Best Mortar and Pestle Recipes to Make

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Naomi Blue Modified: October 28, 2022
Best Mortar and Pestle Recipes to Make

Adding a mortar and pestle to your kitchen opens up numerous cooking possibilities! From dips and sauces to marinades and spice mixes, every dish can be elevated to new heights with fresh ingredients that have been pounded or ground in a mortar.

But how so? That’s because crushing ingredients with a pestle breaks down cell walls and tough fibers to release oils, aromas, and flavors that cannot be reached with any other tool. Blenders and food processors cut ingredients smaller and smaller but without ever releasing these hidden oils and aromas. Using a mortar and pestle guarantees your sauces and dips are creamier and more delicious! It also gives you more control over the texture of any recipe.

KROK Thai Granite Mortar and Pestle

Many of these recipes come from culinary traditions that have used mortars and pestles for generations. Each of these traditions also has its own variation of the mortar and pestle, from the molcajete in Mexico to the suribachi in Japan. For the most versatility, a Thai granite mortar and pestle like the KROK Mortar and Pestle set will allow you to access all of these recipes, regardless of which region of the world they come from. 

Below are some of the easiest and most useful recipes you can make with a mortar and pestle. So grab some fresh ingredients or dried spices and start pounding out deliciousness!


shrimp pesto pasta; basil pesto sauce
01 of 08

Italian Pestos

When most people hear “pesto”, they assume you’re talking about the basil pesto alla Genovese. This is the most common variation of pesto, easily made with a food processor. But pesto comes from the word “pestle” and means any sauce that was made using a mortar and pestle. So play around with different leafy greens, nuts, and cheeses to make your own pesto.

If you want to make pesto alla Genovese, first crush a garlic clove with a bit of salt in the mortar. Then grind down a handful of pine nuts into a paste with the garlic. Next, add fresh basil leaves a bit at a time, grinding down to your desired texture. Finally, grate parmesan cheese into the mortar and then swirl your pestle around as you slowly drip olive oil into the mortar. The swirling of the pestle will emulsify the pesto into the creamiest and tastiest version you’ve ever experienced!

Follow this mortar-and-pestle recipe for pesto when trying our pesto shrimp dish.

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savory guacamole
02 of 08

Guacamole

Traditionally made in the aforementioned molcajete, guacamole is an ever-popular Mexican dip. Easily made in any mortar and pestle with a large capacity, the mortar also becomes a perfect serving vessel for any gathering.

First, prepare your ingredients by dicing a red onion, a tomato, and a few chilies. Crush up fresh avocado in the mortar, then add your diced vegetables and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with tortilla chips or add it to your burrito or taco.

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Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
03 of 08

Salad Dressings

While many have bottled salad dressings sitting in their fridge, making it fresh is healthier and more delicious. Also, it can be surprisingly easy: just grind black peppercorns down into your desired texture then add salt, olive oil, and lemon juice and mix with the pestle. You’d be surprised at how delicious these few ingredients can taste. 

For a bit more complex dressing, a popular option is the Caesar salad dressing. For this, you start by making a paste with garlic and anchovies before whisking in egg yolk, dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Finally, slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until you reach the perfect emulsification. For serving, mix with Romaine lettuce and croutons.

When trying our recipe for vegan caesar salad as linked below, simply use a mortar and pestle instead of a food processor or blender and you’ll get an even tastier salad dressing!

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chimichurri steaks recipe
04 of 08

Chimichurri

This South American sauce comes from the culinary traditions of Uruguay and Argentina. Chimichurri is easily and quickly made in your mortar and can be used as a topping for steaks and salads, a spread for toast and sandwiches, or a dip. 

To make chimichurri, first break down your parsley leaves in the mortar. The rest of the ingredients can vary from recipe to recipe, depending on the region. However, it usually includes garlic, red pepper flakes, some time of oil, and red wine vinegar. Mix all the ingredients together and drizzle across a medium-rare steak for that true Argentinian experience.

We’d love you to try our recipe for grilled beef tenderloin filets with chimichurri sauce. Just make the chimichurri sauce using a mortar and pestle instead of a blender and you’re good to go!

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easy aioli recipe
05 of 08

Aioli

If you don’t know what aioli is, it’s like the tastier sibling to mayonnaise. Aioli originates from Spain and traditionally only includes garlic and olive oil. Some regions have slightly different recipes, adding egg yolk or lemon juice. This is most likely because traditional aioli has an incredibly intense garlic punch, so adding additional ingredients will lessen the garlicky flavor. 

To make the traditional version, just create a garlic paste in your mortar with a pinch of salt and a few cloves of garlic. Slowly drip olive oil into the mortar while swirling the pestle around until you reach a soft and creamy consistency. Use this as a dip or anywhere where you would use mayonnaise. Prepare for an explosion of garlic!

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hummus sandwich recipe
06 of 08

Hummus

Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip found in many restaurants and grocery stores. These versions are usually over-processed in a blender or have unnecessary ingredients and additives. Making it yourself using a mortar and pestle will give you a more authentic version that’s chunkier and tastier! Fresh hummus with fresh pita is one of those snacks that’s impossible to beat.

Start by making a garlic paste with a few cloves in your mortar. Next, add some chickpeas that have been soaked and cooked and start mashing down. Once you get the chickpeas down into a chunky paste, mix in tahini paste, olive oil, and lemon juice. This will make for the best spread for a delicious hummus sandwich recipe!

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gremolata in a dish
07 of 08

Gremolata

A green sauce that is similar to chimichurri but originating in Italy, gremolata is most commonly used as a garnish for Milanese braised veal shank, called osso bucco. Don’t limit yourself to this dish though, as gremolata can be used on any meat or fish dish to give it a distinctively citrus and Italian flavor. 

Just like many of the previous recipes, start by making a garlic paste. Then you’ll add the parsley leaves and break them down as fine as you want it. The final necessary ingredient is the zest and juice of half a lemon. This is usually chunkier than a sauce,  but you can add a bit of olive oil if you want more of a creamy texture. Try using it as a sauce for delicious linguine pasta — we promise you won’t regret it.

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flavorful za'atar seasoning
08 of 08

Marinades and Spice Mixes

Marinades are easily made in a mortar and pestle and can be in a paste or as a dry mixture. Using homemade marinades will add more intense flavors to your meats while also making sure the meat is as moist and tender as possible. Using dried spices, fresh herbs, oils, and other liquids, you can play around with endless combinations of ingredients to make your perfect marinade.

A spice mixture is a blend of dried herbs and spices you could use as a marinade, during the cooking process, or as a topping when serving a dish. Many cultures have their own spice mixes but a very unique and delicious variation is za’atar, found in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. The main ingredient in za’atar is ground sumac, a citrusy flavor made from the berries of a sumac shrub. Mixing this dried oregano, dried thyme, and sesame seeds, za’atar can be used as a marinade or a dipping sauce once combined with olive oil.

Once you’ve made your homemade za’atar seasoning using your handy mortar and pestle, use it as a seasoning for chicken and veggie kabobs.

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Conclusion

These recipes are just the beginning of what you can create with a mortar and pestle. Once you start exploring these and other flavors, you’ll never turn back from the elevation of taste-crushing fresh ingredients adds to your dishes. 

If you don’t yet have a mortar and pestle, check out krokcraft.com for a quality Thai granite mortar and pestle made by local craftsmasters. 

Naomi Blue

Naomi is a writer, editor, and manga enthusiast. She has written for various websites, events, and ad commercials. She is also an avid fan of street food and food history. She’s currently in her Japanese and Indonesian food phase and is interested in exploring Vietnamese cuisine next.