molcajete

cooking tools

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.

Comments

45comments inMolcajete

  1. Araceli Rigney

    Nov 08

    Hola Pati !!
    Where can I find those great colorful pots you use. You use them on your stove top and you use them in the oven. I love that!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Nov 11

      Le Creuset Araceli! They have all sorts of pans, dutch ovens and more, I love them!

  2. Rose Meyers

    Sep 14

    Patti,
    Where can I purchase that small spice grinder you used?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 17

      So many people ask me about this one Rose, isn’t it awesome? I got it in a street market in Mexico and have never seen it anywhere else 😉

  3. Frank Giffone

    May 24

    I watch your PBS TV show, have tried a few recipes & been enjoying your recent Facebook LIVE demo’s. Tonight I’m going to make Julio’s Albóndigas with Chipotle and Mint. Local Mexican market had some molcajetes so I purchased one. I’m going to cure with garlic, salt & rice. Can’t wait to taste the results. Good health to your husband, boys & the professional families that keep you “cooking” on my TV, computer, iPhone, laptop & tablet.

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 28

      Thanks Frank for the good wishes and for tuning in, glad you enjoy the show! Be ready because the new season is premiering this fall from the gorgeous state of Sonora 😉

  4. Cindy

    May 20

    Hello Pati, I am wondering how many times does this take? I remember that when I was a little girl I “helped” my grandmother cure a molcajete but since I was so young I don’t remember how many times she actually did it, any advice?

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 20

      Hey Cindy, thanks for your question. Just cure the molcajete once before the first time you are going to use it, then it will keep curing itself as you prepare salsas, guacamoles, etc. Have fun!

  5. Maria-Luisa Perez

    Aug 25

    I was given a mocajete about a year ago. Use it once and my salsa have small stone grit on it. I’ve put it in the dishwasher, that still didn’t work. There’s still stone grit on it. Any suggestions to get rid of it. Otherwise, I’ll just throw it away. She got it in Mexico on her vacation. Thank you for a response.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 28

      You need to cure the molcajete before using it. I cure mine by grinding white rice and peeled garlic cloves. Then just wash with a soapy sponge and rinse under cold water. I hope you enjoy your molcajete, Maria-Luisa.

  6. Anonymous

    Aug 22

    I want to get one! Can’t wait to share it with you when I do, Pati!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 23

      I hope you love your new molcajete!

  7. Richard Luiken

    Aug 22

    I purchased my molcajete in Can Cun nearly 30 years ago. I use it for all kinds of spices. Mexican, Indian, Japanese Philippines you name it. It has become a fusion tool.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 23

      That’s awesome, Richard!

  8. Ken

    Aug 22

    One tip I would offer on curing cookware is that if you are serving people with sensitive taste-buds, the general rule is not to use soap on such things (mortar and pestle, or cast iron pan, for instance). Fresh water is actually quite capable of safely cleaning things. Soap will speed up the process but it can also penetrate the surface of the seasoning or curing and alter the flavour of foods prepared on it.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 23

      Thanks for sharing, Ken.

  9. Eleesheva

    Feb 15

    I bought a molcajete By Jamie Oliver and it is very hard. does he make the real thing? I love your shows

    1. Pati

      Feb 19

      Hmmm…I’ve never seen one of his, so I’m not sure, Eleesheva. You can usually find one at your local kitchen store or Latin/International market.

  10. Roxana

    Jan 26

    I have my molcajete for 55 years. It was given to me for a wedding gift. I use it all the time.
    I gave one to each of my kids and to my grandsons. They like it very much.
    Roxana

    1. Pati

      Jan 28

      That’s so awesome, Roxana. What an amazing gift.

  11. Roz

    Jun 22

    I just bought my first Molcajete. Seasoned it with rice, salt, rice and more rice! Then I made a traditional salsa, using fire roasted serranos, tomatoes (from my garden), a bit of onion, some tomatillo and garlic. OMG! it is very spicey but so flavorful. Love it.

    1. Pati

      Jun 23

      Awesome! Have lots of fun with your new molcajete, Roz.

  12. Bere

    Feb 22

    Is it natural for the molcajete to have such big holes. My mother in law gave me her old one, it’s heavy and beautiful but the holes are so big, I feel like I’m wasting food. And forget about grinding spices. What can I do?

    1. Pati

      Feb 28

      Holes are natural since the molcajete is made of volcanic stone. But they shouldn’t be so large that you are loosing food in them…maybe it’s time for a new one.

  13. RubyRedHeart

    Feb 21

    I’m on it! Let’s pray my son falls in love with the salsa and all the other uses of this wonderful gift he gave me. Also
    hopefully it will be used and be passed on for years to come. Thank you Pati! 🙂

    1. Pati

      Feb 22

      Oh I hope your son enjoys the salsa and you enjoy the molcajete!

  14. Meg McAlister

    Jul 22

    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. Pati

      Jul 26

      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.

  15. Cynthia

    May 31

    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. Pati

      Jun 02

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

    2. Jon

      Feb 06

      Cynthia, Amazon has a bunch of molcajetes. They’re affordable.

    3. Pedro Bravo

      May 20

      What wi?l you do with the old one? I will buy it for the right price.

  16. Liz Saldana

    Feb 23

    Thanks Pati, I’m now ready to use my new molcajete. Super easy!!!

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Yay! Have fun with your new molcajete Liz.

  17. MG de Graaf

    Dec 25

    My mother gave me her molcajete when she downsized. She calls it her “manual Cuisinart”.

    1. Pati

      Dec 29

      I love that!

  18. Victoria

    Jan 09

    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.

    1. Allison Green

      Apr 18

      I picked one up online from http://www.molcajeteshop.com. They have all kinds, the authentic ones are a little more expensive though. They are heavy too!

  19. Brian

    Sep 28

    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. Pati

      Sep 28

      What a treasure!!!

      1. Brian

        Sep 29

        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!

  20. Res

    Aug 09

    Luz, where did you get the cleaning info from?

  21. Luz A

    Jun 16

    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.

    1. Ken

      Apr 10

      If odor is a problem or you have really stuck on stuff, then a simple application of baking soda and water mixed to form a paste and spread over the surface will work. Just leave the paste on there for 10 minutes or so then scrub the area until it is clean, rinse well. If your baking soda is especially active this may “exfoliate” your hands, so you might want to wear gloves if you have sensitive skin.

  22. Lisa

    Sep 18

    Wonderful! I just received one for a wedding gift and now i know how to use it..thank you!
    Lisa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.