At least one spice seasons anything I cook. I use such a range that I custom-built shelving in my tiny kitchen to hold stacks of refillable containers. I even converted a cosmetics bag into a spice kit, filling each little makeup canister with a different dried herb or ground spice and have traveled with it across countries and oceans to ensure I always had my favorite flavors at hand.
I mainly buy whole spices and grind them in small batches, so a traditional mortar and pestle would make sense in my kitchen. Still, for the longest time, I liked the idea of this classic tool more than the reality of owning and using one.
Instead, my spice-grinding tool of choice was a decades-old electric coffee grinder I inherited when my grandmother died at the age of 104. It wasn’t until I began using IKEA’s Adelsten Mortar and Pestle that I discovered the bright, delicious pop of spices ground by hand.
Little else cleans up so easily in my kitchen—not a knife and cutting board, not a mini chopper, and not even grandma’s old coffee grinder.
IKEA Adelsten Mortar and Pestle
Sleek finish doesn't need seasoning
Two sizes in one mortar
Fairly smooth pestle working end
My next mortar wasn’t much better. Despite its larger size, it was too smooth to easily grind anything and sat on a bulky pedestal. That old electric coffee grinder still won out.
In IKEA’s Adelsten Mortar and Pestle, I found the right match. The mortar is big enough to hold and crush a scoop of whole spices, a head of garlic, or a small avocado. The pestle has enough weight to effectively grind spices into a smooth blend, mash garlic into a puree, and break down basil into a creamy pesto.
Most tellingly, I kept the Adelsten model after spending hours (and enlisting the help of my husband) to season five other mortar and pestle sets. Those sets all ground spices well, but each had something that just didn’t work in my hand or kitchen despite the time I’d invested in seasoning them. The Adelsten set fits my needs and is affordable to boot. Its marble doesn’t even require seasoning—a bonus if you’re buying your first mortar and pestle or just want to get cracking as soon as you open the box.
Both the mortar and the pestle have enough weight and heft that they don’t walk all over the counter as I rock and smash. Even so, the set isn’t so heavy that I would feel uncomfortable lifting it on and off an eye-level shelf.
It’s also streamlined for a small storage footprint. Instead of a solid pedestal, the mortar can be flipped over to reveal a second grinding basin in its base. This bonus mortar is quite shallow, but it works well when I want just a little freshly ground pepper or mashed ginger.
Once I added this mortar and pestle set to my kitchen, I found it useful for far more than I anticipated.
Once I added this mortar and pestle set to my kitchen, I found it useful for far more than I anticipated. I choose it when crushing garlic into a creamy mix, especially when blending in some herbs. I use it to break up walnuts for hot cereal in the morning, peanuts for summer rolls at lunch, and almonds to sprinkle on grilled beans and salmon at dinner.
On the spicy side, the set lets me easily crack coriander seed, peppercorns, and cardamom. I can also smoothly blend a mix of spices into za’atar, garam masala, or a barbecue rub. I can even cream an avocado into guacamole for one.
No matter what I crush in it, I can quickly clean the pestle and mortar. I simply rinse them with a little warm water and let them air-dry. Little else cleans up so easily in my kitchen—not a knife and cutting board, not a mini chopper, and not even grandma’s old coffee grinder.
What’s Included: Reversible mortar, pestle | Material: Marble | Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 3.75 inches | Capacity: 2 cups | Weight: 6 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: No
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Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and is the author of the weekly newspaper column and food blog, Twice as Tasty. Every kitchen tool and gadget must earn its place in her 500-square-foot home as she bakes, preserves, ferments, grills, and eats well year-round. Julie published her first cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Pickling," in 2020.