Rise and Grind: Become a Mortar and Pestle Snob With These 25 Recipes

Earlier this summer, my mom called to tell me that the only kitchen gadget I truly need to own is a mortar and pestle. She explained that she’d heard this fact on a podcast, so it had to be true. I listened and nodded, chopping up some garlic for a spicy veggie stir-fry I was making. A couple of weeks ago, a package showed up in the mail for me. My mom had gone and bought me a granite mortar and pestle, intent on proving its usefulness. I took it out of the package, read the cleaning instructions, and put it on my bookshelf, where it looked quite elegant. “I guess it will be useful for making guacamole?” I thought.

I WAS A FOOL BACK THEN. Yes, my mortar and pestle is indeed great for making guacamole, but it is so much more than that. I can hardly believe I used to CHOP GARLIC. Chopping garlic probably took whole days off of my life. I put garlic in almost everything. The chopping never ended. But now, I don’t chop my garlic; I pound it in my mortar and pestle. And not only does it take way less time—and act as a bit of a stress reliever—I’m told by culinary experts that using a mortar and pestle to pulverize garlic is better for the overall flavor of your dish than chopping it is. I cook a lot of Indian food, and grinding spices and herbs for my curries has never been easier. There is a reason these things have been around since 35,000 B.C. They are useful as fuck.

Ever since incorporating my mortar and pestle into my daily cooking routine, I feel superior to everyone I know, and you too can feel like the king of your kitchen by getting your mortar and pestle on (the one I have was only $16.99 on Amazon). Food processors are for 21st-century chumps TBH. Go old-school and feel so much better than your technology-dependent friends.

1. Guacamole


2. Pesto


3. Thai Red Curry Paste


4. Masala Chai


5. Roasted Tomato-Jalapeño Salsa


6. Black Olive Tapenade With Garlic, Capers, and Anchovies


7. Caesar Salad


8. Hummus



9. Aioli



10. Taramasalata



11. Taco Seasoning


12. Chimichurri


13. Spicy Garlic Salmon


14. Coriander Chutney


15. Red Chili Garlic Chutney



16. Thai Green Papaya Salad


17. Chicken and Green Mango Salad


18. Mojo


19. Spice-Rubbed Fish Sliders


20. Grilled Oysters with Spiced Tequila Butter


21. Mojito


22. Clams with Black Bean Sauce, Bok Choy, and Noodles


23. Stir-Fried Chicken with Hot Basil


24. Hot Chocolate


25. Lemon Basil Panna Cotta


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 848 articles for us.


  1. The only time I have used a mortar and pestle is in a college chemistry lab. They never have appealed to me for cooking because my instinct is that anything I associate with a chem lab would be horribly inappropriate for food preparation– ridiculous, I know. Thank you for convincing me otherwise!

  2. Recipes for the Recipe BOOK, Easy Clean Gadget for the GADGET DRAWER

    *cough-cough* I love mortar and pestles so very much, possibly as much as chocolate.

    OH and just in time for Babe-B-Q
    If y’all have a marinade recipes that wants crushed garlic cloves.


    If you have a marinade recipe that doesn’t require crushed garlic cloves.

    Consider them.

  3. A lot of the articles in this food column are compelling, but this one just went to the top of my list for things I will remember and look up and put into practice. I want to be a kitchen wizard with these recipes, yes.

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