Molcajetes are three legged mortars, usually made of volcanic stone (in some places clay or limestone). They are used throughout Mexico. The current name comes from Nahuatl
, the language of the Aztecs, although in some places like Dzitya, Yucatán, they are known as a tamul
, and a tekusuna
among the Huichol people. In the Yucatán and southern Gulf regions, where molcajetes are made of clay, they are called chilmoleras
. Ancient references to their use are found in archaeological discoveries as well as in pre-Hispanic and colonial-era codices. After the sixteenth century, molcajete manufacturing technique was facilitated by iron stone cutting and polishing tools.
stone used to manufacture molcajetes is noted for its quality in Puebla, Hidalgo, Guanajuato and Mexico State. Some feature animal heads or shapes, or are painted on the outside. Before using molcajetes for the first time, its common practice to "season" their volcanic stone by grinding dry grain inside them. Even in kitchens featuring modern appliances, molcajetes are still used, principally for grinding spices and preparing sauces, which are sometimes served directly from the molcajete. The stones are also used to serve snacks.