This tool is an iconic and essential part of the Mexican kitchen.
The word “molcajete” is derived from the Nahuatl words “mollicaxtli” and “temolcaxitl,” meaning “bowl for sauce” or “stone bowl for the mole.” It’s often carved from rough volcanic rock and shaped with a wide bowl and a three-footed base. It’s accompanied by a tejolote (the pestle), also carved from rock. Together, they are used to grind or shear spices, dried chilies, seeds, fresh or roasted chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos and onions. The coarse, porous basalt is ideal for mashing ingredients together for guacamole, as well as fresh roasted salsas and relishes. And despite the similarities between the tools, one does not use the molcajete to pound ingredients as you would a mortar and pestle. Instead, you fit the tejolote into your palm and direct its movement with your fingertips as you grind or shear ingredients.