The Best Spice Grinders for Your Kitchen, According to Chefs

Here’s why the pros love Cuisinart’s Electric Spice-and-Nut grinder.

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.

Dry ground coffee and spices in a coffee grinder
Svetlana Monyakova / Getty Images

It's tough to beat the convenience of pre-ground spices. But with the right spice grinder in your kitchen arsenal, crushing dried, whole spices, like cloves or cumin, becomes effortless. By granulating spices at home with one of these spice grinders, you'll have the chance to take full advantage of the complex flavors sometimes lost in a pre-ground version. Plus, using a spice grinder ensures you choose everything going into your next meal — whereas pre-ground spices sometimes contain additives that aren't necessarily listed on the back of the bottle. (Scary, we know.)

While chefs love to wax poetic on old-fashioned mortar and pestles, electric spice grinders get the job done quickly and efficiently. So before you go shopping for your next spice grinder, consider these chef-bought favorites that are reliable, durable, easy to use, and even easier to clean. The best pick across the board is the classic Cuisinart Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder, but there are plenty of other options here for every grinding need in the kitchen.

Best Overall: Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder

Cuisinart Electric Spice and Nut Grinder

Amazon

Pros: A smaller electric grinder makes it quick and easy to crush your favorite spices while ensuring you make just enough to enjoy peak freshness.

Cons: This grinder itself is not dishwasher-safe, only the bowl.

A medium-sized grinder like the Cuisinart Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder — not too big and not too small — forces you to grind your spices fresh. If you use a big grinder, you might prepare too large of a batch that will sit on the shelf for longer and ultimately lose its aromatic freshness.

The alternative is a grinder like this, where you can crush and smash in small doses, controlling the freshness to the maximum extent, explains chef Tarik Fallous of Lebanese restaurant Au Za'atar in New York.

F&W Best New Chef alum Nina Compton, of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans, opts for the Cuisinart Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder, too. "It's very easy to use, and the best part is that it can also be used to grind nuts. Another perk is that this grinder is easy to maintain."

They're not the only chefs who prefer the Cuisinart gadget either: Donatella Arpaia uses the same one. The space-efficient grinder features extra-sharp, stainless-steel blades that can handle ingredients like whole cloves to cinnamon sticks. It's easy to clean too, with a removable grinding bowl and includes a removable airtight lid for seamless storage.

Price at time of publish: $40

  • Material: Stainless steel blade
  • Dishwasher-safe: Grinding bowl is dishwasher safe

Best Electric: KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder

KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This coffee grinder features one-touch control and a spice-grinding accessory kit to grind seasonings like coriander and cumin.

Cons: This grinder is more expensive than other models.

Top Chef star Jeremy Ford avoids a traditional spice grinder at his Miami restaurant Stubborn Seed. The chef, who stars in the truTV show Fast Foodies, says that the best grinder he's ever used isn't meant for spices.

"My favorite spice grinder isn't a spice grinder at all—it's a coffee grinder," he says. "I use the KitchenAid one at Stubborn Seed because it's so durable. It can withstand the roughness and wear and tear of daily use in a real restaurant kitchen."

The KitchenAid tool includes a one-touch control, making grinding so easy that you'll wonder why you ever bought pre-ground spices. Push down on the cover to begin grinding and release to stop, and use the clear lid to view the size and consistency of spices and grinds.

If you're wondering whether you're one of the only ones using a coffee grinder for spices, the short answer is no. This gadget is equipped with spice-grinding accessory bowls and specialized blade designs that you can swap in to grind spices such as coriander and cumin.

Price at time of publish: $40

  • Material: Stainless steel blade
  • Dishwasher-safe: Grinding bowl is dishwasher-safe

Best Value: Krups Silent Vortex Electric Grinder

4.5
 KRUPS Silent Vortex Electric Grinder

Amazon

Pros: This electric grinder is one of the quietest options and is also compact for kitchen storage.

Cons: It's one of the smallest, so you may have to grind more often.

Grinding doesn't have to be noisy and messy. F&W Test Kitchen editor Kelsey Youngman recommends the KRUPS Silent Vortex Electric Grinder since it's one of the most silent grinders on the market and doesn't take up much space on her counter. Because it's two pieces, there are no small parts to lose. The best part? It's affordable, especially in the world of electric spice grinders, blenders, and coffee grinders.

"It's compact, efficient, works quickly, and isn't too hard to clean," she says. "It works equally well for tough cinnamon sticks and star anise pods as it does with fine cumin or fennel seeds. Then, I blitz white rice in it to get lingering scents and bits of spice out."

Price at time of publish: $44

  • Material: Stainless steel blade
  • Dishwasher-safe: Grinding bowl is dishwasher safe

Best Mortar and Pestle: Cole & Mason Granite Pestle and Mortar

mortar and pestle

Cole and Mason

Pros: This mortar and pestle will work just as beautifully as it looks on your kitchen counter.

Cons: This kitchen tool requires more effort than electric grinders and might not be ideal for big batches.

After years of trying various spice grinders and being disappointed, executive chef Ryan Pera of Coltivare in Houston, Texas, uses a mortar and pestle. "It's reliable and multi-use," he says. "I use it to make guacamole, pastes, even aiolis, as well as grinding spices."

Maneet Chauhan, James Beard Award-winning chef, cookbook author, and co-founder of Morph Hospitality Group, would rather use a mortar and pestle, too. "This way, your spices aren't ground to powder, but instead, they are left a bit more coarse, similar to cracked pepper versus powdered pepper, which gives you a better texture," she explains.

In her kitchen, she uses the 7" Cole & Mason Granite mortar and pestle from William Sonoma, which is "the ideal size whether you're working with a small or large amount of spices," she says. "Another trick I often do is I toast my spices before grinding them, which gives you the best flavors," she adds. "When the spices are still warm, they break and mix together more cohesively."

This particular mortar and pestle is heavyweight black granite, which provides steady control when grinding. It works for both wet and dry ingredients, with an unpolished, rough-textured interior that will help take spice-making to the next level.

Price at time of publish: $33

  • Material: Polished granite
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Best Molcajete: Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle

4.6
Vasconia 4-Cup Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This budget-friendly choice is versatile and works with both wet and dry ingredients.

Cons: This tool is not dishwasher-safe and heavy for storage purposes.

Molcajetes are versatile and can be used for minimal quantities of spices and wet or dry use. They add a nice depth of flavor due to how the essential oils are released through the twisting and turning of the grinder against the stone — and it doesn't add any mechanical heat like an electric grinder.

That's why James Beard Award-nominated chef Timon Balloo, who creates seasonings without a spice grinder at all, prefers this molcajete. He takes a hands-on approach with a four-cup granite mortar and pestle, which can grind anything, including grains, herbs, and spices.

"No matter how heavy, messy, and time-consuming it can be, I love the classic mortar and pestle," he says. "Sure, when I'm in a rush, it's easier to put spices in an electric grinder, but it's not as therapeutic and rewarding as using a manual version."

Balloo raves about the budget-friendly Vasconia Granite Molcajete version. "It's wide enough to use large circular motions or pound," Balloo says. "I like to make sure the surface is rough and sealed."

Price at time of publish: $30

  • Material: Granite
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Conclusion

With powerful manual and electric options available, there are different advantages for both. A manual grinder is ideal for dishes with spices and raw meat because you can control the grounds better, and it's a more personal experience. Otherwise, for cooking, an electric grinder is consistent and saves serious time. Ultimately the best option overall is the Cuisinart Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder.

Factors to Consider

Capacity

Capacity is one of the most important characteristics to contemplate when choosing a spice grinder. If you overload a grinder, chances are your spices won't be the same size and lead to problems later on while cooking. Plus, when you grind spices in smaller quantities, you preserve their quality and keep the spices fresh and aromatic for a longer time.

Size

For an electric grinder, smaller is better simply because you're more likely to use your spices right away, resulting in better-tasting cooking. Grinding large quantities of spices at once may result in lost flavor later on. However, it's best to go larger for a mortar and pestle. You can grind the same amount of spice in a large mortar as a small one, but there's much more use to a large mortar, such as making curry pastes.

Manual/Electric

Depending on what you are going to use it for, they both have their benefits. For example, a mortar and pestle is better for marinades because the grinding process will release more oils, whereas electric tools are better and quicker at creating a finer powder and larger quantities.

If you're only grinding a small amount of peppercorns, for instance, use a hand-held pepper mill. If you have an assortment of spices that need to be blended, a mortar and pestle will come in handy. A manual grinder also gives you more control of your mesh size. If you are making a large batch of spices, opt for electric.

The Research

After extensively researching this topic, we consulted more than a dozen chefs to get their take on the best spice grinders available. We read hundreds of reviews, compared their responses, and weighed the information against the factors above.

Pro Panel Q+A

Q: Should you grind spices in a blender or coffee grinder?

A: It depends — because coffee is very oily by nature, those oils may get all over the parts of the grinder and leave remnants of coffee flavor. You could use a coffee grinder for spice grinding if you use it only for spices and never for coffee. The same rule applies to blenders. The size, capacity, and power of blenders and coffee grinders are ideal for crushing spices, but it's best to reserve the grinder for spices instead of using it as a multi-tool.

Q: How do you clean a spice grinder?

A: One of the best ways to clean your spice grinder, manual or electric, is with rice. Put your rice in, grind it to a powder, and wipe it out with a damp paper towel. A small piece of bread works well for electric grinders, but be careful as the bread can bind the mixer and burn the motor up.

A good dry towel is another option, as is a small paint brush to clean around the narrow edges of the blade in an electric grinder. Avoid soap at all costs for either manual or electric, though.

Q: Why are freshly ground spices better than pre-ground?

A: Freshly ground spices will be more flavorful as they still contain high levels of the oils within the spice, making for a much brighter flavor experience. You're releasing the aromas of the seed when you grind it, so when you grind it fresh, the spices will be more robust, which will reflect directly in your food.

When you buy pre-ground spices, it saves time and effort, but there's no way to know how long they have been on the shelf. As they sit, sometimes for years, they oxidize and lose their aromas.

Our Expertise

Clarissa Buch Zilberman is an acclaimed food writer with nearly a decade of experience. She tapped more than a dozen chefs and experts to get their input on the best spice grinders, including Jeremy Ford, Nina Compton, Ryan Pera, Donatella Arpaia, Kelsey Youngman, Tarik Fallous, Timon Balloo, Maneet Chauhan, Ryan Pera, Rob McDaniel, Brian Whale, Reem Assil, Adrienne Cheatham, Eric See, Einat Admony, Akira Back, Marc Gomez, and Cyle Reynolds.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles