A mortar and pestle is used to crush items such as herbs and spices for cooking. The mortar holds the object while the pestle crushes it with downward pressure followed by grinding. The materials that make a mortar and pestle vary from pottery and rock to wood, offering a wide variety for personal taste. When a mortar and pestle are not available, there are alternatives to crushing the herbs, spices or anything else that requires powdering.
A rolling pin is useful in the place of a mortar and pestle for items such as onions, garlic or fresh herbs and spices. The herbs are first cut up with a knife or similar object and then the rolling pin is rolled over the item until they are completely crushed. While this will work as an alternative to a mortar and pestle, it is messier and requires more clean up afterward.
Bowl and Small Hammer
A mortar is shaped like a bowl, which is a potential alternative. A small hammer can take the place of the pestle, though it should be cleaned before use on food items. Extra care should be taken when using these because the bowl will break with too much pressure. Use a motion similar to that of a mortar and pestle: Press downward into the bowl with the hammer to crush the item. Grinding is less effective because the bowl can break with too much vigorous grinding.
A spice grinder will grind up the spices or herbs in a similar manner to crushing them. The oils are not extracted as well from a spice grinder, but it does powder the spices for easy cooking. Place spices in the grinder, press the button to turn it on and the job is completed when the spices have been powdered.
A blender, like a spice grinder, will powder and grind up spices or any other ingredients. The problem with a blender is that it needs a larger quantity of spices to work effectively, as the spices or herbs must cover the blades. A quality blender will minimise problems, but it is less effective than a mortar and pestle when small amounts of herbs or spices are needed.