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


Emma L
Emma L9 days ago

thank you

Paula A
Paula A10 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Carole R
Carole R12 days ago

Thanks for posting.

Marija M
Marija M12 days ago

tks for sharing

Tabot T
Tabot T13 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

Peggy B
Peggy B13 days ago

I think I'll try these recipes with my traditional ceramic pestle and mortar.

Lorraine A

thanks for sharing

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris19 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Emma L
Emma L19 days ago


Jan S
Jan S20 days ago

thank you for sharing