more about how to pick the best mortar and pestle for your kitchen.
- BEST OVERALL: ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cooler Kitchen EZ-Grip Mortar and Pestle
- BEST FOR SMALL KITCHENS: Fox Run 3830 Marble Mortar and Pestle
- BEST LARGE: ChefSofi EXTRA Large 5 Cup-Capacity Mortar and Pestle
- BEST FOR GUACAMOLE: RSVP Authentic Mexican Molcajete
- BEST STONE: Gorilla Grip Original Mortar and Pestle Set
- BEST MARBLE: Mortar and Pestle Set Marble
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Mortar and Pestle Set
Keep these important factors in mind when shopping for the best mortar and pestle for your needs.
It can be hard to justify purchasing a single-use kitchen implement when kitchen storage space is at a premium. Fortunately, mortar and pestle sets come in a variety of sizes to suit many needs. As a general rule, if you have the space to store it, it’s best to purchase a larger mortar and pestle. The standard capacity for a medium-size mortar and pestle set is about 2 cups. A larger mortar that holds 4 cups is ideal for pesto or guacamole. Smaller 1-cup mortars are handy for grinding spices or pureeing aromatics.
While mortars and pestles are all generally the same shape, it’s best to choose a mortar that is wide and relatively shallow so that there’s plenty of surface area to work with. Ideally, ingredients should be in a single layer. Deeper, narrower mortars may not allow for that.
The shape of the pestle is an important factor, too. The pestle should be long enough so you can comfortably crush and grind without touching the rim of the mortar. The crushing end of the pestle should be wide enough to get the job done.
Mortar and pestle sets are made from a variety of materials, and each type has its pros and cons.
- Granite is heavy and durable. You can apply pressure without worrying about chips or cracks. Its abrasive surface is great for finely grinding spices. Some come preseasoned, while others will require seasoning before use.
- Marble makes for an attractive mortar and pestle. But highly polished marble doesn’t create enough friction for fine grinding of spices. Unpolished marble provides a better surface, but it can be prone to staining.
- Ceramic is more affordable than other stoneware, but it will also crack more easily than marble and granite.
- Wood is less common than the typical stoneware mortar and pestle sets. But it’s great for emulsifying, so you may want this material if you plan to make pestos and aiolis.
- Metal is often the material of choice in small mortar and pestle sets. These are best suited for crushing whole spices, but they won’t grind them into a fine powder.
Some mortar and pestle combos have glossy polished finishes. This makes them easier to clean, but their surface isn’t abrasive enough to finely grind spices. Rougher surfaces tend to be porous, which means you can’t clean them with standard scented dish soap because they can take on the fragrance of the cleaning product. If ease of cleaning is a top priority, be sure to read the cleaning instructions before making a purchase.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about mortars and pestles, it’s time to start shopping. These recommendations take into consideration size, material, shape, and care.
The ChefSofi mortar and pestle is large enough for most applications yet doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. The unpolished surface of this 6-inch-diameter mortar provides the right texture for finely grinding spices. The 6.5-inch pestle will keep your knuckles off the edge of the bowl. This 7-pound set is sturdy but lightweight enough to clean and maneuver with relative ease. The self-adhesive anti-scratch protection pad helps protect your counters and keeps the mortar in place when in use.
The EZ-Grip Silicone & Porcelain Mortar and Pestle stands out for its unique design. The nontraditional materials make a great addition to the modern kitchen because of their light weight, clean aesthetic, and easy maintenance. It’s entirely dishwasher safe, which sets it apart from most of the competition. The silicone handle and base ensures the pestle sits comfortably in your hand while the mortar stays put on your countertop.
The nonporous surface means it’s safe to grind medications without any concern about cross-contamination. This material won’t absorb the scent of any foods or detergents. The only drawback is that the smooth surface isn’t ideal for fine grinding.
This small mortar holds less than a cup of dry ingredients.
In a small kitchen, you may not feel you can justify another kitchen tool, but this black marble mortar and pestle will fit easily in a cabinet or drawer when not in use. This little mortar is 5.5 inches tall and has a 4-inch diameter including the rim. With an interior diameter of less than 3 inches, this set is useful to crush a couple of pills or a handful of herbs or spices.
The pestle is 5 inches long, and both the mortar and pestle have a combined weight of 3.05 pounds. The manufacturer recommends hand-washing the mortar and pestle with a gentle dish detergent.
Because of the nature of black marble, expect to see variations in the pattern of the product you receive.
An extra-large mortar and pestle comes in handy when you want to feed a crowd. This model from ChefSofi measures 8 inches wide and holds up to 5 cups. The set includes two pestles measuring 6.5 and 8.5 inches long. The larger pestle can crush larger ingredients with its weight, while the smaller one is designed to grind spices. The unpolished granite provides a useful abrasive surface.
This extra-large mortar and pestle set weighs a hefty 17.86 pounds, so while it may be difficult to maneuver and clean, it will stay put while you’re using it. Also included is a self-adhesive nonslip pad.
In Mexico, this tool is called a molcajete (mortar) and tejolote (pestle). While it can be difficult to find an authentic Mexican molcajete in the United States, this one is the real deal. Traditionally, these tools are made of porous volcanic rock—an ideal surface for mashing avocados into guacamole.
This volcanic stone molcajete is 8.5 inches wide and 5 inches tall. The tejolote is 4.5 inches long with a grinding end of 2.5 inches in diameter. This set should be cleaned with a brush, warm water, and unscented soap since the porous material can absorb fragrances.
Affordable and high quality, this mortar and pestle set from Gorilla Grip is an excellent choice for most kitchens. The black, polished granite provides the right surface for finely grinding spices. The 7-inch-diameter mortar holds up to 4 cups of ingredients. The long 7.4-inch pestle ensures
you won’t scrape your knuckles on the rim of the mortar while you work. The package includes a self-adhesive foam bottom that will help protect your countertops and hold the mortar in place.
This set should be seasoned before use and hand-washed with water only. This set is also available in 1.5- and 2-cup sizes.
This 100 percent marble mortar has crushing surfaces on both sides. Use the shallow side for spices and the deeper side for herbs and vegetables without mixing flavors. Mash ingredients with the 5.2-inch-long pestle, and scoop them out with the included small wooden spoon.
This 6.6-pound, 5.6-inch-diameter mortar and pestle with a 2.1-cup capacity should store easily in most kitchens. Included is a nonslip mat that holds the set in place and helps protect your countertops while you work.
FAQs About Mortar and Pestle Sets
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about mortars and pestles.
Q. What is the best material for a mortar and pestle?
There are a variety of materials used for different purposes, but granite is the most versatile choice.
Q. Is a granite mortar and pestle safe?
Granite mortars and pestles are perfectly safe to use as long as they’re seasoned before use.
Q. Do I need to season a granite mortar and pestle?
While some sets come preseasoned, others need to be seasoned to remove the dirt and grit that may be present from the manufacturing process.