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July 24, 2023 5 min read

Mortar and pestles have been used for thousands of years and are still essential in today's kitchens. If you're curious about the typical size of a mortar and pestle, you're in the right spot.

In this blog, we'll discuss the various sizes available, how they're used, and offer useful advice to help you choose the best mortar and pestle. Let's dive right in.

The Origin and Use of Mortar and Pestles


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

The mortar and pestle have a fascinating history that goes way back thousands of years. They're believed to be one of the oldest tools humans ever used for making food and herbal medicine. Their origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. These early cultures used various materials like stone, wood, and even metals to make these tools. As time went on, other parts of the world started using them too, like Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Each country changed the design and materials to fit what they needed and what they had.

Even today, mortar and pestles are important in kitchens all over the world. Despite modern tools like the electric spice grinder, they're typically the first choice that's used for grinding and crushing ingredients for cooking, baking, and herbal remedies.

What Are the Various Mortar and Pestle Sizes Available?



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)

For home cooks, small mortar and pestle sets are the perfect choice. They're usually about 3 to 4 inches wide, making them perfect for grinding up small amounts of spices, herbs, or whatever else you need into a fine powder. Plus, since they're compact and don't take up much space, they're great for smaller kitchens.


Medium (2 to 4 cups)

If you want something more versatile, medium-sized mortar and pestle sets are your best bet. They're usually around 5 to 6 inches wide, which is perfect for larger batches of freshly ground spices, homemade pastes, sauces, and marinades. They also don't take up too much space in your kitchen.


Large (4 to 8 cups)

If you have a large family or frequently have dinner parties, large mortar pestle sets are ideal. 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

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) Consider the Type of Cooking You Do

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) Check 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) Consider Comfort

If you have joint problems or have difficulty lifting anything heavy, using a large pestle can be tiring due to its weight. In such cases, a small or medium-sized set might be more comfortable for you, especially 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. Let's dive into some of the most common materials:


Stone Mortar

Stone mortars are exceptionally durable and long-lasting. Their natural roughness provides the perfect surface for grinding and crushing. They're especially ideal for grinding hard ingredients like whole spices and coffee beans. Keep in mind though, 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're 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, since they have a smoother surface, they might require more effort to crush certain ingredients.


Wooden Mortar

Wooden mortars are the perfect choice for grinding soft ingredients like herbs and seeds. They're also lightweight, easy to handle, and their natural look 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. Their smooth surface allows for comfortable handling, and the natural grain of the olive wood adds a beautiful aesthetic touch to your kitchen tool collection.





How do I clean my mortar and pestle?

Cleaning can vary depending on the material. For stone, granite, or marble, use warm water and a brush to remove any residue, then air dry. For wooden or brass sets, avoid soaking and use mild soap and water, then dry immediately. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the surface.


How do I season my new mortar and pestle?

If you have a stone or granite mortar and pestle, you can season it by grinding uncooked rice or white bread crumbs until they turn into a fine powder. Discard the powder, rinse with water, and air dry.


Can I use my mortar and pestle for grinding spices other than herbs?

Absolutely! Mortar and pestles can grind spices, seeds, nuts, medicines, and even grains. Just make sure you're using the appropriate size and material for the task at hand.


How can I prevent my mortar and pestle from slipping during use?

To prevent your mortar and pestle from slipping, place a damp kitchen towel or silicone mat underneath. This provides stability and prevents any unwanted movement, especially when grinding hard ingredients.




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.

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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