How to Season a Brand New Mortar and Pestle

  • 01 of 08

    How to Season a Brand New Mortar and Pestle

    A new mortal and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    A mortar and pestle is one of the best tools you can have in your kitchen. It can come in handy in all sorts of recipes, but it is especially useful in spicy cooking. You can use it to grind up spices for curries and homemade spice mixtures, mash ginger and garlic, and grind chilies for sauce, salsas, and marinades. It's a great kitchen gadget.

    This guide for seasoning (also called cure, or curing) a brand new mortar and pestle is for ones made of volcanic rock, or basalt rock. (They are also known as molcajete.) When you purchase yours, make sure to read any information that may come with it. The reason is that some mortars and pestles have already been seasoned, saving you the arduous work ahead. 

  • 02 of 08

    Why Season a Mortar and Pestle?

    Close up shot of a mortal and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    When you purchase an unseasoned mortar (the bowl) and pestle (the little club shaped object), it will feel gritty and tiny rock particles will come off of it when you rub your hand across the surface. Since this type of mortar and pestle is made from volcanic (basalt) rock it is very porous, and it is in these little holes that the dirt and debris is trapped. That grittiness is what we want to get rid of so that we never end up grinding rock in our food or between teeth. 

  • 03 of 08

    Rinsing off Some of the Grit

    Rinsing a mortar and pestle with water

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    The first step is to rinse out the mortar and pestle with only water. This will get rid of a little bit of the grit, and all or any dust that has settled on it. You simply run water over the mortar and pestle several times. You can also fill up your sink with water and submerge them in it, swapping out the water several times. You could also leave it soaking overnight, if desired. (Never use soap or soapy water.)

    If you have access to a water pressure washer or a garden hose, I highly suggest this method. All you do is spray the mortar and pestle for about five minutes (keep a good distance between yourself and the mortar to avoid injury.) In this picture, here, you'll notice the little dirt that is coming off of it. Repeat this until you do see a substantial reduction in the debris—but do remember, that this is only the first step so it will not get rid of all of it. 

  • 04 of 08

    White Rice and Water

    A mortar and pestle getting seasoned with white rice

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    For this second step, you will need white rice and water. (I would suggest you use inexpensive rice and not waste your good/expensive brand.) Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the mortar. Only use enough to make an even layer across the bottom. Using too much will have rice flying all over the place. Pour in just a little bit, about a tablespoon, of water over the rice. 

    *Make sure you have at least a small bag of rice for the seasoning. The rice needs to be white so that you can spot the debris that needs removing. 

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    The Grinding Begins

    Grinding white rice into a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    This is where the dirty and muscle work begins. You'll want to make sure this process is done where it is okay to (possibly) have rice and rice paste land. 

    Firmly grab the pestle in one hand, the other should be used to support the mortar if needed. Using a circular motion begin grinding the rice all the way around the mortar. Work the rice up and around the entire, inner, surface of the mortar. Really get in there and use your arm muscles to help you work the rice into the porous surface. (You may break out into a sweat, so it's okay to enlist some help or take a break when you need.) 

  • 06 of 08

    The Gray Paste

    Ground up rice in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    After grinding, for what may feel like an eternity, the white rice will turn into a gray-colored paste. Here you can see the arrows pointing to the tiny dark specks of dirt. The grinding of the rice is what is pulling out all of the dirt and debris that has been trapped in the pores of the rock. 

    You'll also notice that the pestle is covered in the gray paste. Make sure you twist and turn it and even flip it over, as you grind the rice—we don't want to leave anything trapped in there. 

  • 07 of 08

    Rinse and Repeat

    Rice ground up in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    You survived the first grind, now it's time to rinse and repeat ... several more times. This may not be the "funnest" of work, but it is so worth it.  

    Use a clean kitchen brush to brush out the gray paste into a garbage can. Take the mortar and pestle to the sink and use the brush to remove as much as possible of the paste. (Never use soap or soapy water.) Now again place a small handful of rice and water into the mortar. Repeat the whole process of grinding, rinsing, and brushing, until the rice paste is no longer gray and it retains its color. You may want to take a break and continue later or the next day. It can take five repetitions to go from gray to white paste. 

  • 08 of 08

    Celebrate Your Newly Seasoned Mortar and Pestle

    ground chile in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Nancy Lopez-McHugh

    You did it, you seasoned your mortar and pestle! Pat yourself on the back, take a break and do feel those tight arm muscles. 

    The very last step in this workout of seasoning a mortar and pestle is to celebrate and treat yourself to something spicy. Make a curry paste, or a salsa, or perhaps a guacamole, alongside an ice cold drink. You deserve it!