To make the best guacamole you have to go off-recipe. It's all about the in-between steps, decisions, and knowing when avocados are at their best.
If pressed, I could tell you how to make good guacamole in one sentence. It goes something like this. Mash ripe avocados with finely chopped white onions, a minced garlic clove, a squeeze of lime juice, then salt to taste. But to make great guacamole, it's the little decisions going between those commas that make all the difference. If you were standing next to me throughout the process, you'd pick up on the dozens of choices and considerations that actually matter. So, I thought I might try to go longer-form with you on this one - walk you through my thought process, step-by-step here, related to one of my favorite things to eat.
Good Shopping is Key to Great Guacamole
Like most things that end up on the table, your success or failure depends on how you do at the market. The most important step in this entire process is procuring the perfect avocados. Ripe. But not too ripe. Beautiful, buttery, green-fleshed decadence - that's what you're after. Sometimes easier said than done.
Choosing the Right Avocados
I spend more time choosing the avocados for guacamole than actually preparing it. You want avocados that are ripe and the only way to figure out whether they're at their peak is to evaluate them one at a time. To decipher whether or not an avocado is ripe enough, hold it in your palm, and give it a gentle squeeze with the pads of your fingers. There should be some give, like butter that has been out of the refrigerator for an hour in an average-temp kitchen. The give should be uniform across the surface of the fruit. Try to imagine whether that amount of give would translate to good mash-ability. Avocados tend to be more ripe toward the surface, less ripe toward the seed. Keep that in mind as you're evaluating them.
Look at the color as well. Over-ripe avocados (depending on the varietal) tend to be black with pockets of unstructured softness. I don't typically use the trick where you wiggle the stem button - if it's loose, the avocado is ripe (but possible too ripe!), but that is another tactic to decipher whether an avocado is in the zone.
If you buy under-ripe avocados and have a few days before using them they'll continue to ripen over time. If you're in a rush - avocados ripen more quickly sealed in a paper bag. To slow down the ripening process, place them in the refrigerator (but bring back to room-temperature before using).
The Right Temperature is Key
Temperature matters here, and you're going to want to use room-temperature avocados. Because avocados have such a high percentage of fat, imagine trying to mash cold butter versus room temperature. Once is going to be much creamier than the other. So, don't try to make guacamole with cold avocados. Also, serve at room temperature, not chilled.
The Concept of Guacamole "Stretching"
Avocados can be pricey, so a lot of restaurants will "stretch" or bulk out their guacamole with things like chopped tomatoes. I'm not a fan of this. The tomato addition in particular. I don't love the way watery tomatoes bump up against fatty avocado - it's literally oil and water. I like guacamole to be about the avocado, and unless I'm throwing some wildcards in the mix (like the one in my last book), I typically keep it as clean and simple as possible.
Beyond this - trust your taste buds to balance things out. If you like a bit of spicy kick, add some minced serrano pepper. Use salt and lime juice, adjusting little by little, until things taste just right.
If you want to take your guacamole up another notch, try this favorite Indian-spiced guacamole, and inspired by a Julie Sahni recipe. I also love to use this guacamole on these Vegan Nachos and this taco salad or on homemade tortillas - so good!
Be sure to read the post up above for all the tips.
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 4 ripe avocados, room-temperature
- 1/2 medium white onion, minced
- a squeeze of fresh lime juice
- to serve: chopped cilantro, chives or chive blossoms (optional)
Sprinkle the garlic with the salt and smash and chop into a paste. Then use a spoon to remove all the avocado flesh into a wide, medium bowl. Be sure you get all the avocado near the skin, it's the best part. Sprinkle the avocado with the onions and garlic, and use a large fork to fold everything together. I like a chunky guacamole, so I tend to fold, chop with the edge of the fork, fold, chop. After a few folds add the lime juice, and fold some more. Taste and adjust with more salt or lime juice, and serve topped with cilantro and chives (or chive blossoms).
You can store any uneaten guacamole in a refrigerator. Any surface area exposed to air will likely brown, so (preferably) use a glass jar (Weck) where the lid comes in contact with the avocado, or a piece of plastic wrap pressed to suface.
Makes a large bowl of guacamole.
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After my daughter cut her hand seriously trying to remove the pit from an avocado, had an operation and went to a hand therapist, she found out how to do it correctly - simply squeeze the half with the pit gently and if it is ripe enough - the pit will pop out. In all the articles and recipes I have seen with avocados, I have never seen this suggested - but it works like a charm.
Heidi, your blog is always a pleasure to read (and I love the photos too!). I will definitely use your tip on buying avocados. When I make guacamole, I usually go for cilantro, thinly minced red onion and lime juice to add to my avocados. My secret ingredient is to add also a handful of grated sharp cheddar cheese, well blended in the mix. Just that bit of cheese gives a little punch to the guacamole without disguising the avocado flavour.
One of the tricks I use to keep it from going brown is to add the whole avocado pit to the guacamole. This helps stanch the browning. Although - to be honest - the pit is really effective only on the part of the guacamole’s surface it touches. But between the pit, the lime juice and the lid/plastic wrap I manage to retain a lot of guacamole's vibrant color (which is the dip’s ultimate virtue)
I love guacamole, but since learning this new twist, I'm hooked on it. Take 2 avocadoes, mashed, and add 1 rounded tsp Umeboshi Paste (fermented plum paste) and a clove of mashed garlic. Different and incredibly good.
We are almost a avacado a day people at our house! Lately it's avacado mashed on toast in the mornings with a little red pepper of sorts! We always like the less is more aproch with food! Happy mashing
I prefer my guacamole with just lemon juice and salt. Simple and delicious. As for avocado ripeness, I'm lucky to live in a neighborhood where one bodega keeps the avocados behind the counter and then custom picks the one that fits the day you want to use it (i.e. 2 for today, 2 for Monday, etc.)
I've been making the perfect guac for decades now. It's my most requested dish. I think the key is setting yourself up to create the perfect texture to ingredients combo. I do add tomatoes, but only flesh and no juice, that is very important for the texture and the color/beauty of my guac. Depending on the avocados I also know if I need more salt, pepper, garlic. I do agree, the key is to start with the perfect avocado.
I was always a guac purist until I tried my daughter's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink guac. Amazing! There's not exactly a recipe, but here's what's in it: lots of avocados, lime, salt, a good dollop of fresh tomato salsa that includes peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cumin, cilantro, maybe more garlic and hot peppers to taste, and — here's what really makes it — a good amount of finely diced mango. You have to try it to believe how good it is.
Love your recipe. I am, however, from TX, and also a fan of guacamole made on the River Walk in San Antonio. Some additional ingredients that you will find exceptionally good include 1-2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice, and perhaps 1 strip of well cooked bacon, crumbled very fine & mixed in. Of course, Texans also like their jalapeño addition too ... each of these are variations you may like from time to time. Enjoy :)
I like it simple, too, but I also don't mind the addition of a teeny bit of freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds.
I LOVE guacamole! It is really hard to get good avocados here in England, so I usually have to settle for less than good, but they're better than none. :) Thanks for sharing your recipe!
I'm careful to use the palm of my hand, not my fingers, when giving the avocado a squeeze. The fingers seem too damaging.
Great article as ALWAYS. Huge fan of your writing and photography. You're so on point: it's all about the ingredients. When you have perfect avocados you don't need much else. Myself, I prefer no onion in the guac, just limon and salt, maybe garlic. Onions and cilantro on top when gettin fancy. ~HR in Mendo :)
A while back we switched to preferring Shallots instead of onions for guacamole. Every so often we make it with onion, but it's not the same. A trick for Salsa/Guac I learned from watching Rick Bayless' show a while back, is to put the raw onions in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes , then drain. I think the term was "deflaming". The onions lose all their harshness.
Here in Australia, we have more than one type of avocado in the stores. Some are much more "meaty" than the hass and some have a courser/or smoother texture when mashed. SO I normally choose what ever is just right. I am actually not fan of raw garlic in the mix; usually preferring the heat of green pepper. This is great post on a dish which is so often stuffed up.
I'm also on the tomato train! I see restaurants add things like sour cream to stretch guacamole, but never thought of tomatoes as part of the deal. Maybe because I'm always disappointed when I'm making guac at home and realize we don't have any good tomatoes.
Aw, I really love tomatoes in my guac. Tiny flecks of red to liven up the taste a bit, just like the onion. I think the juxtaposition against the creaminess of the avocado helps bring out the best of both worlds. Haven't thought to put any garlic in, but lots and lots of cilantro? Oh yes.
Hi, I'm from Spain and I like your blogg so much and also your book, gives me inspiration!. I usually add cherry-tomato to guacamole, but next time I'll try your recipe.
I love guacamole and I've been eating avocados like crazy lately. I love the tips about finding the perfect ripe avocado. There's nothing sadder than slicing one open to find it's spoiled inside. I can't wait to try this recipe!
I live in Santa Barbara, and some friends and I were just talking today about how the avocados have been disappointing recently around here. I am going to really hunt at the market on Saturday for some good ones and try your method and this new recipe. My usual guac recipe is a bit simpler: avocado, green onion (white and green parts), salt, lime, and cilantro all folded together.