The molcajete is a stone mortar and pestle traditionally used in the preparation of salsas, guacamole, and many other foods. The stone vessel was common across Mesoamerica centuries before the arrival of Europeans, and remains an essential tool in modern households and restaurants.
The bowl and grinding stone are crafted from volcanic rock, although some archeological discoveries indicate that ceramic bowls were popular in pre-Columbian times. The most basic design typically stands on three short legs, while some particularly ornate molcajetes feature sculpted faces and resemble squat little animals. Decorative molcajetes have been discovered in ancient burial sites along with other articles of daily life.
The stone’s coarse surface is perfect for expressing the oils of chile peppers and other ingredients, and can yield a more cohesive texture than salsas prepared in a blender. The porous rock retains the flavor of each food prepared inside it, allowing the molcajete to season over time. This leads to a distinct character unique to each vessel, and heirloom molcajetes are considered prized kitchen tools enriched with each generation.