A mortar and pestle is an ancient tool used to grind herbs, spices, and other solid ingredients into powders or pastes. Today, it remains a popular choice for cooking enthusiasts looking to get the most flavor out of their ingredients.
While some cooks prefer to use modern kitchen gadgets like a food processor, the mortar and pestle have stood the test of time. However, not all mortars and pestles are created equal – some are better suited for certain tasks than others.
From size and material to shape and texture, a few details can make all the difference when it comes to grinding herbs.
In this article, we’ll look at the best mortar and pestle for herbs – including what to look for in a pestle set and a few of my favorite options on the market today!
What to Look For When Buying a Mortar and Pestle
There are so many different mortars and pestles to choose from. To make sure you’re getting the right one for you, keep the following points in mind:
Mortar and pestles are made from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, ceramic, or metal. Each material has its own unique benefits and drawbacks – so what you choose will depend on what it is you plan to grind.
- Stone mortar: My personal favorite; you can get a nice fine powder with a stone mortar and pestle due to the rough surface. Granite and marble pestle sets work for all ingredients, including herbs.
- Wooden mortar: Great for fresh herbs and can be comfortable to hold. Although, wood is prone to absorbing flavors and odors.
- Ceramic mortar: Perfect for making wet or oily sauces and pastes, such as pesto. Ceramic mortars aren’t my first choice for herbs due to the glossy interior, making it harder to get a good grip.
- Metal mortar: Best for hard spices, nuts, and seeds. Like ceramic mortars, the glossy surface of a stainless steel mortar doesn’t lend itself well to herbs.
When it comes to size, it’s important to choose a mortar and pestle that fits your required measurements. Pestle sets can come in varying sizes, so if you know you’ll be grinding many herbs, go for the larger option! The best option for you really depends on your personal preferences.
When you’re grinding a big batch of herbs, comfort is key. Pick a pestle with a comfortable handle without any ridges or patterns. All the mortar and pestles I have included below have great ergonomic handles, and I have had no cramping/discomfort issues with them.
You should consider how easy cleaning and maintaining your pestle set is. Some materials can be tricky to clean and require special care instructions – so make sure you read the instructions before buying! Your best bet is to go with something simple to clean and can be rinsed with warm water.
Mortar and pestles are not only functional; they can be a great way to add style and personality to your kitchen. There are plenty of unique and beautiful designs out there. Whether you want something traditional or modern, there will be a pestle set to suit your kitchen aesthetic.
The Best Mortar and Pestle for Herbs
Now that we’ve discussed what to look for when buying a mortar and pestle, let me share my favorite picks. All of these options do the job well and will make grinding your herbs a breeze!
This sleek white marble set is ideal for grinding herbs, whole spices, and even nuts. The marble material ensures a fine powder texture, and the handle is perfectly shaped for a comfortable grip. The Laevo pestle set has a 2.1 cup capacity, which is a great size for mixing herbs with olive oil for marinades and sauces.
Not to mention, you can turn this mortar over, as there is a little indent in the base for grinding small batches of herbs and spices!
Heavy, sturdy, and with a beautiful design – this mortar and pestle set also comes with a few added extras. The silicone mat stops the pestle from slipping and scratching your countertop, which can also be used as a lid to keep the contents fresh. And the little wooden spoon is the perfect size for scooping ingredients and is an excellent addition to any kitchen.
Made from solid granite, this pestle set is both long-wearing and easy to clean. The minimal-porous surface makes it ideal for herbs, wet ingredients, and pastes.
The ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle set has a perfectly shaped handle for comfort, a classic base, and the large 2-cup capacity bowl ensures you get plenty of grinding action.
The ChefSofi pestle set has a self-adhesive anti-scratch protection mat for its heavy base, making it extra secure when grinding. The durable design and material mean you won’t need to worry about it chipping or cracking anytime soon! This stone pestle set is ideal for grinding herbs alongside nuts and seeds.
Hand-carved and made from 100% solid granite, this heavy pestle Set is the ultimate kitchen tool. The heavily weighted mortar makes grinding herbs simple, and as it has no base, you get a lot of grinding action.
Large and in charge – this mortar and pestle set has a generous 2-cup capacity, which is the perfect size for any home cook!
Definitely one of the best granite mortar and pestles for herbs, you will seriously look forward to food preparation and creating delicious meals with this set. The hefty size and weight make it an excellent choice for serious chefs or anyone who wants to get the most out of their herbs.
If you love making large batches of guacamole or have an abundance of herbs in your garden – you need this set! The Vasconia Molcajete mortar and pestle has a huge 4-cup capacity and is made from heavy-duty granite, meaning it is made to last.
The Vasconia is technically a molcajete, a traditional Mexican mortar, and pestle made from volcanic rock – such as granite.
The volcanic rock makes the Vasconia pestle set a good choice for grinding herbs, seeds, and ingredients such as cardamom pods, as it is extremely dense and heavy. The Vasconia molcajete also looks beautiful, making it a great serving piece!
For a small but oh-so-mighty mortar and pestle set – look no further than the Sagler. This little beauty is made from solid, non-porous marble and comes in the classic white color. This mortar can hold up to 3/4 of a cup, which is ideal for grinding small quantities of herbs to add to your dishes.
The small size makes the Sagler easy to store and transport – ideal for those with minimal kitchen space.
This mini white marble set is good for grinding herbs, sesame seeds, and various spice blends. The smooth surface makes cleaning easy, and the heavy base ensures a secure grip when grinding. Plus, it looks beautiful on any countertop!
Which is the mortar, and which is the pestle?
It is easy to get them mixed up, but the mortar is the bowl, and the pestle is the club-like tool! Together, they create an ancient tool that has been around for thousands of years. You can use your pestle set to make a variety of pastes, such as Thai curry paste, and grind various herbs and spices.
What is the benefit of using a mortar and pestle?
The most significant benefit of using a mortar and pestle is that it allows you to create the freshest, most flavorful herb mixes. Unlike electric blenders, which cut your herbs, a pestle set crushes and grinds them, releasing all the essential oils and flavors.
Seriously, you’ll be hooked once you taste the difference between freshly ground herbs and those you find at the grocery stores!
Do you need to season a mortar and pestle?
Similar to a cast iron skillet, a mortar and pestle set will benefit from being seasoned before first use. This helps protect the stone’s surface and prevent food from sticking to it.
Seasoning, or curing, is simply prepping your mortar and pestle for use. It is a straightforward process and only needs to be done once!
Here is how you season your pestle set:
- Wash your new mortar and pestle with warm water – do not use soap of any kind! Let it air dry.
- Add some rice to the mortar, and grind it into a fine powder with the pestle. You’ll notice specs of dirt and grit from the mortar in the powder; this is normal.
- Rinse and repeat, adding more rice to the mortar until you are left with pure white powder and no longer see any specs of dirt.
- Once you have finished seasoning, rinse your set with warm water – again, do not use soap!
- Some people then grind herbs in the mortar to give it a pleasant smell. Whatever you decide, enjoy your freshly seasoned mortar and pestle set!
Yes, you can absolutely use fresh herbs in your mortar and pestle! Simply add the fresh leaves to the mortar and use the pestle to muddle them together. This process will bruise the leaves and release their flavor. Fresh herbs are a great way to add an extra layer of flavor to your dishes!
You can definitely use a mortar and pestle to grind your coffee beans. This method allows you to control the coarseness of your grind, giving you a fantastic cup of coffee every time. I would recommend using a stone pestle set for this, as the roughness of the stone will help you get a perfect grind.
A mortar and pestle set is a great tool for making a variety of pastes, dips, spreads, and infused oils. Whether you preserve your own herbs or go for store-bought, you should try making some seasonings like my garlic and herb seasoning or maybe a classic Italian herb mix.
Grind up some roasted garlic cloves and salt to make a delicious garlic paste, or mix up some fresh herbs and make a delicious lemon herb aioli. My easy guacamole recipe is a favorite too! There are so many possibilities for making amazing dishes with a mortar and pestle.