This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which wooden mortar and pestles are best?

No matter how far technology advances and how many fancy gadgets you decide to buy for your kitchen, the mortar and pestle remain an unchanged staple that hasn’t changed in any way since they were first used in Egypt in 1550 B.C. Back then, this kitchen apparatus was mainly used to grind up herbs and spices for medicinal purposes, but nowadays, we use them to season our food, create complex curry pastes and add a fragrant element to any meal. 

For the best wooden mortar and pestle, check out the Ironwood Gourmet Olmec Mortar and Pestle, and make sure to read our helpful tips when browsing your options. 

What to know before you buy a wooden mortar and pestle


When buying your mortar and pestle, it is important to understand the purpose of each of your options. A wooden mortar and pestle are a lot less versatile than their relatives made of other materials, but they can still be an efficient spice grinder. Due to the smooth texture of wood when it’s polished, these mortars tend to provide very little friction when grinding soft, wet ingredients, and the wood tends to absorb any oils or moisture released. A wooden option is best suited for grinding dry spices and ingredients, such as peppercorns and other spices. 

Other materials used to make mortar and pestles include ceramic, stone, cast iron and marble. Most of these come pre-seasoned, unlike the wooden version, and will have a rougher interior for gripping to those wet or oily ingredients. These are perfect for larger ingredients and for when you want to make a paste. 


A wooden mortar and pestle are best when used for specific ingredients. When looking to grind up a flavorful spice mix, a wooden mortar and pestle might just be your best friend. They tend to run slightly smaller than their relatives, making them a perfect hand-held spice grinder. 

What to look for in a quality wooden mortar and pestle


When buying a mortar and pestle, you’ll want to look for a good balance between weight and size. If the ratio of size is off when working with your pestle and mortar, you may struggle to get into a rhythm or properly mash everything that you are trying to get to in your mortar. If the pestle is significantly shorter than the mortar, you may have a hard time grinding up your spices without hitting your hand on the mortar’s rim the whole time. If the head of the pestle isn’t broad enough, you may find yourself chasing the ingredients around the bowl rather than successfully pulverizing them. 

Since the wooden mortar and pestle are best suited to spices, you don’t need to buy the biggest pestle and mortar you can find. Small mortar and pestles are best for small batches of ingredients. A few garlic cloves or a handful of cilantro will do the trick with these handy little appliances. If you’re going to be making large batches of spice mixes or tend to cook for crowds, you may want to look for a larger wooden mortar and pestle. 

The size you end up going for will depend on the tasks you plan on completing as well as the materials you decide on going with.


A wooden mortar and pestle tend to have a much smoother interior that lacks the abrasive quality that’s best for making pastes or grinding up larger ingredients. Wooden pestles are much softer on the hands, and therefore can be more comfortable for some to use. However, they are a far less effective all-around option than stone. A smooth wooden interior is best used for spices and all manner of dry ingredients. 

Bowl shape

The shape of the bowl is crucial, as you need to be able to get a good swirl with your pestle in order to reach all of the ingredients and give them an even grind. A cylindrical mortar will have sharper edges that a pestle can struggle to reach. You’ll want to ensure you’re pestle is able to move seamlessly throughout the mortar. 

How much you can expect to spend on a wooden mortar and pestle

For a good quality mortar and pestle ergonomically designed to get any grinding job done, you can expect to pay upwards of $15. Mid-range options will be around $20, and high-range options can reach as high as $200. 

Wooden mortar and pestle FAQ.

Which part is the mortar, and which is the pestle? 

A. The mortar is the bowl that holds the ingredients, while the pestle is the oblong grinding tool that the cook will use to pulverize their ingredients. 

How do I wash my mortar and pestle? 

A. To get any bits of food out of the mortar, you will need to wash it with some warm, soapy water. Unscented soap is the best for this job, as you won’t want the mortar to absorb any soapy flavor. You can use a firm sponge to remove any stubborn pieces of food. 

What’s the best mortar and pestle to buy?

Top wooden mortar and pestle

Ironwood Gourmet Olmec Mortar and Pestle, Acacia Wood

Ironwood Gourmet Olmec Mortar and Pestle, Acacia Wood

What you need to know: This attractive mortar and pestle is made from gorgeous acacia wood.

What you’ll love: The mortar measures 3.25 inches by 6 inches and features a unique pattern, thanks to the natural materials used. This set works well at breaking up herbs and spices as well as making powders or pastes. The bowl can be cleaned like any other mortar and pestle. 

What you should consider: The mortar is not very deep

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top mortar and pestle for the money

GoCraft Wooden Carved Mortar and Pestle

GoCraft Wooden Carved Mortar and Pestle

What you need to know: This mango wood mortar and pestle is engraved with a unique pattern on the side.

What you’ll love: This mortar and pestle duo is made from mango wood and can be used to crush soft herbs, spices and medicine. The mortar features a non-stick base that provides sturdiness and is 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches by 4 inches in size. 

What you should consider: This is a very deep mortar that some may struggle to maneuver around. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Mortar and Pestle Set with Lid

Mortar and Pestle Set with Lid

What you need to know: This mortar and pestle is made from natural bamboo and sports a handy lid. 

What you’ll love: This mortar and pestle grind food with ease. The set includes 3 pieces, including a mortar, pestle and lid. The pestle is smooth and is comfortable to hold.  

What you should consider: It can be challenging to use with a lid. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lottie Winsor writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.