We have a new low tech kitchen gadget at our unplugged kitchen here on the urban homestead – a Mexican mortar & pestle or ‘Molcajete y Tejolote’

[mohl-kah-HEH-teh ee teh-hoh-LOH-teh]
The Mexican term for “MORTAR AND PESTLE” — molcajete being the mortar, tejolote the pestle. The black, rough texture of both pieces is a result of the fact that they’re made of basalt (volcanic rock). They are used in the traditional manner for grinding spices and herbs and other mixtures. . (Definition by epicurious.com)

According to an article by by Diego Delgado, “The word molcajete (mortar) derives from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs: “molli” (seasoning or sauce) and “caxitl” (bowl). The word tejolote (pestle) also derives from Nahuatl: “tetl” (stone) and “xolotl” (doll).”
Foods traditionally prepared in the molcajete include salsas and moles (mohl-LAY), as well as guacamole. It is also used for grinding chilies, garlic or other herbs and spices for food preparation.

…The grinding process releases the oils, and flavor essence of the substance. When done carefully you will produce a product that is more flavorful than a product prepared in a food processor. Depending on the food you are preparing the process can be quite laborious. If you enjoy cooking, using a mortar and pestle will simply be part of your “craft” of food preparation. If you just need to “get the job done”, reach for the food processor.

Via Gourmet Sleuth

We kids, whose genetic make up is 1/4 Spanish, 1/4 French & 1/2 Belgian, like sweet AND spicy foods – the hotter the better!

Bring on the avocados, chilies and pass the chips, please.

What’s an ‘Unplugged Kitchen?’

I get that question a lot and tell folks that our kitchen has only one plug in appliance and that is our energy efficient refrigerator.      No microwave or  toaster.   What blender, food processor we do have are  all hand powered/cranked.   (Check out our Urban Homestead Supply store for human powered appliances)

If you think about what your Grandma’s kitchen looked like and compare it with what modern kitchens look like today,  ask yourself : “Do I really need all these gadgets?”  Granted, some are useful, but others are not.

For me, I lean towards the latter.  Sure, that choice has changed the way I cook/bake.  It challenges me to think, when reading a recipe that calls for some gadget that I don’t have, and to ask myself “how did they do this in the old days?

I believe, with all the electric gadgets that are in the kitchen these days, that we’ve lost our connection with the food.   The rhythmic kneading of the bread can be done by machine now.   Or chopping vegetables– just pop them into a food processor and press the button.

The homey, traditional kitchen sounds have been replaced by high pitched motors.

I actually like a quiet kitchen and get annoyed with anything motorized.   Sure, it may take me a bit longer than a machine, but I have connected and touched the food.   It was planted with human hand and prepared by human hands.

We have to re-humanize our food system and here on the urban homestead we’ve taken steps backwards to make progress.

Here’s  a challenge for you: go through all your kitchen drawers, cabinets and get your hand tools out.    Use a knife instead of a food processor or a rotary beater instead of an electric mixer.      Try to make one meal a week without using electric gadgets.   A pie crust or bread without mixing the dough in a food processor – feel the dough!

Get your senses back into the cooking/baking!

Note: you might have noticed at the right hand bar that we’ve added two affiliates:  Mountain Rose Herbs and iHerb  (use referral code JUL 275 to redeem $5.00 off your order)  If you need to stock up on herbs for your homestead consider these two sources, thank you.


  1. Stephanie says:

    Can’t say I miss the microwave one little bit since its funeral about 5 years ago. Ditto the clothes dryer. I continue however to have a love affair with my KitchenAid mixer and all his attachments. Shhh, don’t tell Anais :o)

  2. V Schoenwald says:


    Where did you purchase your mortar/pestle?
    I have a tiny marble one I use for some delicate herbs but I have been looking for one for the chili’s I grow and other uses in the kitchen.
    Have a great up coming week.

    • Stephanie says:

      @V Schoenwald,

      I got mine at our city’s Chinatown for about $15.

      • V Schoenwald says:


        I live in the middle of hillbilly hell, aka redneck territory, No China town.
        I have been looking for one sturdy like Anais’s for quite a while.
        I do not travel and I am 300 miles from Denver CO and 300 Miles from Omaha.
        The ones I see on some web sites isn’t like the one Anais has.

        • Laura Lee Roush says:

          Dear V. Schoenwald,
          Go to a Mexican restaurant that has been around for a while and talk with the owner, who will not be afraid of you. She or he will know someone. Used is better because they’re already “cured”. A new one will make volcanic grit if you don’t cure it. I use a handful of rice (not cooked) and grind and grind, making sure that all the usable surfaces get ground on, as the tiny spikes in the basalt will break off and stick to the rice. Then rinse it very very well.
          Greetings from Michoacán (where they cost about $5).

    • workingmywaybacktonothing says:

      @V Schoenwald, The marble one I’ve used leaves marble dust – returned it. Only other kind I’ve seen is wooden. I want to use it for pesto and such. Any ideas?

    • MH says:

      @V Schoenwald, I picked up a Molcajete in mexico. I have never seen one in Canada or the US though. Good luck on your hunt.

  3. LOW IMPACT KITCHEN: MORTAR & PESTLE | Little Homestead in the City « The Ditzy Druid says:

    […] LOW IMPACT KITCHEN: MORTAR & PESTLE | Little Homestead in the City. […]

  4. Soli says:

    I can’t find a post about it specifically, so what do you use for an oven?

    There is still a microwave in my house, but the only time I personally use it is to hold defrosting meat inside.

  5. Tweets that mention LOW IMPACT KITCHEN: MORTAR & PESTLE | Little Homestead in the City -- Topsy.com says:

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  6. Brigitte says:

    I began slowly with replacing the electric tools for the hand tools one at the time. Now I love it, and I agree with you, it’s quiet in the kitchen, I can concentrate more on the food and it feels just right. My husband always say that my food tastes so good.

  7. StaceyG says:

    I’ll be honest, my hand held immersion blender would be a bit hard to give up! But I can honestly say having to lug out my beast of a Kitchenaid isn’t worth the time, and I did just get a “human powered” grain mill, as you guys might say. It is pretty satisfying to unplug!

  8. RHonda says:

    A few years ago, in the fall, we got hit with the tail end of Hurricane Ike and were without power for more than a week. Then, right after that we got hit with a HUGE ice storm. It was then that I decided I would change the way I was living. I’ve been slowly replacing my electric gadgets with human-powered! I won’t be left in a lurch again! Now when I buy items I always think to myself, “this is nice, but will it work when the lights go out?” I enjoy using non-electric equipment. Puts me in a Laura Ingalls frame of mind. 🙂

  9. Paula says:

    I LOVE Mountain Rose Herbs! They are the best place to get raw organic coconut oil at the best price!

  10. Katie S. says:

    Just used your iHerb code to make my first order. I’m really excited to try the Organic Lavender and Organic Tea Tree Oils! Do you have any books to recommend for using/diluting essential oils?

  11. Cajun Chef Ryan says:

    Hey, you know what? I have a few old of these collecting dust, I need to break them out and find new uses for them in my kitchen.

    As always, inspriing me every day in my homsteading journey!

    Bon appetit!

  12. Sarah says:

    I admire anyone who cooks that way, but it won’t work for my lifestyle. I work 50 hrs a week, and am a “single mom” 7 days a week to my toddler while putting my husband through 2 years of school (all without debt).

    I’d love to be able to cook without electronics, but in the end I’m happier to have homemade bread for my family every week even if it meant using my Kitchen Aid mixer to make it. Homemade beats storebought any day, even if I can’t unplug in the process.

    Keep doing what you’re doing because it works for you! It’s impressive, but not something I could manage!

  13. solar system says:

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  14. Leta says:

    In our kitchen, we have a gas range, a super efficient chest fridge, a dishwasher, a radio, and the Kitchen Aid mixer. The KA has a zillion attachments that crush ice and dried beans (for falafel), so we don’t need anything else with a motor. We have a mortar and pestle, a Whirly Pop popcorn maker, a food mill, a hand coffee grinder, a steel for sharpening knives, etc. People are really confused by our chest fridge, and lack of microwave and toaster, not to mention blender. It’s a funny way to be subversive, I guess.

    • nancy says:

      @Leta, I have downsized a lot of my kitchen gadgets. I made some scratch bisquits a couple of days ago. Used my pasty cutter instead of a food prosessor, took 10 mins., tops, with only the cutter to wash. This inspired my to unearth my exact same port and pestle. Do you have more photos of how your kitchen is arranged? Mine is small, limited counter space, but always looking for ideas! I did finally turn a spare bedroom closet in a food pantry. I LOVE it!!!

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