Last Updated on May 18, 2023
Mortar and pestle sets are an elegant and timeless addition to any kitchen, whether it belongs to a traditional household or a celebrity chef. These ancient tools have been around for centuries, and despite the advent of modern appliances like blenders and food processors, they remain a favorite among many cooks and chefs.
The reason for their enduring popularity is simple: they offer a unique and unparalleled experience when it comes to grinding, mashing, and pulverizing ingredients. The manual grinding action releases fragrant essential oils from herbs and spices, resulting in a more aromatic and flavorful paste.
The bigger the mortar and pestle set, the larger the batches of pastes you can make in them. However, as you scale up the size, you renounce practicality. If you’re looking for a mortar and pestle set for everyday tasks like quickly crushing a small bunch of herbs with oil to make a salad dressing or grinding some whole spices to make your own custom spice blend, a small set is much more practical.
Here are the best small mortar and pestle sets you can get to keep things efficient, simple, and organized in the kitchen.
Cast iron is a durable and heavy-duty material that can withstand high temperatures and rough use. The material is great at retaining heat, which means it can keep spices and herbs warm while they are being ground, releasing more of their essential oils and aromas.
Plus, they add a smoky flavor to dishes.
A mini cast iron mortar and pestle set offers all the advantages of a traditional cast iron set — except space — while making it more convenient and easy to handle. It’s perfect for small grinding and crushing tasks and outdoor cooking. Not to mention its rustic and vintage look.
Like any cast iron kitchenware, this mortar and pestle needs to be seasoned to protect it from rust. The seasoning process creates a natural, almost non-stick surface that makes it easier to clean and infuses the food with some iron, adding some nutritional benefits.
Another important point about cast iron is that it doesn’t react well with acidic foods, so you should avoid adding vinegar, citrus, or even tomato sauce to the pastes you’re making in this set.
Olive wood is a popular material for kitchen tools because it’s durable, sustainable, and has a beautiful rustic look. The wood is naturally dense and heavy, which makes it perfect for heavy-duty tasks like grinding and crushing hard ingredients compared to other wooden mortar and pestles.
This mini Olive Wood Rustic Mortar and Pestle set is perfect for small grinding and crushing tasks, such as small batches of salad dressings, condiments, or sauces.
Olive Wood is also known for releasing a subtle sweet and earthy flavor when handled, elevating the flavor of anything you grind in it. This set is pretty lightweight, so you can season your meals with a touch of flavor without sweating over it.
Introducing the mini marble mortar and pestle sets by RSVP International. They come in 4 different colors, each with its unique design.
Because marble is cool to the touch, it helps keep ingredients fresh, and it’s a breeze to clean. The cool surface also prevents herbs, garlic, and other ingredients from browning, keeping them fresh for your dishes. Each of these mortars is also lightweight and easy to handle, which makes them perfect for small grinding and crushing tasks.
However, it’s important to mention that marble is porous and can stain if not properly cleaned and cared for. Marble also can be brittle and can chip or crack if not handled carefully, meaning it’s not ideal for heavy-duty tasks. It’s also not recommended to use acidic ingredients in it, as it can damage the surface.
Despite its disadvantages, this set is still a great option for those who appreciate marble’s aesthetic value and are looking for a small and convenient tool for light-duty tasks.
Stainless steel is an extremely durable and easy-to-clean material that is perfect for grinding and crushing ingredients. It is also rust-resistant and dishwasher-safe, making it easy to maintain.
The lid on this set is an advantage as it prevents splashes, so you can pulverize even the runniest sauces and salsas without hesitation.
Having said that, a stainless steel mortar and pestle set doesn’t add any flavor or aroma to your dishes like wooden, cast iron, or granite mortar and pestle sets do. But because it’s so easy to clean, you can make the smelliest pastes in it.
Though it may not look rustic, this set can perfectly complement any industrial kitchen. It’s durable, easy to clean, and even easier to look after.
Porcelain is a type of ceramic material known for its durability, non-porous nature, and elegant white color. This set is perfect for grinding and crushing ingredients in small quantities and sizes — as long as they aren’t rock-hard like peppermint.
Thanks to its non-porous surface, this mini ceramic set doesn’t absorb stains or odors no matter what you grind in it. Porcelain is also heat-resistant, making it suitable for grinding ingredients that require heating, like herbs and spices.
However, as you can imagine, porcelain is quite fragile and can chip or crack if it falls from a height or if mishandled. This means it’s not ideal for heavy-duty tasks, nor is it the best option for grinding large quantities or hard ingredients. But it’ll grind your spices, herbs, and garlic and let you make a hustle-free chimichurri in no time.
When it comes to grinding herbs, spices, and other ingredients, nothing beats a granite mortar and pestle. The textured surface of the mortar and the downward force of the pestle work together to create an unparalleled level of control over the consistency of the paste, giving you a level of precision that other tools simply can’t match.
Not only is granite extremely durable and able to withstand the rigors of daily use, but it also offers a unique texture that allows for efficient and thorough grinding.
Although it’s a bit larger than other mortar and pestle sets on the list, its unique design with a cork bottom makes it lightweight and easy to handle, making it the perfect option for those looking for a practical mortar and pestle set.
Suribachi is a traditional Japanese mortar and pestle made of half-glazed terracotta. The ceramic bowl is unglazed on the inside and features a ridged surface, making it the perfect tool for grinding and mashing ingredients like sesame seeds and making a smooth paste with a texture difficult to replicate with other mortar and pestles.
It’s important to note that Suribachi is a tool for grinding mellow ingredients and is not a general-purpose mortar and pestle, meaning it’s not suitable for crushing and grinding harder ingredients.
Still, a Suribachi is perfect for specific tasks like making a smooth nerigoma, a Japanese sesame paste similar to tahini. Thanks to the ridged inner surface, Suribachi is also great for preparing middle eastern dishes like hummus or muhammara.
Over and Out!
If you ask any chef, they’ll swear by the ancient set that it’s almost a magical instrument in their kitchen. If you’re looking to elevate your cooking game, a mortar and pestle set is a must-have.
A big, hefty set is great for whipping up large batches of pastes and sauces, but sometimes all you need is a quick mash to add some aromatic oils to your dishes. In those cases, these small mortar and pestle sets can save the day.
These compact sets are easy on space, simple to use, and a breeze to clean up after. And they’re so adorable you won’t be able to resist whipping up some pesto for your dishes more than ever.
And if you’re still on the fence about using a mortar and pestle or a blender, just check out our food processor vs. mortar and pestle comparison article.