Mexican Cooking Tools: Mortar and Pestle

Published on March 8, 2022

In this series we’ll explore notable tools that every home chef needs to take their meals to the next level.

The molcajete and tejolete, or mortar and pestle, differs from more commonly found versions courtesy of its unique natural material. Let’s take a look at what makes these tools so special.

The origins of the molcajete and tejolete

Going back thousands of years, the molcajete (mortar) and tejolete (pestle) were originally used to grind spices and grains. These multipurpose tools are created from volcanic rock, which makes for an ideal material to blend and grind spices, as well as make salsa, just to name a few uses. They retain their heat, making them a great option for using as a serving dish. The traditional molcajete is carefully shaped by a skilled artisan with 3 feet to stabilize it, making each piece unique.

What can I create with this tool?

The molcajete can be used to grind spices and crush peppers, bringing out the full spectrum of their flavour and aromatic profiles. 

Whether you prefer a chunkier and more textured salsa or more smooth and fine, the molcajete allows you full control of your desired texture, while also bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredients you choose to use. With a traditional recipe, tomatoes, red chillies, and green chilies are heated on the stove, and then crushed in the molcajete with garlic and salt. 

Ready to make next-level guacamole? The weight of the tejolete helps you easily create a perfectly smooth guacamole, and is the perfect vessel to dip from. All you have to do is pick the perfect avocados, chop up your ingredients, toss them in your molcajete and mash until your heart’s content!

Choosing the perfect one for you – and caring for it

Watch out for knockoffs! These are often made of cement and can leave cement dust and grit in your food that cannot be removed through a seasoning process. That’s likely not the flavour or texture you’re after!

To get the most use out of your molcajete, look for one that doesn’t have too many large pores. While ones with the wide and dense pores are ideal for grinding spices, the liquid from dishes such as salsa can leak.

Similar to a cast iron pan, the molcajete only gets better with use and age. They require a seasoning process by soaking and scrubbing to remove any excess grit, and then they’re ready to go. Unlike cement versions, once seasoned they will no longer leave any grit behind.