An Introduction to a Mortar and Pestle

Corina Weibel


Add a personal touch to sauces, pastes, and ground spices by preparing them with these ancient tools.

An Introduction to a Mortar and Pestle 04:19

Corina Weibel

Add a personal touch to sauces, pastes, and ground spices by preparing them with these ancient tools.

Prep Time Cook Time Total Time Serving Size

The Steps

  1. 1. Using a mortar and pestle creates a finer grind and smoother blend than a food processor or blender. 00:05

  2. 2. Common materials used to make a mortar and pestle include plastic, stone, lava stone, marble, and porcelain. Chef Corina prefers to use a stone mortar that contains abrasions on the inside, as the course texture contributes the grinding process. 00:51

  3. 3. When grinding ingredients in a mortar and pestle, begin with a small amount of an ingredient. Gradually add more as the ingredient is broken down. 01:30

  4. 4. A circular grinding motion is effective for blending ingredients together. Rotate between pounding and swirling the pestle around the mortar. 02:35

  5. 5. While using a mortar and pestle requires time and patience, the finished result will have bright, distinct flavors and a smooth texture. 03:34

What You'll Need


- Mortar
- Pestle

Chef Notes

A mortar is a bowl, typically made of hard wood, ceramic or stone. A pestle is a heavy club-shaped object, the end of which is used for crushing and grinding. Grinding herbs or spices in a mortar is a good way to get the freshest possible flavor, as the grinding action gently releases the natural oils in herbs, nuts, and whole spices, instead of over processing them in an electric chopper.

A “molcajete” is a traditional Mexican mortar. A “tejolete” is the molcajete's accompanying pestle. A molcajete can be dated back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures several thousand years ago.These tools are traditionally made from carved volcanic lava. They are often passed down from one generation to the next as the more it is used, the better seasoned it is.

A brand new molcajete must be cured before use, meaning it needs to be cleaned to remove any small particles of stone that may still be left inside the pores. The traditional way is to take a handful of uncooked rice, place it into the mortar, and pour in some water. Using the pestle, grind the rice all along the sides of the mortar until it becomes a powder. The powder will be a greyish color from the stone particles. Discard the powder. Rinse and dry the mortar, and repeat the process until the powder becomes white.


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Chef Corina Weibel

Los Angeles

Corina Weibel is the chef and co-owner of Canelé, a French-American bistro in Southern California. At Canelé, Corina crafts... read more