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Together, mortar and pestles are sturdy instruments that grind and smash herbs, spices, peppers, seeds. The simple but effective technique encourages your spices to release their full aroma and flavor—something you probably won’t get from pre-packaged powders. It’s also great for making pastes, sauces, and salsas. You can also make a mean tableside guacamole without spending $15.
Most versatile: ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
The ChefSofi is hefty. It measures six inches wide and can hold two cups, enough room for making salsa or guac right inside its unpolished granite surface. Granite’s rough texture is ideal for grinding, powdering, or crushing spices, seeds, nuts, and more. The set comes with a self-adhesive protective pad to protect your counter from damage. Don’t forget to season your new mortar with rice and spices before use.
Most elegant: Helen’s Asian Kitchen Suribachi Set
This traditional Japanese ceramic mortar comes with a wooden pestle (it’s just as effective for grinding ingredients, while being gentler on the bowl), and an unglazed ceramic interior with fine, sharp ridges called Kushi-no-me, which help ingredients stay in place while you grind. The 5.5-inch mortar is versatile for any ingredient prep—and ideal for grinding toasted seeds to sprinkle on soba or rice.
Smooth operator: Greenco Marble Mortar and Pestle
This marble mortar and pestle comes in two sizes, with an unpolished rough interior with rings that help grind spices and herbs to release maximum flavor. It’s also great for grinding up medicine into powder. The mortar itself is a handsome white and gray swirl.
Budget pick: HIC Mortar and Pestle Set
This small, porcelain mortar and pestle set is great for small kitchens, especially if you mostly plan to use your mortar for grinding up tablespoons of spices at a time. It also works for grinding up medicines into powders, but not so much for full-on sauces or chili pastes.