Food for Soul


All you need is a mortar and pestle.A top-down photo of freshly made shisho chimichurri in a mortar and pestle.Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby / Tatiana Rosana

Written by Tatiana Rosana

Updated August 25, 2021

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I love my mortar and pestle, a simple yet powerful kitchen tool. Would my pestos, spice blends, and sauces still turn out OK if I used a food processor instead? Sure. But they’ll taste even better if I use a mortar and pestle—there’s a reason this thing has been a key kitchen tool for centuries.

A mortar and pestle crushes and grinds nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs into bright and flavorful pastes. Food processors accomplish this task similarly, but the difference is in the pungency of a freshly ground sauce vs. a relatively muted and muddy processed mixture. Consider the mortar and pestle an investment in perfecting your favorite recipes and going the extra mile to not only respect ingredients, but to extract the most amount of flavor from them as possible.

What You Need

Ingredients for chimichurri arranged around a mortar and pestle.
Here’s everything you’ll need to make shisho chimichurri.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less according to taste)
  • 1 cup shiso leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Time Needed

15 minutes



How to make Shiso Chimichurri

A person grinds alliums into a pulp using a mortar and pestle.
The first step in this chimichurri is to grind the alliums using your mortar and pestle.

Step 1: Grind up alliums

Using a mortar and pestle, grind garlic, shallot, and salt together until a paste begins to form.

Step 2: Add your herbs

Add crushed red pepper, shiso leaves, and parsley and grind until leaves start to break down and combine with the garlic and shallots.

Step 3: Add wet ingredients

Stir in vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Store it

Refrigerate until ready to use. You can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and this sauce is one that just gets better with age.

A photo of a whole branzino fish covered in vibrant green shisho chimichurri.
Roasted branzino makes a delicious vessel for shisho chimichurri.

Step 5: Serve

This bright and unique chimichurri begs to be spooned over the crispy skin of a whole roasted branzino. It also pairs perfectly with the smoked char of grilled flank steak, or can be used as a dipping sauce for shrimp kebabs.

For the perfect roasted branzino, preheat your oven to 450°F. Cut three to four ½-inch deep slits, diagonally, across both sides of the fish, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside with lemon slices and whole sprigs of parsley before roasting on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. For extra crispy skin, finish by broiling for 1 to 2 minutes then slather on a liberal amount of your shiso chimichurri.

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