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July 24, 2023 5 min read

The world of culinary tools can be a maze for both the professional chef and the home cook. One of the tools you might come across is the mortar and pestle. These tools have a history dating back thousands of years and they remain essentials in the modern kitchen. If you've ever wondered about the standard size of a mortar and pestle, you've come to the right place.

In this blog, we'll explore the different sizes available, their uses, and provide helpful insights to guide you in selecting the right mortar and pestle for your needs. Let's get started.

The Origin and Use of Mortar and Pestles


wooden mortar and pestle with leaves in the background
Credit: Envato Elements/ klenova

Before we jump into sizes, let's talk about the history and use of this kitchen staple. Mortar and pestles date back to ancient times when the first cooks needed a way to grind and blend their food. The mortar is a bowl, typically made of stone, wood, or ceramic, designed to hold the ingredient that needs grinding or crushing. In contrast, the pestle is a heavy, club-shaped tool that is used to do the grinding and crushing.

Although we now live in an era where electric spice grinder gadgets are readily available, the old-school mortar and pestle have not lost their charm. This is mainly because of the tactile pleasure and absolute control they provide, making the cooking process more engaging and rewarding.

The Sizes: From Tiny to Extra Large


multiple wooden mortar and pestles stacked inside one another

Credit: Envato Elements/ Nikolaydonetsk

Mortar and pestle sets come in a variety of sizes, generally ranging from small ones with a 1-cup capacity to large ones that can hold up to 8 cups. Here's a more detailed look:

Small (1 to 2 cups)

Small mortar and pestle sets, which are typically 3 to 4 inches in diameter, are the perfect choice for home cooks. These sizes are handy for grinding small quantities of spices, herbs, or other ingredients into a fine powder. They are also compact and require minimal storage space, making them ideal for small kitchens.

Medium (2 to 4 cups)

For those who want more versatility, medium-sized mortar and pestle sets are the way to go. These sets, typically 5 to 6 inches in diameter, are great for preparing freshly ground spices, homemade pastes, sauces, and marinades in larger amounts. While still being manageable to handle and store, they offer the flexibility to handle larger recipes.

Large (4 to 8 cups)

For cooks who often cater to large families or enjoy entertaining with dinner parties, large mortar pestle sets might be your best bet. These sets, ranging from 7 to 8 inches and upwards, are designed for recipes that call for large quantities of ingredients to be crushed and mixed together. They're perfect for creating dishes like guacamole, pesto, or curry paste. They're also great for crushing harder ingredients like pine nuts.

What Is the Standard Mortar and Pestle Size?


mortar and pestle with avocados
Credit: Envato Elements/ Artem_ka

So, what's the standard size of a mortar and pestle? Based on common usage and sales, a medium-sized mortar bowl, specifically those with a 3-cup capacity, is considered standard. These sets offer a balance between capacity and ease of use. They're not too small that you're constantly refilling them, but also not too large that they're difficult to store.

Tips for Choosing the Right Size


mortar and pestle with leaves
Credit: Envato Elements/ merc67

How do you decide which size is best for you? Consider the following factors:

1) Cooking Requirements

The kind of cooking you do plays a crucial role in deciding the best mortar and pestle size. If your recipes often call for grinding spices or herbs in small quantities, a small set should suffice. On the other hand, if you're a fan of making large batches of guacamole, pesto, or other pastes, a larger set will serve you better.

2) Kitchen Space

The size of your kitchen or storage space is also a key factor. A large mortar and pestle may offer more functionality, but it will also take up more counter or cupboard space. You need to find a balance that works for your kitchen.

3) Physical Comfort

If you experience joint problems or have difficulty with heavy lifting, using a large pestle can be tiring due to its weight. In such cases, opting for a small or medium-sized set might offer you greater comfort during prolonged use.

Which Material Should You Choose?


wooden mortar and pestle
Credit: Envato Elements/ Nikolaydonetsk

Choosing the right material for your mortar and pestle is equally important as choosing the right size. Different materials offer different benefits and are suited to different tasks. Let's dive into some of the most common materials and explore their strengths and uses:

Stone Mortar

Stone mortars are exceptionally durable and long-lasting. Their natural roughness provides the perfect surface for grinding and crushing, making them ideal for hard ingredients like whole spices and coffee beans. However, they can be quite heavy and require extra effort to clean.

Thai Granite Mortar

Thai granite sets are a subset of stone mortars but deserve a separate mention due to their unique properties. These sets are incredibly sturdy and reliable, resistant to chips and cracks, and offer a smooth grinding surface. This makes them perfect for tough tasks such as making curry pastes or crushing hard spices.

Brass Mortar

Brass mortars add a touch of vintage charm to your kitchen, but they're more than just pretty to look at. They are also incredibly hard and durable. Their non-porous nature prevents the absorption of flavors and odors. However, they might not be as effective as stone or granite for grinding hard spices.

Marble Mortar

Like stone, marble mortars provide a heavy, hard surface excellent for crushing and grinding. They're non-porous, meaning they won’t absorb odors from spices and herbs. However, marble can be a bit smoother than stone or granite, so it might require a bit more effort to crush certain ingredients.

Wooden Mortar

Wooden mortars are the perfect choice for grinding tender ingredients like herbs and seeds, thanks to their softer surfaces. They are lightweight, easy to handle, and their natural appearance can add a rustic touch to your kitchen. However, they are not suitable for heavy-duty grinding, and they require careful cleaning to avoid absorption of flavors and odors.

Olive Wood Pestle

Olive wood mortar and pestles deserve a special mention among wooden kitchen tools. This particular material strikes a perfect balance between being lightweight and sturdy, making it ideal for grinding delicate spices and herbs. Its smooth surface allows for comfortable handling, and the natural grain of the olive wood adds a beautiful aesthetic touch to your kitchen tool collection.


There's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the perfect mortar and pestle size. The "standard" 3-cup size might be the most popular, but the best choice ultimately depends on your personal cooking needs, kitchen space, and physical comfort. By having a clear understanding of the various sizes and their respective uses, you can make a well-informed choice that will surely take your culinary adventures to new heights.

Looking for the ultimate grinding experience in your kitchen? Check out Pepe Nero's Granite Mortar and Pestle. Crafted with precision, both the mortar and pestle are designed to effortlessly grind spices to perfection. Shop with us today.

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