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April 23, 2023 9 min read


When it comes to cooking and food preparation, there are many tools and utensils that come to mind, such as knives, spoons, and spatulas. But one of the most essential tools that have been used for centuries is the pestle and mortar. This tool is used for grinding, crushing, and mixing spices, herbs, and other ingredients. However, there is a question that has puzzled many cooks and food enthusiasts over the years: Are pestles the bowl?

In this blog, we'll shed light on the true identity of the pestle and also provide some insider tips and tricks to help you grind your spices and other ingredients like a pro. Whether you're looking to buy a new pestle or simply curious about this time-honored tool, this guide is the perfect place to start.


What Is a Pestle?


white mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ sofiiashunkina


To properly address the question of whether the pestle is the bowl, it's important to first understand what a pestle is.

A pestle is a tool that is commonly used alongside a mortar for grinding or mashing substances, particularly in cooking or pharmaceutical preparations. This long, cylindrical tool is made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, glass, marble, or granite. It is typically held in one hand and used in a pounding motion to break down or blend ingredients.


Are Pestles the Bowl?


hands on mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ LightFieldStudios


Now that we have a better understanding of what a pestle is, we can answer the question: Are pestles the bowl?

The answer is no, the pestle is not the bowl. The bowl-shaped container is called the mortar, while the long cylindrical tool used in conjunction with the mortar to crush and blend the ingredients is the pestle. However, it is not uncommon for people to use the term "pestle" when referring to the mortar. This may be due to confusion or simply a lack of knowledge. 

It is important to use the correct terminology when talking about pestles and mortars, especially when shopping for them. If you ask for a pestle and the salesperson gives you a mortar, you may end up with the wrong tool for your needs.


How to Use a Pestle


mortar and pestle

Credit: Envato Elements/ ADDICTIVE_STOCK


Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use a pestle while grinding and crushing ingredients:


1) Prepare Your Ingredients


To achieve optimal results when using a pestle, it is crucial to prepare the ingredients appropriately beforehand. This can entail a range of tasks, such as thoroughly washing and cleaning the ingredients, peeling them if necessary, and cutting them into smaller pieces that are suitable for the recipe and desired texture of the final dish.

By taking the time to properly prepare the ingredients, you can ensure that they are free from any unwanted impurities, such as dirt or bacteria, which can affect the taste and quality of the final product. Additionally, peeling and cutting the ingredients into smaller pieces can help to facilitate the grinding process when using a pestle, allowing you to achieve a smoother and more consistent texture.


2) Add the Ingredients to the Bowl


Next, gather your selected ingredients and carefully add them to the bowl or mortar. It's important not to overfill it, as this can make it difficult to mix the ingredients evenly. Leave some space for everything to move around freely to ensure a smoother blending process.


3) Start Grinding


To begin grinding,  it is important to have a firm grip on both the pestle and the bowl or mortar. With one hand holding the pestle and the other hand supporting the bowl, apply gentle but consistent pressure as you start to move the pestle in a circular motion. It's crucial to maintain a steady and even pace throughout the process, as this will ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly ground. Avoid overdoing it as this can result in a very fine texture.


4) Adjust the Pressure 


When grinding ingredients, it is essential to adjust the pressure. Different ingredients have varying textures and thus require different levels of pressure for optimal results. For instance, when grinding hard ingredients such as peppercorns, it's recommended to apply more pressure to achieve the desired texture. Alternatively, softer ingredients such as cumin seeds require less pressure to avoid over-grinding or turning them into a powder-like consistency.


5) Mix the Ingredients 


After the grinding process, it is important to ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly mixed to achieve an even consistency. This can be accomplished by using a spoon or spatula. Proper mixing will allow for the flavors and aromas of the ingredients to meld together, resulting in a harmonious and flavorful dish.


Effective Tips and Tricks for Using a Pestle in Your Kitchen


mortar and pestle with fresh herbs

Credit: Envato Elements/ Artem_ka2


Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your pestle:


1) Use Different Pestle Sizes


When it comes to grinding ingredients with a pestle, it is important to consider its shape and size. Using the wrong size or shape of pestle can make the process more difficult and less effective. For instance, if you are grinding larger and harder ingredients, using a larger pestle can provide more leverage and make the task easier. On the other hand, if you are grinding softer ingredients, a smaller and lighter pestle can be more effective, as it allows for greater precision and control. 


2) Use a Separate Pestle for Different Ingredients


To ensure optimal taste and prevent any cross-contamination, it is recommended to use a separate pestle for different ingredients. By doing so, the unique flavors and aromas of each ingredient can be preserved and not compromised by any residual flavors from previous ingredients. This approach is particularly important when working with sensitive ingredients, such as herbs or spices, as their subtle nuances can easily be masked or altered by even the smallest amount of foreign flavors.


3) Clean Your Pestle Properly


To ensure your pestle remains in pristine condition, it's crucial to cleanit properly after each use. After grinding your spices and other ingredients, gently clean it with warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. It's best to avoid using harsh cleaners or abrasive sponges, as they can cause damage to the tool. A bar of mild dish soap is ideal for this task, as it will help to remove any residue without harming the surface of the pestle.


4) Keep Your Pestle Dry 


To prevent damage to your pestle, it is important to keep it dry after cleaning. Moisture can cause the pestle to crack or absorb unwanted substances, compromising its effectiveness in grinding spices and other ingredients. Therefore, it is recommended to thoroughly dry the pestle using a clean cloth or towel after washing it.


5) Experiment With Different Ingredients


Don't be afraid to explore and experiment with a variety of ingredients when using your pestle. It can be an enjoyable and thrilling process to test out different flavors and spice blends that you may have never experienced before. By doing so, you may uncover new and delicious taste combinations that you'll absolutely love.


Recipes to Try Out When Using a Pestle


using a mortar and pestle in kitchen

Credit: Envato Elements/ Mint_Images


Now that you know how to use a pestle, Here are 5 recipes that you can try out:


1) Classic Pesto Sauce 


Pesto sauce is a delicious and versatile sauce that originated in Italy. If you want to make it the traditional way, using a mortar and pestle is the best way to do it. By using this technique, you can accomplish a smooth and creamy texture while perfectly blending the flavors of the ingredients.

To make Pesto Sauce using a mortar and pestle, follow the steps below:



  • 2 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Pine Nuts
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled
  • 1/2 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste



  • In a mortar, combine the basil leaves, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and garlic.
  • Grind the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a paste-like consistency.
  • Slowly add in the olive oil while continuing to grind the mixture.
  • Season the pesto sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve over pasta, spread onto a sandwich, or use it as a dip.


2) Guacamole


Guacamole is a popular Mexican dip made from mashed avocado, tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, and lime juice. It's a tasty and healthy addition to any meal or snack. While there are many ways to make guacamole, using a pestle to mash the ingredients can give it a unique texture and flavor.

To make Guacamole with a mortar and pestle, follow the steps below:



  • 3 Ripe Avocados
  • 1/2 Red Onion, Diced
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, Seeded and Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste



  • In a mortar, add the diced red onion, diced jalapeno pepper, and chopped cilantro.
  • Grind the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a chunky paste.
  • Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit.
  • Scoop the avocado flesh into the pestle and use the pestle to mash it together with the onion, jalapeno, and cilantro mixture.
  • Add the lime juice and season the guacamole with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Use as a taco or burrito topping or serve with tortilla chips.


3) Thai Green Curry Paste 


Thai green curry paste is a savory and fragrant mixture of spices, aromatics, and herbs, that is commonly used in Thai cuisine to make green curry dishes. Making your own curry paste from scratch using a pestle and mortar is a great way to get the freshest and most authentic flavor.

To make Thai Green Curry Paste using a mortar and pestle, follow the steps below:



  • 5 Green Chilies, Seeded and Chopped
  • 2 Stalks of Lemongrass, Sliced
  • 1 Shallot, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Cilantro Root
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce



  • In a mortar, combine the green chilies, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, ginger, cilantro root, coriander, cumin, and salt.
  • Grind the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a smooth paste.
  • Stir in the fish sauce until well combined.
  • Use the curry paste as a base for a Thai green curry dish or add it to soups and stir-fries for a burst of flavor.


4) Spicy Tomato Salsa


Salsa is a popular Mexican sauce made from a combination of fresh ingredients. It is typically used as a condiment for various dishes, adding a burst of flavor and a spicy kick. While there are many variations, this recipe will show you how to make a simple and delicious spicy tomato salsa using a pestle.

To make Spicy Tomato Salsa with a mortar and pestle, follow the steps below:



  • 4 Ripe Tomatoes, Chopped
  • 1 Small Red Onion, Chopped
  • 1/2 Jalapeno Pepper, Seeded and Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste



  • In a mortar, combine the chopped tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and cilantro.
  • Grind the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a chunky paste.
  • Stir in the lime juice and season the salsa with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos or grilled meats.


5) Hummus


Hummus is a well-known dip from the Middle East, consisting of chickpeas and various spices. It's a nutritious and tasty snack that's simple to prepare at home. Making hummus with a pestle is a traditional approach that involves manually grinding the ingredients. This method allows you to adjust the hummus's consistency and gives it an authentic, rustic taste. Although it requires more time and effort than using a blender or food processor, the end result is well worth it.

To make Hummus using a mortar and pestle, follow the steps below:



  • 1 Can Chickpeas, Drained and Rinsed
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Tahini
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste



  • In a mortar, add the chickpeas and garlic.
  • Grind the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a coarse paste.
  • Add in the tahini and lemon juice, and continue to grind the mixture until it becomes smooth.
  • Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to grind the mixture.
  • Season the hummus with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with pita bread, and raw vegetables, or use it as a spread for sandwiches.




Since pestles and mortars have been used for centuries and are still an essential component of cooking in many cultures around the globe, learning the truth about them is important. We hope that this blog has cleared up any misconceptions about these handy kitchen tools and provided useful advice on how to use them.

If you're looking to elevate your cooking experience, check out the Pepe Nero granite mortar and pestle set. Crafted with high-quality materials, this set ensures optimal grinding and crushing for your herbs, spices, and other ingredients. Upgrade your kitchen game with Pepe Nero's mortar and pestle set today!

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