How To Use a Molcajete

This, my friends, is a molcajete. I received this as a birthday gift in 2004 from some dear friends. My friend, a very good cook in his own right, hauled this and one for himself, all the way from Mexico to NY. It’s as heavy as it looks.

Fast forward 3+ years, I am finally getting around to learning how to use a molcajete. Now I am addicted!

What is a Molcajete?

The traditional Mexican molcajete and corresponding hand-held grinding tool, called a tejolote, are made from vesicular basalt (lava rock) and are used in the same way as a mortar and pestle. They have been used for thousands of years pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures, including the Aztec and Maya, to grind spices and grains, and to make sauces.

Seasoning: What To Do Before You Use It The First Time

Before a new molcajete can be used, it should be broken in to remove any loose bits of basalt that could get into the food. It’s really easy to do.

I used Rick Bayless’ directions. First, add a small handful of damp white rice to the molcajete and use the tejolote to pound and grind the rice. Dump out the rice and repeat the process until no more loose grains of basalt are visible. The rice may still turn a light grey color, but as long as the loose bits are gone, it’s ready to use. As a note: it’s practically impossible to remove all of the food, including any rice used for the seasoning process, from the surface of the molcajete. Like a cast iron skillet, this adds to the flavor of whatever is being made in the molcajete, particularly if it’s a salsa being made.

How To Use a Molcajete

Traditionally salsas and guacamole are made in a molcajete. But it can also be used as a cooking tool. It can be set over an open fire or hot coals and used for heating up and cooking food.

I can’t get enough of it! I’ve already made guacamole and salsa twice as well as a chipotle chile paste. I’m now looking for reasons to use it.

Give it a try! It’s fun!

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  1. I love that you didn’t call it a mortar & pestle, like so many people I know would.

    Did you see that episode of Rick’s show where he dug the big pit in his backyard to roast a pig? I was just telling Josh that I want to convince his dad to build one too.

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