Although this splendid kitchen tool has been around for thousands of years, it is only recently that the molcajete has become a mainstream kitchen utensil. When they first showed up on our radar, we all wondered: well, just what is a molcajete and how do you use it?
Ultimately, it’s a mortar and pestle made from lava rock. But in reality — it is much more. This utensil has been used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures, including the Aztec and Maya, for thousands of years.
“Molcajete” is derived from the ancient Náhuatl language of the central Mexican highlands (where lava rock is found) and is a combination of words meaning “sauce” and “bowl” (no surprises there).
Each authentic molcajete is carved from a single piece of lava rock and takes the artisan hours and hours. The techniques are handed down from generation to generation in Mexico and many of the young apprentices first work in the mines with the raw stone so that they learn to properly handle the material.