Perfect Guacamole Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Pounding (or processing) the aromatics with salt into a paste results in a finished guac that's noticeably more flavorful.
  • Mashing the avocados in a molcajete or with a whisk produces the ideal chunky texture.

Guacamole is one of the earliest foods I remember eating. My mother would make a batch heavy with tomato and onion every time we had a potluck event at my school. I'd head straight to it, knowing that it'd soon be finished off by others if I didn't get there first. Guacamole was also the very first dish I learned how to make—unless you count heating up a frozen chicken pot pie or pouring hot water into a Cup of Noodles—and as a consequence, was ground zero for my kitchen experimentations. It stuck with me through my awkward formative years in the kitchen, a gentle, creamy backdrop for my foibles and the follies I foisted upon it, the silent recipient of the short end of countless kitchen adventures gone wrong.

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Ever try pouring fancy balsamic vinegar into your guacamole? Or how about roasting your avocado before mashing it? These are things I strongly advise against trying, and certainly not in mixed company.

I've come to realize in my lifelong relationship with the dip that the best guacamole is the simplest, made with attention to just a few key details.

The Many Types of Guacamole

"Guacamole simple means 'pureed avocado sauce,'" says Zarela Martinez, the famed cookbook author, restaurateur, and an authority on Mexican cooking. "It doesn't have an official recipe." The word comes from the Aztec Nahuatl words for avocado (ahuacatl) and sauce (molli), which, as Martinez points out, describes what is essentially a mole made from avocados.

At its most basic, it requires little more than avocados and serrano or jalapeño chiles—traditionally mashed in a large basalt mortar and pestle—and some salt. The Aztecs were preparing it this way 500 years ago, making guacamole one of the oldest, if not the oldest, traditional foods of the Americas still being made today (and damn if we don't love the stuff: in the month leading up to Superbowl Sunday, it's estimated that americans consume as much as 250 million pounds of avocados, much of it in the form of guacamole).

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These days, it's more often than not flavored with additional ingredients like onion, lime juice, cilantro, perhaps a bit of tomato or garlic, though opinions can run hot about which add-ins are or aren't acceptable. Recipe variations abound, some that include tomatillo, avocado leaves, crema, pipichas (an herb), toasted and ground jumiles (stink bugs), and fruits like peaches. In some recipes, aromatics like the chiles are charred first on a dry cooking surface such as a comal or cast iron skillet; in many others, they're left fully raw.

Modifications driven by necessity are also common. "We lived on a cattle ranch far away from any stores," says Martinez of her childhood in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. "When we did happen to get avocados, which wasn't very often, my mom would bring cottage cheese from El Paso, the closest city, and mix it in." This tactic helped stretch the avocados, making it possible for the uncommon treat to feed more.

Guacamole can also vary in texture and consistency, ranging from thin and saucy all the way to something so chunky it might be described as a salad, and everything in between. These differences can reflect regional practices, personal preferences, and how the guacamole is intended to be used, whether as a condiment on tacos, alongside roasted meats and rice and beans, spread on sopes, or as a dip with tortilla chips.

The bottom line is that there is no one right way to make guacamole. The recipe below produces a flavorful dip, but it's just one version. It's worth experimenting with ingredients and ratios on your own, adjusting and modifying this recipe as the mood strikes. You could easily add one or two additional chiles for a spicier guac, or fold in diced tomatoes at the end; try it with and without garlic, or even with and without lime juice—a flavor most of us have come to expect in guacamole but one shunned by some purists; and play with altering both the quantity of cilantro as well as how it's incorporated (ground into a paste, folded in chopped, or both as I instruct in the recipe here).

Choosing Avocado Types

Depending on the variety, avocados can range from moist and semi-firm, like the big, fat, smooth-skinned Fuerte avocados that my wife likes to eat with crunchy sea salt, to buttery and creamy, like the familiar pebble-skinned Hass variety. Hass avocados have become the primary variety available commercially in the United States, and they are an excellent choice for guacamole, producing a result that is silky and rich.

But Hass are not the only good avocados out there, so if you have access to other types of the fruit, it can be worthwhile to try them out. Keep in mind that different avocado varieties will come with their own flavors and textures, which may not all benefit from being mashed and flavored in exactly the same way. Once again, feel free to adjust the recipe as needed.

Of course they key to any good guacamole is to use perfectly ripe ones, which are best identified by lightly pressing on the fruit near the stem end (where the avocado tapers). It should gently give and feel neither rock hard nor soft and mushy.

The Mash-Up

One big question is what's the ideal way to mash the avocado? Some recipes have you mash the avocado with a fork. Traditionalists will use a heavy stone molcajete to pound it into lumpy submission, which is one way I love to do it. But not everyone has a molcajete, so after trying out nearly every utensil in my kitchen I've found that another ideal instrument is this one:

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A whisk is great precisely because it mashes so unevenly. You end up with a guacamole with great textural variation, plenty of smooth and creamy avocado to bind your dip, but still plenty of big chunks to go around.

Incorporating the Aromatics

Aromatics and other add-ins are just about the only place in a guacamole recipe where there's real room for technique to come into play. In the halcyon days of my youth, back when I'd whip out batch after batch of guacamole without a care in the world, I was content to simply finely chop and fold in my aromatics, resulting in a guac that was nicely chunky, but not particularly flavorful. See, vegetables pack their flavor inside their cells. In order to access that flavor, you've got to break down cell walls either by cooking, grinding, or chewing.

With some aromatics—say, onions—even after you release the contents of its cells, chemical reactions must take place between various components before characteristic onion aromas can develop. By chopping and incorporating the aromatics directly into the guacamole, you're doing yourself a disservice flavorwise as many of the flavorful compounds won't get released until you start chewing—some may not even get released at all.

The key is to give those flavors a bit of a pre-release by masticating them before they ever meet the avocado. Now you could chew up the onions, cilantro, and chiles in your mouth, but a molcajete or other mortar and pestle (or even a good food processor) will do the job in a much more sanitary manner.

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Now, not every ingredient in guacamole needs to be pulverized first. Tomatoes, for example, are better diced and folded in at the end, after the avocado has been mashed, otherwise the mashed tomato and avocado will mix to form a murky brown, slightly wet guacamole. A wetter "salsa de guacamole" made with tomatillos, on the other hand, should have the tomatillos ground into the sauce, since you actually want them to thin it out. And then there are some aromatics that can go either way, like the cilantro. Ground into the aromatic paste, its juices flavor every bite evenly, but chopped and folded in at the end you get more pops of cilantro flavor punctuating the guacamole (I like both effects, so this recipe calls for dividing the guacamole and doing it both ways).

Depending on which tools you use, the method of making the guacamole will change slightly. If you're using a molcajete or other large mortar and pestle, you'll want to smash the aromatics into a paste first, the mash the avocado into that until chunky, and finally fold in any remaining ingredients like diced tomato, chopped cilantro, and lime juice. If you're using a food processor or blender, you'll want to puree the aromatics with some lime juice (to help it process more efficiently), then mash the avocado in a large mixing bowl with a whisk, and finally fold in the pureed aromatics along with anything else.

How to Prevent Guacamole from Turning Brown

Once you've got your avocado mashed, you've got to move relatively fast. Oxygen and enzymes don't go on vacation and immediately jump to work turning that flesh a nasty shade of brown. Though there are more than a few old-wives tales claiming that throwing the pit into the bowl will help prevent this from happening, it's a trivial task to prove that this isn't true.

Harold McGee did it in his great book The Curious Cook by leaving two bowls of mashed avocado sit side-by-side, one with the seed placed in it, the other with a seed-sized light bulb stuck into it. Both browned at exactly the same rate.

What about acid? Many books claim that lime or lemon juice will prevent avocados from browning. That's not what my tests said. In fact, depending on how much I added, some batches of guacamole actually browned faster in the presence of citrus juice—significantly so. By the time I added enough acid to slow the browning down to a reasonable degree, the guacamole was inedibly sour.

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The only way to prevent it from happening? Prevent contact with oxygen. The easiest way to do that is to press a double layer of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the guacamole, which will give it a couple extra hours of shelf life.

January 2012

This recipe and headnote were updated in 2023 by Daniel Gritzer. The headnote was expanded to include new sections on what guacamole is and the many ways there are to make it, and also adds a discussion of molcajete use. The recipe was lightly adjusted for best results and edited to include optional molcajete instructions. Part of the original headnote devoted to avocado shopping and storage was moved to a new article on that topic.

Recipe Details

Classic Guacamole Recipe

Prep10 mins

Active15 mins

Total10 mins

Serves8 servings

Ingredients

  • Half of 1 medium white onion (about 4 ounces; 113g), roughly chopped

  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed and roughly chopped (remove seeds before chopping for a less hot result)

  • 1/2 cup picked cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped, divided

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados (about 7 ounces; 200g each)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45ml) fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)

Directions

  1. Place onion, chile, half of cilantro leaves, and a large pinch of salt in a molcajete or mortar and pestle. Pound into a fine paste. Alternatively, combine onion, chile, half of cilantro, salt, and half of lime juice in a food processor or blender and process, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth paste is formed.

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  2. Split each avocado in half, discard pits, and spoon out flesh into the molcajete or mortar and pestle (if large enough), or combine with the onion-chile purée in a medium mixing bowl. Roughly mash with the pestle or a stiff whisk.

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  3. Stir in remaining cilantro leaves, then season with lime juice and salt to taste. Serve immediately with warm tortilla chips or as desired.

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Special Equipment

Molcajete, mortar and pestle, or food processor

Make-Ahead and Storage

Guacamole is best made right before serving. If you do need to hold it, it is best kept refrigerated in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the guacamole (this will reduce expose to air and slow down browning caused by oxidation).

  • Guacamole
  • Mexican
  • Avocado
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Game Day
Perfect Guacamole Recipe (2024)
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