The 8 Best Mortar and Pestle Sets for Herbs, Spices, and Sauces

Your premium ingredients deserve the best.

In This Article

Jump to a Section

In This Article

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Mortar and Pestles for Herbs, Spices, and Sauces

Food & Wine / Kristin Kempa

Ancient cooking tools, like the mortar and pestle, are still indispensable for the modern kitchen. You can use the two-piece device to hand grind spices or make guacamole or pesto the traditional way. The best mortar and pestles are easy to clean and should be selected based on what you plan to make. They come in various materials, often stone, metals, or wood, and each has its advantages and drawbacks. Monica Sunny, the founder of Chai Box, featured on Oprah's Favorite Things 2021, has many thoughts on choosing a mortar and pestle.

Sunny has been using a mortar and pestle since she was four. "A big thing in India is people making wooden toys for motor skills," says Sunny. "My grandmother bought this kitchen set for me, and one of the things was a mortar and pestle. That was my first educational toy. So, I have a relationship that goes way back." According to Sunny, mortars and pestles have incredible importance in Indian culture and cooking. The ancient tool is often a gift given to newlyweds or children leaving home. 

As a chai expert, Sunny uses a mortar and pestle daily. She calls it her "chai meditation," where she pounds her custom tea blends to release oils and aromas to infuse the milk for chai. "The meditation is something I learned from my mom," says Sunny. "In the morning, you're taking 15 to 20 minutes for yourself to make yourself a cup of chai. Part of that is grinding the spices and boiling the water, but using that mortar and pestle every morning grounds me, literally."

Sunny estimates she has around four different mortars and pestles, even a small one for travel, and she also sells them on her website. Given her experience and collection, we turned to her for advice on how to pick the best mortar and pestle set, whether you're grinding spices, herbs, or mashing avocados.

Best Granite

Cole & Mason Mortar and Pestle

4.6
Cole & Mason 5-inch Granite Mortar & Pestle

Amazon

Cole & Mason Granite Mortar & Pestle is an excellent addition to any kitchen. The granite mortar is on the smaller side, making it perfect for smaller jobs like grinding a few spices for a rub. The mortar has thick walls to its bowl, meaning you can get strong resistance. Since the walls are so thick, the capacity is small — about one cup. The interior is rough and unfinished so that it can grind ingredients quickly. The manufacturer advises seasoning by grinding white rice, garlic, and cumin with salt and pepper. To clean, simply rinse with warm water and dry well. 

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Dimensions: 5.12” H x 5.12” W 
  • Material: Granite

Best Marble

Williams Sonoma Marble Mortar & Pestle

Marble Mortar & Pestle

Willams Sonoma

The Marble Mortar and Pestle (a Williams Sonoma exclusive) is about as quintessential old-world Italy as you can get. The Carrara marble makes a solid surface for pounding anything, including pesto, made the way it's intended. The marble has four handles that resemble rounded points, adding a flourish and something to hold onto as you grind herbs. The pestle is made from beechwood and is not dishwasher safe. The interior is textured, so you get more friction against your ingredients and require less elbow grease.

Price at time of publish: $100

  • Dimensions: 4” H x 7"W
  • Material: Marble

Best Molcajete

RSVP Molcajete

Molcajete

Food52

Food52's molcajete is carved from natural volcanic stone, which means it has a rough surface. The grit helps create friction when you are crushing chilies, cilantro, and more to make guacamole or salsas. The larger molcajete is Mexico's answer to the mortar and pestle, with more uses beyond mashing the avocado. The tejolote (pestle) can make quick work of dry and wet ingredients, and you can also use it as a serving dish. This molcajete needs to be seasoned. The manufacturer recommends grinding cold water and a few handfuls of white rice to season the surface. Once you no longer see bits of stone released with the white rice, the molcajete is ready to be used. 

Price at time of publish: $64

  • Dimensions: 8.5" D x 5" H
  • Material: Volcano stone

Best Value

Chef'n Mortar and Pestle

4.9
Chef'n Mortar & Pestle

Amazon

The Chef'n Mortar & Pestle is a simple and beautiful tool. This white stone bowl and black silicone base are great for non-slip design and durability. The silicone base also provides flexibility with how you use the mortar and pestle and allows you to tilt it for leverage. The rounded edges of the white stone create an organic aesthetic that’s perfect for more modern and minimalistic kitchens. To clean, wipe with a wet cloth. 

Price at time of publish: $43

  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 4.9 x 6.45 inches
  • Material: Stone and Anthracite

Best Brass

Simple and Solid Brass Mortar and Pestle

Simple and Solid Brass Mortar and Pestle

Amazon

This Simple and Solid Brass Mortar and Pestle look straight out of an old-fashioned 1920s pharmacy. Sunny says brass mortar and pestles are extremely common in India. 

Metals, like brass, are an excellent choice because they are easy to clean. The manufacturer even recommends it for grinding incense and "spells" in addition to meals. The 5-inch pestle is taller than standard tools and ensures ingredients don't spill out of the vessel during use. 

Price at time of publish: $17

  • Dimensions: 5” H x 3.5” W 
  • Material: Brass

Best Cast Iron

Frieling Manu Cast Iron Mortar and Pestle

Frieling Manu Cast Iron Mortar and Pestle

Food52

The Frieling Manu Mortar and Pestle is a fun tool fashioned from cast iron. Unlike some pestles, the short and wide tool nearly fills the bowl with its enormous, bulbous end. The added weight of the pestle helps make easy work of more arduous tasks. The increased surface area covered means no stray coriander seeds go unground, and you can get a more consistent grind. The manufacturer advises you to clean with water and avoid soap. Once dry, adding a light layer of neutral oil will help it stay seasoned. 

Price at time of publish: $43

  • Dimensions: 4"H x 3" W 
  • Material: Cast iron

Best for Design

Design Within Reach Tondo Mortar and Pestle

Tondo Mortar and Pestle

Design Within Reach

The Tondo Mortar and Pestle is so pretty it almost doesn't need to function — the solid marble mortar and pestle can double as a sculpture and grind your peppercorns. The designer set out to rethink the ancient kitchen tool designed by Jessika Källeskog for Design House Stockholm with Tondo in 2018. The mortar and pestle are shaped like a circle ring, which sits inside a hollowed marble rectangle. To grind spices, you gently rock the circle back and forth. It's both zen and fun to use. Although it is so pretty, you may be too afraid to use it. Don't be —marble is incredibly durable, and this is well made.  

Price at time of publish: $285

  • Dimensions: 6.1" H 2.25" W 8.5" D
  • Material: Carrara marble

Best Stainless Steel

Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle with Brush

Tera 18/8 Stainless Steel Mortar and Pestle

Amazon

This stainless steel mortar and pestle is the most versatile of our selections. The stainless steel construction allows soap and water to wash it, and it could easily go in the dishwasher. The material is also food-safe and won’t retain any odors. We love that the mortar and pestle come with a plastic lid fitted with a hole for the grinder. The cover helps keep messes in when you genuinely pound ingredients, and it also serves as storage until you are ready to use your handiwork. We also love the padding on the bottom dampens the sounds during vigorous use.  

Price at time of publish: $24

  • Dimensions: 5.79” H x 5.59” W x 4.76” D
  • Material: Stainless steel

Factors to Consider

Types of material 

Mortar and pestles come in various materials, but they are not all created equal. Stones, such as marble or granite, are common due to their strength as a surface to pound dried spices. Those made from smooth metals like brass and stainless steel are often the easiest to clean and sometimes can even go in the dishwasher. Sunny says that many households in India have brass ones that almost resemble the type you might see in an old-timey apothecary. "Wood is too light for pounding and grinding, and I prefer a marble-like heavy stone with a nice opening to grind in a circular motion."

Size

Mortar and pestles vary from a couple of inches for condiments to large sizes often used as serving pieces. In many parts of Mexico, larger stone molcajetes are heated and used as tabletop griddles for serving meats and other types of fillings for tacos. "The height of the mortar also matters because if you're grinding something, that's gonna spill over like a bunch of spices," says Sunny. "In India, they vary in size, like one to ten cups. I mean, I'm talking about huge."

Price

There are numerous types of mortar and pestles, and you can get some for as little as $10 and some costly ones like this Aztec Turtle Shell Mortar & Pestle just for decoration. You don't need to spend that much, but since this type of piece is an heirloom, according to Sunny and us, spending a little more never hurts.

Care

Some mortar and pestles need to be seasoned or have special instructions, such as using white rice and water. Check with the manufacturer. Sunny likes to use mortars with more grit for dishes like curries, so you can add water to get out the garlic and ginger bits. She uses different mortars for different dishes to separate the flavors, so your chai doesn't taste like curry or vice versa. 

Our Expertise

Jennifer Zyman is a Senior Commerce Writer for Food & Wine and a former restaurant critic with a culinary school degree and over 15 years of food writing experience. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater Atlanta, The Kitchn, Local Palate, National Geographic, Simply Recipes, Southern Living, and Thrillist. To write this story, she used research and expertise from Monica Sunny, Chai expert and Founder of The Chai Box.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles