Grinding. Blending. Pulverizing. These are just three of the many tasks a great molcajete excels at. You may not recognize the name, but you’ll certainly recognize how it looks if you’ve ever traveled to Mexico or found yourself dining in a restaurant dedicated to its cuisine. For many, it’s probably thought of most often as that rustic dish in which mounds of creamy guacamole are served, but it is so much more.
Similar to a mortar and pestle (but even better), the molcajete has been used by the people in the landmass now known as Mexico for thousands of years. Traditionally made from stone or volcanic rock, it consists of a bowl that stands on three legs and comes with a matching tapered instrument designed to hold and grind.
Its naturally textured surface easily turns whole spices into fine powders—releasing flavorful compounds along the way—and lends other dishes a wonderfully chunky consistency that’s hard to replicate. And it can act as a serving dish for various salsas or other dishes made in it. Talk about pulling double duty!
Here are the top four picks we rounded up on Amazon.
1. RSVP Authentic Molcajete
RSVP’s molcajete has a great traditional style. Carved from natural volcanic stone, it has a textured surface that makes quick work of grinding spices or pulverizing roasted peppers. Its generous proportions—8.5 inches in diameter and 5 inches tall—allow for plenty of room smash avocados for guacamole and place the finished product directly on your serving table.
Pros: This model includes a booklet on how to prepare and care for your molcajete.
Cons: It’s one of the pricier examples on our list.
2. TLP Handmade Molcajete
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In this case, volcanic rock is a solid choice for many reasons so it’s no wonder why TLP decided to stick with it. Measuring 8 inches across and 4.5 inches tall, this roomy model has a rich texture that makes quick work of spices and seasonings. Plus, its handmade nature means every single one is unique so you can make it truly your own.
Pros: Weighing nearly nine pounds, it’s hefty enough to stay stable as you work.
Cons: Its texture is a bit more porous than other models, which may make thorough cleaning difficult.
3. Spice Bay Foods Molcajete
When you need something done right, why not go to the source? Spice Bay Foods had its molcajete hand-carved from volcanic stone in Mexico by artisans using skills passed down over generations. Weighing a full 11 pounds, this sturdy model won’t be wobbling around as you vigorously crush fresh herbs or grind cumin to rub on cuts of meat.
Pros: Considering its handmade quality, this example has excellent value for the price.
Cons: It’s among the heaviest on our list so it might not be right for all users.
4. M.D.S Cuisine Cookwares Molcajete
Though not as commonly seen as its plain cousin, molcajetes carved with animal motifs are among the most ancient designs for the tool. M.D.S Cuisine Cookwares’ version riffs on history to create one with a minimalist pig head on one side of its black lava stone body. Clocking in at just shy of twelve pounds, it’s the heaviest model on our list and has a wonderfully porous texture for crafting all kinds of fresh salsas.
Pros: It comes pre-seasoned so you have one less step to worry about.
Cons: The integrated pig design may not be for everyone.