VIDEO: Salsa de Molcajete 101

Don't get me wrong, I love my blender, but there is something very unique about the consistency of a pre-Hispanic molcajete ground salsa. The molcajete and temolote or, the "Aztec blender," are traditionally carved out of volcanic basalt rock and is essentially a three legged bowl. The texture of the salsas crushed by hand are thicker, meatier, and allow the maker to have precise control over how fine the ingredients should be smashed. With a blender, two pulses can make or break your salsa as the aggressive blades pulverize versus the temolote (hand held pestle), which crushes. At Casa Oaxaca our server prepared a salsa de molcajete tableside and used chile de arbol asking our level or spice and the presentation was absolutely fabulous.

For most tomatillo based salsas, I like to search Mexican markets for smaller tomatillos or tomates verdes. They pack much more flavor and are easier to control inside the walls of the bowl of the molcajete. If you cannot find the small ones, substitute for medium sized. The salt here is sal mexicana.



mōlcaxitl /mo̞lkaˈxe̞t̪e̞/

Classic Nahuatl - Noun:

  1. A small mortar, typically carved from vesicular basalt and used in traditional Mexican cuisine



  • 2 white onion slices, 1/4 inch thick, skin on

  • 2 garlic cloves, skin on

  • 7-15 tomatillos (see above on size), skin removed

  • 4-8 chiles de arbol, seeds and stem intact

  • salt to taste

  • 1 lime


  1. Rinse out your molcajete and clean the tomatillos. Slice the onion into rings.

  2. Over medium flame bring the comal to temperature. Place the onion, garlic, tomatillos, and chile de arbol on the comal. Allow the chiles to toast but not burn. Once they smell of peanuts, remove them from heat de-stem and allow them to reconstitute in cold water. Allow the remaining ingredients to charr. Flip them until they are cooked through - roughly 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Place garlic cloves and salt in the molcajete. Crush the cloves and remove the skin from the garlic. Crush into a fine paste and then incorporate the remaining ingredients one by one until they are ground into a thick sauce. Add salt and lime to taste. Serve room temperature.