Molcajete

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Molcajete

The molcajete is a cooking tool that although not absolutely necessary this day in age, it does have its uses, benefits and looks. Mexico’s version of the mortar and pestle (the pestle being called tejolote) it has been used for thousands of years to pound, smash, grind and mix ingredients such as herbs, spices and chiles, create rubs, pastes and sauces.

It is traditionally made of basalt volcanic rock, which is very porous and rough and it makes it very heavy. There are however, newer versions of lighter material, that I am not so fond off. When new, there are many takes of how to “cure” them, so they can begin to be used. Some people grind white rice, while others grind peeled garlic cloves.  I like to do both. So just take either one or the other, or both, and grind them with the pestle. Then just wash with a soapy sponge and rinse under cold water.

Molcajetes stand on three short legs.

They are sometimes carved in the shape of an animal, most typically pigs, which can look friendly or quite scary.

piggy molcajete

A wonderful thing about molcajetes, is that since they are so porous they have a remarkable memory. They store within them, the essences, oils, smells and flavors of all that has been served or made in them. Maybe that’s why it is said that molcajetes season with time and use. Maybe that’s also why it is said that making a sauce or rub or paste in a molcajete makes it taste better…

While it is not an essential cooking tool in most homes, some people are adamant about their use for Mexican food, as it does make a difference in taste. Also, it is used as a serving dish for salsas and guacamoles both in homes and restaurants as well as hot sauces and dishes because it keeps food warm for a long time.

16 comments on “Molcajete

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  1. Hola, Pati! I just bought an authentic molcajete at a tiny Mexican food store in Tupelo, Mississippi but don’t know how to properly season it. One online site says you should grind dried beans four times (using a fresh batch of beans each time and discarding the ground stuff), dried corn times, dry white rice four times, then grind water-soaked white rice several times to be sure there is no rock residue remaining, rinse with warm water and dry upside down. We’re willing and able to follow the instructions but I trust you like no other when it comes to authentic Mexican food and cooking utensils. Is this a traditional seasoning method or is there a good way to do it without all that labor? Thanks!

    1. Congrats on your molcajete Meg! You will love it. There are so many takes on how to cure a new molcajete, but I always like to take both rice and garlic to season and prep my molcajete.

  2. Pati, do you have any recommendations of where to buy an authentic Mexican molcajete online? Looking for my father in law who is from Cotija and always has had them taken away from him at airport customs! I would love to buy one for his birthday, but he won’t be happy unless it’s just like the one his mother used in Cotija! Any input is appreciated! Thanks Pati, you’re the best!

    1. Cynthia I recommend looking online or at a cooking store for a good molcajete. I hope your father-in-law enjoys it!

  3. Where can I get an Authentic Mexican basalt lava rock molcajete? I want the real deal…not a composite. I am an avid Southwestern cook (living in the South now) and my shopping resources for Mexican cuisine items here are nil. Lots of Internet sights are deceiving. Please help me find a reliable source. Thank you!

    Yours truly,
    V.

  4. I bought my molcajete from a steak restaurant in Sonora. It was an interesting trip back with it…but we’ll worth it. It was already seasoned from the restaurant use!

      1. A treasure indeed! I love watching your show. I could watch hours on hours of it and I enjoy preparing the recipes as well.

        Keep up the great work! Banderita’s all around!

  5. Hi Patricia
    I Love your page and love your guacamole recipe; I also lived in Oaxaca Mexico for some time and learned how to make some salsas, but nothing compare to yours; I also learned that a molcajete must never be wash with SOAP, since it will leave residue and actually change the taste of your future recipes. Here is a suggestion
    How to clean a molcajete:
    Rinse all of the food and spice particles out of the molcajete. To do this, simply run tap water over the surface of both the bowl and the pestle. Your goal here is to remove excess food particles that rinse off easily.
    Plug up the kitchen sink, and place the molcajete in the sink. If your sink is easily scratched, place a dish towel on the bottom of the tub, to prevent the rough stone of the molcajete from scratching the sink’s surface. Fill the sink with hot water. Allow the molcajete to sit in the hot water for approximately five minutes, to soften up any particles that are trapped in the craters
    Use the stiff-bristled brush to scrub the molcajete bowl and pestle. This will remove the stuck-on food, as well as any residue that might be left on the molcajete.
    Drain the sink and rinse the molcajete in warm water.
    Gently scrub the lemon on the surface of the bowl and pestle of the molcajete. Lemons have natural odor-absorbing properties, and this will help absorb the scent of any Mexican spices that were ground up in the molcajete. The lemon juice can be allowed to dry on the molcajete before putting it away.