Whether morphological processing of complex words occurs beyond orthographic processing is a matter of intense debate. In this study, morphological processing is examined by presenting complex words (brujería -> brujo –witchcraft -> witch), as well as simple (brujaña->brujo) and complex pseudowords (brujanza ->brujo), as primes in three masked lexical decision tasks. In the first experiment, the three experimental conditions facilitated word recognition in comparison to the control condition, but no differences emerged between them. Given the importance of the surface frequency effect observed, a second experiment was conducted. The results fully replicate those observed in the first one, but this time with low frequency targets. In the third experiment, vowels were removed from the stems of primes to reduce the orthographic overlap between primes and targets and, therefore, the influence of the embedded stem effect. The results show facilitative effects only for complex words. However, paired comparisons show no differences between experimental conditions. The overall results show the central role played by the processing of stems in visual word recognition and are explained in terms of current models of morphological processing.