How to Use a Molcajete (With Recipes)

A molcajete — pronounced ‘mohl-kah-HEH-teh — is the traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle used for preparing salsa and guacamole as well as for grinding spices. Made from a volcanic stone called basalt, the molcajete adds authentic flavor typical of traditional kitchens in Mexico.

So, what’s so unique about a molcajete and why should you use one instead of something more convenient? One word: Taste. Yes, blenders and food processors are convenient, but that doesn’t mean they create a superior salsa. Plants have vital flavors via essential oils trapped inside. For the most full-bodied taste, you need to break it down to release them. The crushing of a mortar and pestle does this more effectively than the thin blade of a knife or handy kitchen appliance.

Plus, mincing herbs or putting them into a food processor can bruise them. Using a molcajete does the same job with much less bruising. And, because a mortar and pestle can only move as fast as you do, it won’t generate heat through friction. That’s good news for taste; it means brighter flavors.

Before you start using a molcajete, there are a few things to know. First, you must cure your mortar and pestle before you use it. Don’t skip this step or you’ll end up with little rock pieces in your food. It’s possible to find a molcajete that is pre-cured so check the label when purchasing. Second, never use soap when cleaning a molcajete. The volcanic rock used to make a molcajete is very porous and will trap not only the scent of the soap but also the taste.

Are you ready to make salsa and guacamole? I am! Let’s take a look at a few authentic recipes.

Salsa Recipes

Tomato sauce salsa and ingredients dark stone background

Traditionally prepared, the recipes listed below specifically call for you to use a molcajete. If you don’t have one, go ahead and use a food processor, blender, or a knife and cutting board until you can purchase a molcajete of your own.

Salsa Molcajeteada from Mexican Made Meatless

Recipes to Try:

Guacamole Recipes

Homemade Fresh Guacamole and Chips

It might be true that homemade guacamole can be made using a fork and bowl, but grinding the ingredients in a molcajete might give you more flavorful guacamole. Crushing the ingredients helps to release the oils and will allow the flavors to marry more easily.

Related Reading: How to Choose a Ripe Avocado

Recipes to Try:

Have you ever made salsa using a molcajete? Let’s salsa and guacamole together! Share your favorite recipe or story in the comments below.

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Photo: Thinkstock


Jennifer M
Jennifer M8 days ago

absolutely delicious

Danii P
Danii P12 days ago

Thank you

Stephanie s
Stephanie s13 days ago

Thank you

Jetana A
Jetana A13 days ago

Interesting off-grid technology!

Paulo Reeson
Paulo R14 days ago


Muff-Anne York-Haley


Ruth S
Ruth S14 days ago


Winn A
Winn A14 days ago


Olivia H
Olivia H14 days ago

Thank you

Anne M
Anne M14 days ago

Sounds good..