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The Molcajete Dish

  • 7 min read

In the world of authentic Mexican food, few items are as iconic as the molcajete. This traditional Mexican mortar and pestle crafted from volcanic rock is not only a crucial tool in Mexican cuisine for grinding spices, but it’s also a vessel for serving one of the most flavorful and comforting dishes: the molcajete dish.

The History and Importance of Molcajete

The Spanish word “molcajete” is derived from the Nahuatl words “molli,” meaning sauce or stew, and “caxitl,” meaning bowl. The molcajete dates back to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations and has remained an integral part of Mexican food culture for centuries. Traditionally, it was used to grind spices, mix salsas, and even cook recipes passed down through generations. Nowadays, it doubles as a unique serving dish that keeps your meal warm, thanks to the hot molcajete’s heat-retaining properties.

Beef Molcajete Recipe

One popular molcajete dish is Beef Molcajete, a delightful blend of grilled beef, often flank steak or skirt steak, and grilled vegetables. Here’s how to make it:


  • Flank steak
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bell peppers
  • Red onion
  • Green onions
  • Diced avocado
  • Queso fresco or panela cheese
  • Lime juice
  • Warm corn tortillas


Begin by preheating your grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. While it’s heating, season your flank steak generously with salt and pepper. Once your grill pan is hot, add a splash of olive oil, followed by your steak. Cook the steak to your desired doneness, typically around 6-8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove it from the pan and allow it to rest before slicing.

Next, grill your vegetables. Cut bell peppers and red onion into strips, and place them in the same hot pan used for the steak. Add green onions, too. Cook until they’re beautifully charred and tender.

Now it’s time to assemble your molcajete dish. Start by placing the grilled vegetables at the bottom of the hot molcajete. Add your sliced flank steak on top of the veggies. Crumble queso fresco or panela cheese on top, followed by diced avocado. Squeeze some fresh lime juice all over, and your beef molcajete is ready to serve!

Enjoying the Molcajete Dish

Serve your beef molcajete hot, straight from the molcajete. Accompany it with warm corn tortillas for scooping up the succulent steak and charred veggies. Alternatively, you can use flour tortillas if you prefer them over corn tortillas.

A molcajete dish is a fantastic way to enjoy a warm, hearty meal, especially when shared with loved ones. The blend of flavors from the meat, veggies, cheese, and lime create a meal that’s satisfying and packed with flavor.

Incorporating Other Varieties

While a beef molcajete is common, you can also create chicken molcajetes using grilled chicken breast. The same applies to seafood molcajetes where shrimp or fish is used. The idea is to explore the versatility of the molcajete dish.

The Molcajete Dish

Course: MainDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time





Molcajete is a traditional Mexican dish made with ground beef, tomatoes, beans, corn, and spices. It is a hearty and flavorful dish that is perfect for a casual weeknight meal or a special occasion.


  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained

  • 12 corn tortillas

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain off any excess grease.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the flavors have blended.
  • Stir in the cilantro, black beans, and corn. Heat through.
  • To serve, place a tortilla in each serving bowl. Top with the molcajete mixture and serve immediately.


  • For a spicier molcajete, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • If you don’t have chili powder, you can substitute a mixture of 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • To make the molcajete ahead of time, cook it according to the instructions and then let it cool completely. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, heat it in a saucepan over medium heat until warmed through.


The molcajete dish is an example of how Mexican cuisine celebrates simple ingredients and turns them into extraordinary meals. This dish brings a unique experience to your table with its rustic presentation and depth of flavors. Whether it’s beef, chicken, or seafood, a molcajete dish is a must-try for food enthusiasts. Happy cooking, and enjoy the delightful experience that is the molcajete dish.

What is the molcajete dish?

A molcajete dish is a traditional Mexican dish that is made in a molcajete, a stone mortar and pestle. The dish typically consists of a variety of ingredients, such as meat, vegetables, and salsa, that are cooked together in the molcajete.

The molcajete dish is a versatile dish that can be made with a variety of ingredients. Some popular variations of the dish include molcajete de carne asada (a dish of grilled steak, onions, and peppers), molcajete de mariscos (a dish of seafood, vegetables, and salsa), and molcajete de mole (a dish of mole sauce, chicken, and vegetables).

The molcajete dish is a hearty and flavorful dish that is perfect for a group gathering. It is also a great way to showcase the flavors of Mexican cuisine.

What is a traditional molcajete made of?

A traditional molcajete is made of volcanic stone, typically basalt. Basalt is a very hard and durable stone that is well-suited for use as a mortar and pestle. The rough surface of the basalt helps to break down the ingredients and create a flavorful sauce.

Molcajetes have been used in Mexico for centuries, and they are still an essential part of Mexican cuisine today. They are used to make a variety of dishes, including salsas, moles, and guacamole.

Here are some of the benefits of using a traditional molcajete:

  • The rough surface of the basalt helps to break down the ingredients and create a flavorful sauce.
  • Molcajetes are very durable and can last for many years.
  • They are a versatile tool that can be used to make a variety of dishes.

What is the origin of the molcajete dish?

The molcajete dish is a traditional Mexican dish that is made in a molcajete, a stone mortar and pestle. The dish is believed to have originated in the pre-Hispanic era, when the Aztecs used molcajetes to grind corn and other ingredients.

The molcajete dish was originally a simple dish of meat, vegetables, and salsa that was cooked in the molcajete. However, over time, the dish has evolved to include a variety of different ingredients, such as seafood, poultry, and cheese.

Today, the molcajete dish is a popular dish in Mexico and is often served as a main course or as an appetizer. It is a versatile dish that can be made with a variety of different ingredients, and it is a great way to showcase the flavors of Mexican cuisine.

Here are some of the most popular variations of the molcajete dish:

  • Molcajete de carne asada: This dish is made with grilled steak, onions, and peppers.
  • Molcajete de mariscos: This dish is made with seafood, vegetables, and salsa.
  • Molcajete de mole: This dish is made with mole sauce, chicken, and vegetables.

What does a molcajete have?

A molcajete is a traditional Mexican mortar and pestle made of volcanic stone. It typically consists of two parts: the molcajete, which is the bowl, and the tejolote, which is the pestle.

The molcajete is typically made of basalt, a type of volcanic rock that is very hard and durable. The tejolote is typically made of the same material, but it can also be made of other materials, such as wood or metal.

The molcajete is used to grind and mash ingredients, such as chiles, tomatoes, and herbs. The rough surface of the molcajete helps to break down the ingredients and create a flavorful paste.

Here are some of the features of a molcajete:

  • The bowl is typically round and shallow.
  • The pestle is typically cylindrical and has a rounded end.
  • The molcajete and tejolote are often decorated with traditional Mexican designs.
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