Last Updated on November 27, 2023
A mortar and pestle is an essential tool in the kitchen. Historically important to cuisines around the world and still used in many kitchens today, the mortar and pestle is perfect for smashing and grinding, emulsifying and breaking down tough fibers. No electric food processor will be as quickly grabbed and easy to grind or easy to use as the pestle and mortar. Also, there are many methods of breaking down ingredients that can only be accomplished by the mortar and pestle. The following list of the best mortar and pestle sets will help you choose the right one for you.
This article was brought to you by KROK, a small business that preserves and promotes the Thai tradition of handcrafted granite mortars and pestles.
Making a pesto in a food processor will just slice and dice the ingredients smaller and smaller and you’ll be dependent on the olive oil for any juiciness or creaminess. Bashing the heavy pestle onto the ingredients in the mortar actually smashes the cell walls of the ingredients, releasing all the aromas, flavors, and juices hidden inside. The natural juices will blend together as you swirl the pestle to emulsify everything into a creamy, unparalleled tasting pesto sauce.
Since mortars and pestles come in numerous shapes and sizes and in many different materials, we’ve narrowed all these options down to the best 12 mortars and pestles to buy for your kitchen. The main types we’ve chosen are large granite, small granite, Italian marble, small marble, the Mexican molcajete, and the Japanese suribachi.
This list is not in any specific order of recommendation. We wanted to give you a budget option and a high-end option for each material and each size. Then you can choose the best one for you depending on what uses you have planned for your new mortar and pestle. Thai curry paste? Pesto? Mexican salsas? There’s something here for all of these.
If all these options are overwhelming, we highly recommend the first option, the KROK Thai granite mortar and pestle. The KROK is handcrafted in the Chonburi province of Thailand by local artisans. Its solid granite construction and unpolished interior makes the KROK the most versatile mortar and pestle that you’ll be able to use in any recipe. That said, if you don’t know where to start, want to learn more, or need help choosing what is the best option, check out our guide on How to Choose the Best Mortar and Pestle.
Best Granite Mortar and Pestle
Granite mortars and pestles are the most popular ones, due to their versatile usage. From grinding spices, to making curry pastes, a granite mortar and pestle won’t let you down.
The KROK mortar and pestle is impossible to beat. Artisans in the Ang Sila village of Chonbury, Thailand, have been carving granite and stone for generations and each KROK is handbuilt with their experience and mastery. Each one is machine-cut from local, high quality granite and then carved by hand to the KROK’s unique design. With a few design tricks, the KROK goes from a great mortar and pestle to perfect. While the solid granite makes for a sturdy mortar, it isn’t overly heavy because of the thinner walls and cork base. The thinner walls also expand the capacity of the mortar without adding size and weight. Most mortars of this size have a 2-cup capacity but the KROK’s thinner walls push it to a 3 cup capacity. Also, the cork base reduces noise when pounding ingredients and makes sure the mortar won’t slip around on your countertop.
Another unique aspect of the KROK is the longer granite pestle. This makes sure your hand stays far away from the edge of the mortar while using and you won’t have to worry about smashing your hand on the mortar. The bowl of the mortar is an even, round shape so no ingredients can hide in a corner to avoid your pestle. The KROK mortar and pestle is a purchase you could never regret, continuously finding more and more uses in your kitchen while knowing you’ve supported KROK’s mission to preserve this ever-rarer artisan skill in the Ang Sila village.
The Gorilla Grip also offers a great option for a granite mortar and pestle. With capacity of 4 cups, it is a heavy, hard-working granite mortar and pestle that can handle any ingredient you want it to. This capacity is large enough for multiple ingredients needed for any recipe you’re making for a family. Even if it might feel unnecessary to pull out for a single dry spice or other ingredient, you won’t have to worry about it handling any ingredient you want ground.
The Gorilla Grip is a Thai-style, granite mortar and pestle so is best for breaking down tough ingredients for pastes and curries. It will also be able to grind practically any amount of dried spices that a recipe will call for. If you’ve ever seen Gordon Ramsey using his mortar and pestle, you’ll want to know that he is using the granite mortar and pestle made in Thailand like this one. Since this style is the most versatile and can be used in so many applications, it would be hard to recommend much more than this or the KROK (depending on your budget).
A little bit bigger than the marble mortar and pestle above, this mortar from Gramercy Kitchen Co. is a 1.5 cup capacity and made from granite. The larger capacity bowl will hold more ingredients so this mortar can easily handle multiple ingredients for a small amount of a sauce or spice-blend. Make a fresh chimichurri sauce in this the next time you prepare a steak. Or if you need a large amount of garlic paste, put some garlic cloves in here with a pinch of salt and start grinding down until you get the consistency you want.
At around $25, you’ll be able to impress family and friends with the increase in flavor from freshly ground spices and sauces.
Small Granite Mortar and Pestle – Zwilling
For a more modern look, this stunning black granite mortar and pestle from Zwilling will be perfect for any countertop. As a contrast to the black granite, it has a unique ring of stainless steel around the bottom. But don’t worry about your countertop, there are non-slip rubber feet on this mortar.
The fancy design might come with a higher price tag, but all the weight and crushing ability you expect from solid granite is still there and the mortar and pestle will make your recipes taste as good as this will look in your kitchen.
Best Marble Mortar and Pestle
Marble mortars and pestles are often made in Italy, where they are commonly used in the kitchen to make pesto and other sauces. Our selection of the best marble mortars and pestles includes different sizes and price ranges.
Italian Marble Mortar and Pestle – Palatifini
This beautiful marble mortar with a wooden pestle is made from white marble sourced directly from Carrara, Italy: the epicenter of Italian marble. With a diameter of 16cm, this mortar and pestle is the right size for making pesto, aioli, and other Mediterranean sauces. Nothing will perfectly recreate the creamy texture you want as well as these marble mortars. The pine nuts, garlic, and basil leaves will quickly break down into a beautifully creamy pesto in no time.
If you think you might need a larger size for your larger family or to make big batches of sauce, they offer 18cm and 20cm sizes for a bit more money. Whichever you decide, it’ll be a beautiful and beneficial addition to your kitchen.
Italian Marble Mortar and Pestle – Nuova Marmotecnica
As you get closer to the $100 price range, this 20cm option comes with an olivewood pestle for grinding. This wood is a bit more expensive but is much sturdier and will hold up better to the pounding and grinding over the mortar’s lifetime. Nuova Marmotecnica also offers a smaller one with the olivewood pestle and numerous sizes with a beechwood pestle.
Either of these marble mortars will perfectly breakdown the fibers in herbs for your pesto and you will never buy a jar of the pre-made stuff again. The smooth marble will also provide incredibly easy clean-up when you’re done preparing your sauce. No small crevices and sharp blades like a food processor!
If you’re looking for a small mortar that can handle one or two ingredients at a time, this marble Norpro mortar and pestle is a great option. If you want to quickly grind a dried spice down, grabbing this will be quicker and easier than using an electric grinder. Whether your crushing garlic cloves or grinding black peppercorns, you’ll have the ability to control how rough or fine the product becomes. You can keep the peppercorns chunky to season a steak or grind it down to a fine powder for a smooth soup. For the garlic, you can stop at a rough smashed clove or continue smashing and grinding until you have a nice garlic paste.
With the price at less than $20, you’ll want to keep this mortar out for two reasons: beauty and functionality. After use, quickly wash it down with some hot water and a light brush (using soap if there’s a difficult paste stuck), dry it, then put it back out on display.
So you decided on purchasing a small marble mortar but don’t like the white marble look of most of them? This 6-oz capacity mortar is made from a dark grey marble so it looks more similar to a granite mortar but with the smooth texture you expect from marble.
When your recipe calls for a few teaspoons of black pepper, throw some peppercorns into this mortar, grind it down to your preferred texture, and add into your dish for maximum flavor. To bring it up another notch, roast the peppercorns for a few minutes on a hot cast iron skillet or pot before grinding. Trust me, you’ll be surprised at the new flavors you find in just back pepper!
Best Molcajete Mexican Mortar and Pestle
The Mexican molcajete mortar and pestle has a unique shape and is traditionally made of volcanic rock, used to make salsas or guaccamole.
The molcajete mortar and pestle is uniquely made from porous volcanic rock. This 7-inch wide molcajete handmade in Mexico will make incredibly chunky and tasty guacamole and salsas, using the pores to break down chunks of tomatoes, avocados, and chilis. FESTMEX’s molcajete comes pre-seasoned so you avoid the laborious process of getting all the loose volcanic rock out of the bowl before usage.
Once you finish your salsa or guac in this mortar, leave it there! You already have it in the easiest and best-looking serving dish. That’s what the Mexican artisans that made this molcajete would want from you!
Mexican Molcajete – MexGrocer
For about 20 more dollars, you can upgrade to this heavy duty lava stone mortar and pestle. Also made in Mexico, handcrafted by a local artisan, this molcajete will upgrade any Mexican food made in your kitchen. You can use it to grind spices for any recipe or, as mentioned above, to make salsa and guacamole. Both the mortar and the pestle are made from porous lava stone that is perfect for breaking down ingredients and grinding spices.
Be aware if you purchase this mortar because it does not come pre-seasoned. You will have to season or “cure” the molcajete by grinding either dry white rice or salt, water, and garlic until you no longer see visible black or grey grains of stone. This might take a few times of cleaning out the mixture and starting fresh to see if it remains clean and clear of loose volcanic stone.
Best Suribachi Mortar and Pestle
The Suribachi mortar and pestle is mainly used to grind sesame seeds and traditionally originates in Japanese.
A beautiful piece of pottery, this suribachi from Mino Ware will grind sesame seeds down into a paste for those delicious Japanese recipes. Unique to the Japanese style of mortar and pestle, the suribachi has ridges cut into the pottery for easier grinding action. Mino Ware’s suribachi has the ridges angled in multiple ways so cooks that are right-handed or left-handed will still be able to grind against the ridges.
With a price of around $50, this might seem like a splurge purchase compared to the wide usage of other recommended mortars. But if you regularly cook Japanese dishes or just want a lovely piece of pottery to include in your kitchen tools, you cannot go wrong picking up this suribachi.
Japanese Suribachi – Toiro
This suribachi is a style called katakuchi because it has a spouted lip on the rim of the mortar. Because of this, the suribachi is perfect for making and serving pastes and sauces. The base of the mortar also comes with a non-slip silicone rubber bottom and this suribachi is microwave and dishwasher safe.
Coming in numerous options, you have the choice between black and white and three different sizes. The large would be the most universally usable but the medium size would probably be sufficient for most uses in a family kitchen. Make sure you grab the recommended brush to go along with a suribachi because food remnants can get stuck in the grooves and cause bacteria growth. It’s better to already have the brush so you can make sure and clean out everything very well after each use.
We hope this list will inspire you to introduce the mortar and pestle into your kitchen. Once you grind your first spice or make your first paste or sauce, you will not regret adding this versatile and necessary tool. Your food will thank you and the mouths you feed will thank you as well.