How to Make Perfect Guacamole without a Recipe
Plus, how to keep it from turning brown - once and for all.
Guacamole originated in Mexico and was first made by the Aztecs in the 1500’s by simply mashing avocados in a mortar and pestle. In fact, guacamole literally translates to “avocado sauce,” deriving from the Aztec Nahuatl words for avocado (āhuacatl) and sauce (mōlli). Today, in the U.S., the mild, creamy avocado dip and spread, colloquially known as guac, has become ubiquitous at get-togethers, from Superbowl Sunday to summer BBQs.
Guacamole lovers, dare we generalize, fall into two camps: the purists and the experimentalists. Purists favor a traditional base of avocados, onions, cilantro, salt and lime juice, sometimes adding garlic and jalapeno, and possibly diced tomatoes. Experimentalists have been known to riff with all kinds of add-ins, from peas to pistachios and papayas to pears. No matter which team you side with, getting the ingredient proportions right is key to making perfect guacamole. From there, you can tweak the texture (from super smooth to ultra-chunky) and seasonings to suit your preference. Here’s our best guacamole recipe, our top tips for making and storing guac and surprising dishes you can make with guacamole.
At its base, guacamole is made with mashed avocados, onions, lime juice and fresh cilantro; sometimes garlic and jalapenos are added for extra bite, and some people like to add diced tomatoes as well. If you’re out of limes, sub in lemons. No citrus? Pull in vinegar. Guacamole can be served as a dip with tortilla chips and veggies, as a side to tacos, burritos and grain bowls or as a spread for sandwiches, burgers and wraps.
How to Make Guacamole
Guacamole is a one of those dishes with ingredients that add up to much more than the sum of its parts, but getting the ratios right starts with a great base recipe.
Simple ingredients in perfect proportion make this Mexican dip a crowd-pleasing favorite for any event. We decided not to use tomatoes and included both onion and garlic for extra zip. A healthy dose of fresh lime juice balances and brightens the flavors.
1: Prep the Onions
Cut half of a small red onion into a small dice, put it into a small strainer and rinse it under cold running water. Transfer the onions to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup cold water. Stir in 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes.
2: Prep the Avocado
Slice 4 avocados in half, remove the pits and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Pour 1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 limes) over the avocado.
3: Mash the Avocado
Using a fork or potato masher, mash the avocado until creamy, but leave some chunks for textural contrast.
4: Combine the Aromatics and Seasoning
Drain the onions well and add to the bowl, along with 1 minced jalapeno, 1 clove of grated garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves. Stir to combine.
5: Serve the Guacamole
Ideally, serve guacamole immediately with tortilla chips. If you’re making it ahead, prevent discoloration by pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve.
Is Guacamole Good for You?
Since guacamole’s primary ingredient is avocados, it contains high levels of fiber, potassium and other essential nutrients. It also contains many beneficial plant chemicals, including beta-sitosterol, which has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, as well as carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been linked to helping maintain healthy eyes and may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Although avocados are high in fat, they contain the monosaturated variety—aka the healthy kind. According to the American Heart Association, consuming healthy monounsaturated fats in moderation, in place of saturated and trans-fat, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Avocado’s concentration of healthy fats also aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. For even more info on guacamole and its health benefits (and when guacamole isn’t healthy) head over to our story Is Guacamole Healthy?.
How to Keep Guac from Turning Brown
The key to preventing your guacamole from turning brown is to create a barrier between it and the air, which causes the avocado to oxidize and become discolored. Transfer your guacamole to a resealable container, then cover with plastic wrap so that it lies flush against the guac. Cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator. Some people swear by adding a layer of lime juice or water on top of the guac, but after experimentation, we maintain that plastic wrap accomplishes the same thing without changing the texture or flavor. And if you're wondering whether brown guacamole is bad for you, head over to our story Is It Ok to Eat Brown Guacamole?.
The Best Guacamole Recipes
Marcela Valladolid’s aptly named traditional guacamole simply calls for coarsely mashed avocados lightly mixed with minced onion, cilantro and lime juice, then liberally seasoned with salt and pepper.
Rather than mashing avocados, Ellie Krieger opts to dice avocados and gently combines the cubes with chopped red onion, cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice and salt to create a chunky, salsa-esque guacamole.
Serrano peppers sub in for jalapenos in this perfectly balanced guacamole, which also incorporates diced tomatoes. We’re a big fan of garnishing the dip with extra tomatoes, onions and cilantro for added texture and visual contrast.
The flavors of ranch dressing, including buttermilk, sour cream and herbs, take classic guacamole from beloved dip to absolutely irresistible American party dip. It’s great to make-ahead; the sour cream and the buttermilk help prevent discoloration (a layer of plastic wrap helps too!).
For the spice component in her guac, Rachael Ray relies on chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to lend a distinct smoky flavor profile and creeping heat. It’s guaranteed to prompt guests to demand the recipe, stat.
Recipes with Guacamole
This easy shredded rotisserie chicken salad recipe swaps out mayo for store-bought guac and pulls in pesto to lend an herbaceous, savory kick. The sharp-sweet duo of sliced red onions and fresh mango amp ump the mixture.
An ample layer of guacamole on the bun anchors this Tex-Mex mash-up that melds a classic grilled burger with the spices and components of fajita fillings. The secret ingredient is Worcestershire sauce, which brings a smack of umami to both the patty and the guac.
These individual foil packets are a cinch to pull together and throw on the grill, making nachos a summer grilling reality. Plus, everyone can customize their own portion of nachos—with guacamole as the star topping, of course.
Two party appetizer favorites join forces in this festive hand-held hors d’oeuvre. Guacamole ingredients, including avocado, lime juice, cilantro and salt get whizzed in a food processor with sour cream and hard-boiled egg yolks to create a smooth, ultra-creamy filling for deviled eggs.
You can’t have nachos without guacamole, and this vibrant snack is no exception. Bell pepper slices stand in for the chips, but each is fully loaded with all the fixin’s, including dollops of guacamole and pico de gallo.