Legit guacamole: Mastering this creamy, crowd-pleasing, naturally vegan Mexican dish

  • Lemon juice activates the flavors, the way toasting nuts brings out their oils.

  • Toasted white corn tortillas are unmatched when it comes to that authentically chewy, taco crunch. 

  • Fill a zip-close bag with water and lay it directly on the surface of any leftover guacamole to prevent browning.

  • Mise en place, Mexican style.

  • Use a paring knife to dice the avocado flesh before scooping it out of the tough exterior skin.

  • You want the add-ins to taste like a bright, lemony salad that could stand on its own before adding the avocados.

  • Toast white corn tortillas directly on an open flame.

For the Gazette
Published: 5/3/2019 4:04:37 PM
Modified: 5/3/2019 4:04:24 PM

Last winter I read a cookbook-memoir by Ruth Reichl that included a basic chili recipe, along with a list in the margin of all the ingredients one might add to the pot. The list was insane: chocolate, anchovies, tamarind, soy sauce. Reading between the lines, it was as if she were teaching readers how to make chili their own by indicating that pretty much anything with umami goes.

Nigella Lawson takes the same approach with guacamole, confessing that she adds Roquefort cheese to hers (“Can I make guacamole more fattening? Yes, I can!” she quipped.). And even that is delicious. But as a native Texan who’s been refining her technique for 20 years, I hew closer to the purist version, which calls for avocados, lemon juice and salt.

The key is to toss all the add-ins — chopped cilantro; diced sweet or red onion; tomatoes; fresh or roasted garlic; salt; cumin — with lemon juice before adding the avocados. This activates the flavors, the way toasting nuts brings out their oils. You want the mixture to taste like a bright, lemony salad that could stand on its own, and a few drops of olive oil aids in this effect.

As for heat, I’ve found that jalapenos are really uneven these days — some spicy, others bell-pepper-sweet, so I either buy extras, use the more consistently spicy Serrano peppers or eat with a smear of habanero paste.

For winning tacos, serve with a protein and white corn tortillas toasted directly on an open flame. (I try to get 2-4 burners going when feeding a crowd). White corn tortillas have zero shelf life, and I’m sorry about that, but they’re unmatched when it comes to that authentically chewy, taco crunch. 

Legit Guacamole

1 bunch cilantro, washed. Remove the stems and chop the leaves.

Juice of ½ lemon

½ sweet onion, finely diced

1 tomato, diced (optional)

1 clove fresh garlic or 2 cloves roasted (optional)

Cumin (optional)

Jalapeno, diced (optional and to taste) 

Drizzle of olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

3 avocados, halved and pitted. For each half, use a paring knife to dice the avocado flesh before scooping it out of the tough exterior skin

Combine all the ingredients except the avocados in a bowl and adjust seasonings as needed. Add avocado and stir until incorporated.

Pro tip: No one likes brown guacamole

If you have leftovers or are preparing this stuff in advance, fill a zip-close bag with water and lay it directly on the surface of the guacamole so that it’s not exposed to the air.  




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