What do you imagine to be the oldest cooking tool known to man? Besides a fire pit and kettle, it is very likely to be the mortar and pestle. And if you’re going to have a mortar and pestle, it should be the best mortar and pestle.
Before we begin with the best mortar and pestles, a little bit of history first…
The mortar and pestle actually date back to the Stone Age. The mortar and pestle was also documented in the Old Testament (Numbers 11:8 and Proverbs 27:22) as well as in ancient Egyptian writing for their use in medicine. What is more is that they have been found by archaeologists on every corner of the earth. Take a trip to the past using a mortar and pestle for your own cooking.
Nothing unlocks the flavor of herbs and spices like a good mortar and pestle. It’s such a versatile instrument that it can mince, grind, powderize and even mash ingredients into a paste. It allows you to control the size and texture of the ingredients.
Did You Know? Pesto has its origins in the Genoese word pestâ, which means “to pound or crush.” This refers to the way pesto was prepared by using a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients of basil, pine nuts and garlic together, then blend them with cheese and oil. As opposed to using a blender, using a mortar and pestle was the only way to preserve all the flavors of basil, which should not be pulverized for full flavor retention.
Cooking food nowadays can be a bit too scientific with high-powered blenders and food processors, microwaves and toaster ovens, fancy chopping gadgets and peelers. Sometimes it feels like these devices are being built to take the cook out of the kitchen altogether.
A mortar and pestle reconnects you the the food you are cooking and the ingredients you are preparing. It brings back the magic into the kitchen and takes you back in time. It also unleashes all those fabulous flavors in your ingredients so you can taste their freshness in your dish.
Top 10 Best Mortar and Pestle
1. Natural Granite Mortar and Pestle – Best Granite Mortar and Pestle
This natural granite mortar and pestle by HiCoup is the preferred mortar and pestle of chefs across the world. Granite mortars are a superior choice compared to any other stone. They are even better than clay, ceramic, glass, marble and wood.
The 6-inch bowl of the granite mortar is deep and has a steep slope. This ensures the ingredients stay near the bottom so they’re easier to crush. The extra rough matte texture of the bowl also helps so the ingredients do not slide around all over the bowl. However, sometimes the pitting can be too deep and some very small ingredients can get stuck in the pitting. So, if you don’t want your herbs and spices sliding around in the bowl, you have to take the good with the bad.
The bowl of the mortar is also non-porous so the flavors of your herbs and other ingredients won’t get sucked up into it. It’s also very heavy duty so it won’t go sliding all over the counter-top when you’re cooking. However, the felt bottom doesn’t last that long, so be sure to keep some protection underneath the mortar if the felt stops offering adequate bottom protection.
The mortar will require seasoning before using it, but it’s a fairly simple process.
The pestle is heavy duty and its weight helps to take the strain off your elbow when you’re mixing and mashing. This helps for those who easily get fatigued or suffer from cooking elbow. It is a 6 inch long pestle so it is adequate for the job, however, if you have large hands you might want to look at another granite mortar and pestle set instead (click here to jump to it).
Overall, a high quality mortar and pestle with only a few minor downsides. If you’re wanting to save the flavor of your ingredients, not have to worry about your bowl moving around while trying to grind herbs and spices, and want a device that’s easy to clean, this mortar and pestle is a great choice. The best part of all is this mortar and pestle comes with a free lifetime warranty.
2. Japanese Ceramic Mortar & Pestle Set (Suribachi & Surikogi)
This is a stunning authentic Japanese mortar and pestle. Not only is it handmade out of quality ceramic, it is crafted in the style of Japanese potter Akiko Kato. It also stays true to Japanese quality craftsmanship and is extremely durable and functional.
Did You Know? In Japanese, suribachi means “grinding bowl” and surikogi means “grind-powder-wood,” the Japanese equivalents of “mortar” and “pestle.”
The bowl is larger than most mortar and pestle sets, with a diameter of 7.1 inches on the inside and a height of 3.5 inches. This is large enough to hold over a liter of water. It also features a matte texture on the inside which aids in grinding down ingredients to turn them into fine powders and pastes, if you so choose. It also has a spout for easy pouring of wet ingredients. This mortar is also microwave and dishwasher safe, so heating up foods is simple and cleaning is easy.
The pestle is made out of natural Hinoki tree wood and is incredibly smooth to the touch. It is lightweight, so it will require a little extra work when mashing, but it is thick so it functions well as a pestle. It’s also easy to grip at over 9 inches long, whereas some shorter pestles can be hard to grasp. It is also made in Japan, washes easily and is dishwasher safe.
3. Soapstone Mortar and Pestle
When it comes to mortar and pestle sets, it seems like marble and granite get all the love. This is unfortunate because soapstone is a very underrated material. While soapstone can be fragile, this particular set is very durable as it is assembled in the USA. It is also very pleasing to the eye and has a great functional shape for a mortar and pestle.
The bowl weighs about three pounds and measures 4 inches across and 2.5 inches tall. This is a great size for a standard mortar bowl and a good size for pestos, salsas and dips. Soapstone is also chemically neutral so it is great for all ingredients. It’s also naturally non-porous so you won’t lose flavors or have to worry about oils being absorbed into the bowl. Also, soapstone does not stain.
The pestle is only slightly taller than the height of the bowl but it has a unique shape which makes it great for grinding. This pestle is easy to hold in the hand and has an ergonomic feel to it as well. Although not advertised, both sides of the pestle can be used depending on what you are grinding.
Soapstone is a superior material for use as a serving dish. It has temperature retaining qualities and can keep hot or cold for very long periods of time. If you are making a guacamole or a salsa, you can grind up the ingredients and then just pop the whole bowl into the fridge. When you pull it out it will be nice and cold for serving to your guests. If you make a warm cheese dip or a warm chutney, the soapstone will ensure that it stays warm. You can even pop the whole bowl into the oven if needed to heat it up.
It’s also dishwasher safe so it’s nice and easy to clean. It’s even naturally non-stick which is a great perk. It also comes at an affordable price.
Overall, this an extremely underrated mortar and pestle set that has a lot of unique and under-appreciated qualities.
4. Natural Marble Mortar and Pestle
This stylish mortar and pestle is made of natural white marble with grey accents. Marble consistently ranks among the best materials for pestles and mortars along with granite. Marble is great for making aiolis and pestos. It also holds up well over time and doesn’t form as much dust when grinding as granite does. If you’re looking for an alternative to granite with just as good grinding ability, marble is a great idea.
The bowl of this mortar and pestle has an unpolished, deep interior that makes it perfect for grinding and smashing your favorite herbs and spices. Unlike granite, it does not have deep pits or grooves so you don’t have to worry as much about ingredients getting stuck in the cracks.
It’s also much easier to clean when compared to granite as well. Just wipe the bowl down with a damp cloth and you’re done. This bowl is a bit smaller than other models at 4.5″ wide and 2.5″ tall, but it makes for an excellent dipping bowl, it’s also nice because the ingredient don’t get lost deep down in the bottom of the bowl if you’re making spices.
The pestle is 5 inches long and is composed of natural marble itself. Some people like to replace marble pestles with wood but it is nice to have marble for the pestle because of its weight. Instead of having to put extra power into each stroke like you’d have to with wood, the weight of the pestle makes the grinding much easier.
Overall, this is a great mortar and pestle for the price. It’s made of quality materials and looks nice on the kitchen counter, or fits easily into the cupboard. It also works well for grinding and doubles as a nice dipping bowl. Some people even find it the perfect bowl for crushing pills. For whatever you use it for, you can’t go wrong with this attractive set.
5. Kota Japan Black Granite Mortar & Pestle
Despite its name, this is not a Japanese mortar and pestle, but it is still a premium quality set without the high price that a Japanese mortar and pestle usually sells for. Made out of natural granite stone, it not only looks great but it’s great for all types of ingredients, wet and dry. Weighing over eight pounds, this is a great heavy duty mortar and pestle that will withstand the test of time.
The bowl is made from high quality igneous granite and measures of 5.25 inches in diameter, 3.75 inches on the inside. Its walls are extremely thick and with its non-porous surface you can crush any ingredients you’d like. However, it does require seasoning before use and no instructions come with the product (click here to see how to season a mortar and pestle).
The surface inside the bowl is even less porous than most other granite mortars which really helps its performance. It even performs well when adding oils and liquids. This also makes the cleanup easy. In fact, this particular bowl only requires hand-washing with water.
The pestle is heavy duty and great for crushing. It measures 6.75″ long which allows for nice gripping without having to worry about crushing your fingers on the side of the bowl when grinding.
This mortar and pestle is consistently rated among the top mortar and pestles on the market. Many kitchen store owners buy this online and sell it at their own stores. A great all-around mortar and pestle that will last you a very long time. And with its unconditional lifetime guarantee, even if it doesn’t last forever you don’t have to worry.
6. Natural Mediterranean Olive Wood Mortar and Pestle
Handmade of natural Mediterranean olive wood, this is truly a unique mortar and pestle set. The natural grains of the wood are different for every set so no two sets are exactly the same. Olive wood is a very hard wood and this set is surprisingly heavy for a wooden mortar and pestle. It holds up well and is more durable than most other wooden sets as well.
The bowl is not deep and not too wide. Its diameter measures approximately 4.7 inches and the height varies between bowls, this adds to the uniqueness of this set and gives each bowl a different character. It is all-natural hardwood so if you want to add an extra layer of protection, rub the bowl in olive oil before using it. Being that it is made of wood, you don’t really have to worry about it scratching your counter either.
The inside is smooth if you are looking for a smoother mortar. This is in contrast to many of the stone bowls, so not all ingredients will work as well in this bowl. Some dry ingredients like almonds and coffee beans may slide around a bit, so keep this in mind depending on what purpose you intend to use this set for. The edge of the bowl is rough and some people have experiencing slivering when using it. You can sand the edges of the bowl if you don’t want to take any chances.
The pestle is 6 inches long and made of the same Mediterranean olive wood, with its own unique graining. This is a great length for this particular bowl because it is not too deep. It’s not as heavy as the stone mortars out there so it will require a little bit of extra muscle when grinding your ingredients.
A work of art but not as functional as a stone mortar and pestle. However, it is great for that rustic kitchen feel and looks amazing on the counter. Also, for a wood set it is one of the best ones on the market and fairly priced for a handmade mortar and pestle set.
7. Double-Sided Granite Mortar and Pestle
One of the only double-sided mortar and pestles on the market, this is an excellent choice if you’re cooking multiple ingredients at the same time. All you have to do is flip over the bowl and you have another mortar ready to go. It also comes with a wooden spoon and silicone mat so it won’t scratch up your counter. This was a miss by all the other manufacturers that don’t provide extras with their mortars and pestles.
There are two bowls, the main larger bowl and the smeller bowl on the reverse side. The main bowl measures 5.5″ in diameter and 3.5″ high. This is a nice deep bowl that is great for herbs, coffee beans, and nut grinding. On the reverse side is a shallower bowl that is 4.7″ in diameter and less than an inch high. This side is better suited for tea leaves, peppercorns, spices and smaller herbs.
The pestle is also reversible and has a larger side for smashing and pounding and a smaller side for more delicate grinding. At 5″ long it’s a bit on the smaller side but this actually is better on this particular set because if it were any larger it wouldn’t be good to use for both sides.
This is also just a really nice looking mortar and pestle set. Its finish is nice and polished and will look nice no matter what kind of decor you have. The real highlight of this set is its functionality, it performs better than nearly any other mortar and pestle on the market. You’re basically buying two mortar and pestle sets in one when you buy this set.
8. Brushed Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle
If you’re looking for a heavy mortar and pestle set that has a smooth finish, this brushed stainless steel set is a nice choice. It is food safe so you don’t have to worry about any contaminants leeching in your food either. The brushed stainless steel design looks both modern and rustic at the same time, so it will look good with in many different kitchen styles as well.
The bowl measures approximately 4″ in diameter and is 3.6″ high. While this is a bit smaller than other sets, it’s still a nice amount of room for ingredients. It is also equipped with a non-skid bottom which makes it nice not only for functional reason but also for saving your countertop from being scratched.
Being stainless steel it’s nice because you know you will not have to worry about there being large pores or deep pits. This ensures all the flavors that are inside the ingredients stay there. It also makes it easier to clean because ingredients don’t get stuck in the cracks. It’s also nice because you don’t have to season the bowl before use.
The 5.5″ long pestle is a good size for this bowl. It gives you just enough leverage to aid in crushing ingredients. The pestle and mortar is easy to clean, just run it in warm, soapy water and wipe it down. There is no having to wait for air drying so if you are cooking multiple meals this set is ideal. You can wash between different ingredients and you don’t have to worry about any flavors carrying over.
This set is extremely affordable and good set for those who are looking for no maintenance, seasoning, cleaning, or any of the other hassles that usually come with a mortar and pestle set. As a stainless steel set it will also last for a very long time.
9. Asian Bamboo Mortar and Pestle
This natural bamboo mortar and pestle is another great choice for a wooden mortar and pestle set. Slim and deep, it does not take up much counter space or space in the cupboard. It’s also attractive-looking and functional, as well as easy to clean. It’s also made of a fast-growing bamboo which is sustainable and makes for a very green mortar and pestle set.
Unlike most wooden sets, the mortar is deep and narrow which makes it extremely functional for grinding. In other wooden sets the ingredients slide around making wood not as practical of a choice for a mortar and pestle set. This set does not have that problem. The bowl itself is only 3.25 inches wide and 3 inches deep, however, making this only suited for grinding and not good for use as a serving bowl.
The pestle is 6.25 inches and extremely sturdy. It is great for mashing and doesn’t impart flavors from ingredient to ingredient. However, you will have to hold the bowl when grinding to keep everything from moving around.
This set is also easy to clean, no soap or water required; just rinse with hot water and dry. It’s also made of bamboo so it is naturally microbial which provides extra peace of mind for germaphobes. It can split as it is made of bamboo but it is one of the lowest cost sets on the market so it’s not a huge deal.
Good all-around set for those trying to live a healthy, natural and sustainable lifestyle.
10. Olmec Acacia Wood Mortar and Pestle
Acacia wood has been around since biblical times and is even thought to have been the material out of which the Ark of the Convenant was built. It is also another underrated material for mortar and pestle sets. It is naturally water-resistant and naturally resistant to molds. It’s also a very dense and durable hardwood so it will last for years.
The bowl itself is fairly shallow and only measures 4 inches wide and under 2 inches tall. However, this can be a benefit because you don’t have to dig around for the ingredients or struggle to see them. The angling on this bowl is also optimized for crushing ingredients.
Although acacia wood is more inert than some other woods, some flavors do carry over between ingredients. Oiling the wood regularly will help with carryover and also help to preserve the wood.
The pestle has a nice big end and is great for mashing ingredients together. It also fits well in the hand and since you don’t have to dig down too far it is easy on the elbows. It is lightweight so don’t expect it to help too much with the mashing process.
A nice mortar and pestle set for those looking for something functional and healthy. A little pricey but good quality.
How-To: Seasoning a Mortar and Pestle
Seasoning a mortar and pestle is a fairly easy process. It does require some time because of the air drying step, but during that time you can do something else and then come back and finish the rest later. Another option is to start the seasoning process at night, go to sleep and then finish the rest the next day.
- Clean the pestle and mortar with water and a steel brush (steel is ideal but a hard bristle brush will also work).
- Let the mortar and pestle air dry until there is no visible moisture.
- Crush uncooked rice in the bowl until it is fully ground into a powder. You can add a little water to the rice if you are having difficulty grind it.
- Empty the uncooked rice out of the mortar and wipe the bowl with a clean cloth.
- Repeat the rice crushing procedure 2-3 times if you want to ensure you have removed all of the dust from the mortar (this step is optional).
- Season the bowl by crushing a handful of salt, pepper, cumin (or paprika or curry if you want a different color) and a few cloves of garlic in the bowl.
- Mash it together until it forms a paste.
- Rinse both the pestle and mortar with water and allow them to air dry.
Your mortar and pestle is now ready to be used. Whip up something tasty and enjoy flavors like you’ve never experienced before.
If you don’t feel like seasoning your mortar and pestle alone, do it with someone: