Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Really Good Guacamole

Finished Guacamole

Lately, I've been so busy that I've resorted to more than a few "convenience" foods. Some of them are good enough that I would use them even if I wasn't on a time crunch (for ex. Trader Joes frozen croissants and brownies - and OMG have you tried the new pecan sticky buns??) but there is one that I've always felt especially guilty about, and that's the pre-made Cal Avo guacamole (sold at Trader Joes under the "Avocado's Number" name.) I used to make really good guacamole from scratch all the time, but since this stuff arrived it's been really difficult to justify the expense and work involved. Last night though, I found myself with all of the ingredients on hand more or less accidentally, so I decided to whip up a fresh batch for old time's sake. It had been so long that I actually had to get out the recipe book and check on the amounts of some ingredients before stirring it all together.
Avocado for Guacamole

The key to really good guacamole is - not surprisingly - the avocados. Good, smooth, buttery ripe avocados - preferably the Hass variety. The second secret is salt. It takes a good amount - in a pinch, you can even make a decent version with nothing but salt and lime juice. Some purists might add chopped onion (or garlic) to that, but nothing more. This recipe goes further though, with fresh chopped jalapeno, cilantro and tomato, and a dash of cayenne pepper for a little heat.

If you can, it really helps the flavor of guacamole to let it sit in the fridge for about an hour after it's made - just like potato salad. When it's allowed to rest, the fat in the avocados absorbs the flavors from the rest of the ingredients - the onions mellow, the salt has a chance to permeate, and the jalapenos release their oils. Just after it's made, it will seem a little bland and the onions will be too harsh.

The real question though - is it better than the packaged stuff? My answer has to be yes, because it's so much more satisfying to make something from scratch than squeeze it out of a package - you can choose your ingredients, and your friends will ooh and ahh. But... when the package is full of buttery chunks of ripe avocado, and you can swipe a hot tortilla chip through it without having to dirty a cutting board or buy half a dozen ingredients? I have to admit, it's kind of a close call.

If you've got some good avocados on hand, this recipe is hard to improve on. Mine were a little bit firm last night - but it's not quite prime season yet. In the summertime, I definitely plan to add this recipe back to the rotation. You can omit the cilantro or tomato, and the spices if you can't tolerate any heat at all - the essentials are really lime juice, salt and onion in the right proportions.
Guacamole before stirring

Really Good Guacamoleadapted from Chic Simple Cooking

4 very ripe avocados
a generous 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (a little more if the avocados are underripe)
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
2 scallions or 2 Tablespoons chopped sweet onion (I actually prefer onion over scallion because it adds a little crunch - red onion looks pretty too)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 small tomato, deseeded and chopped

Cut the avocados in half with a paring knife - twisting around the pit. To remove the pit, hold the avocado in your palm, hit the pit with the blade of your knife so it sticks, and twist slightly. Use a spoon to swipe the avocado out of the skin and place each whole half in the bowl. Add the salt, lime juice and onion, and any or all of the remaining ingredients to suit your taste. Stir it together lightly, so you have some nice big chunks of the avocado in the mixture. Spoon into a serving bowl and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so - if it will be longer than that, top with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface so the avocado doesn't brown.

This makes enough for 4 - any more than that, make double. It goes fast!

Serve with warm, sturdy tortilla chips, salsa and lots of beer or margaritas.


  1. this looks wonderful! I love to make homemade guacamole. i need to take your advice and let it sit for an 1 hour but man i cant wait, i eat this stuff up. I will have to try your recipe tomorrow night with our fajitas.

  2. Thanks Courtney! If you do try it I hope you enjoy it!

  3. wow this greenish stuff looks awesomely delicious!

  4. serves 4? not if i'm involved--good guacamole makes me swoon. :)

    i made the mistake of trying to buy some at the store a while back. i ended up with something called "guacamole dip" and i have never been more disappointed in my life. it was vile--to have the word "guacamole" in the name was an insult to the real thing. yep, it'll be homemade for me from now on!

  5. I use the same ingredients as you do, although I usually have both scallions and chopped onions. I also never measure the ingredients, and rely on the look and taste.

    I'm always been afraid that I use too much salt, but I do taste it after each addition. I guess I never thought that good guacamole really needs a lot of salt.

    To me, the hardest part of making guacamole is waiting for the avocadoes to ripen enough!

  6. thanks guys! a grace - the ONLY kind of packaged guacamole that I like at all is the Cal Avo or Avocado's Number stuff. The pre-made stuff in the tubs at the grocery store is always disappointing, even when it looks good.

    Sandy - I guess I just think it sometimes needs more salt than it seems like it should - it really depends on how much flavor the avocados have. If it seems like it needs a little something, salt or lime juice usually does the trick.

  7. Ooh, I absolutely LOVE my Chic Simple Cooking cookbook! I go back again and again for the classics...lemon rosemary roasted potatoes, banana cake. Love the cinnamon spiced chili, too.
    Gotta go pull that one out...thanks for reminding me!

  8. The pictures make it look sooooo delicious and frsh. Guacamole love! <3

  9. If you don't want the guacamole to turn brown when it's sitting for an hour in the fridge, put the avocado pit in the middle of the bowl, sitting in the gaucamole, and it won't turn brown....

  10. chantal - I've never run across anyone who loves that book as much as I do - but I think it's great!

    sade - thanks!!

    Miriam - that has actually never worked for me, though I know some people swear by it - that's why I suggested the plastic wrap.

  11. I love homemade guac too, and none of the "tricks" seem to keep it from turning brown. Of course we usually eat it all before that happens anyway!

    When we need a lot to entertain guests and I don't want to go through that much prep, I go with Wholly Guacamole. It is the best packaged guac I've tried and it never disappoints.