Guacamole - Recipe Ingredients and History

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About

Guacamole Is a sauce made primarily of avocado with various additions depending on the region of Mexico where the guacamole is made. According to Diana Kennedy the best avocado is Hass and the correct ingredients include white onion, serrano chiles, tomatoes, sea salt and cilantro. Further, although adding a bit of lime juice helps preserve the color of the avocado for a short period of time Ms. Kennedy states it "spoils the balance of the flavors".

Guacamole History

Guacamole dates back to the Aztecs - The Aztecs referred to guacamole as ahuaca-mulli which translates roughly to avocado sauce or avocado mixture. This concoction was very similar to what you might fix now in your own kitchens today.  Avocados, the main ingredient in guacamole are a New World food that became quite popular with the Spaniards.  It is said the Spaniards liked their avocados three ways, with salt, with sugar or both. Although actual guacamole recipes were not well preserved the Spaniards documented their likes for the avocado fruit. 

The Aztecs believed the avocado to be an aphrodisiac.  Read more about this topic on our Aphrodisiacs Foods page.  Clearly this had something to do with the popularity of the food with the Spaniards.

Another reason for the popularity of the fruit was the fact that the avocado has the highest fat content of any fruit. The Aztecs had a very low fat diet compared with today's standards.  You can understand how a fruit that contained life sustaining fats and  protein could become so highly regarded.

Traditional Guacamole

Using the right ingredients

While there are many variations, traditional Mexican guacamole has only a few ingredients.  First of course is the avocado, then onion, chiles, and fresh tomatoes and salt.  Each ingredient is discussed below.
  • Avocados - The key ingredient in all guacamole recipe. The Hass avocado is the darling of the bunch and the preferred product for making guacamole.  Depending on where you are in the U.S. you may need to substitute another variety.   Here is a list of the most commonly grown and distributed varieties. 
hass avocado  Hass avocado - The best avocado for making guacamole.  It is available all year round.  The skin turns from green to purplish-black when it becomes ripe.  80% of all avocados grown in California are Hass 
 gwen avocado Gwen avocado - Is similar in appearance, texture and flavor to the Hass. Gwen tends to be a larger fruit and the skin stays green when ripe. A fine substitute for your guacamole recipe if Hass is not available
 pinkerton avocado Pinkerton avocado - These large avocados tend to lack flavor.  They are a winter variety with a small seed a lot of flesh.  You see this variety grown in Florida as well as California. This would be our last choice for use in guacamole
 bacon avocado Bacon avocado - Available from fall to spring, Bacon has medium sized fruit and green skin.  Although not as flavorful as the Hass it is 'adequate' for guacamole but not preferred
 fuerte avocado Fuerte avocado - is harvested starting in the fall through spring.  The Fuerte has smooth green skin and is quite tasty and a good guacamole choice or good for eating in any recipe that uses avocado
 reed avocado Reed avocado - The Reed is seen more in food service kitchens than in your grocery store but you may find them.  They are large and round and are available throughout the summer
 zutano avocado Zutano avocado - can be recognized by its shiny yellow-green skin.  The Zutano is one of the earliest varieties to be harvested in avocado season which begins each September. 
 photos copyright mission foods 

serrano chile


  • Chiles - The serrano chile (along with the jalapeno) is the most common chile in Mexico so it stands to reason it would be the first choice for guacamole.  This small slender chile can be quite hot so chop the chile fine before adding to your guacamole. 
  • Onions - In Mexico the most commonly used onion is the white onion.  Unlike the yellow, red or purple the white onion is not sweet and has a pure hot flavor.  Chop the onion to a fine even size for use in your guacamole.  This will allow the flavor to blend with the avocado but not overpower it.
  • Tomatoes - Select ripe but still firm red tomatoes. If tomatoes are not in season and you have to select from 'mediocre' grocery store tomatoes then you may want to purchase Italian or plum style for the most flavor. 
  • Cilantro - Cilantro (read more) This member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander.  It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant. Cilantro has a very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican cooking.  The Cilantro leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.  Select crisp looking leaves.

Refrigerated Guacamole Products

Most of the refrigerated guacamole products on the market are really classified as "dips" rather than true guacamole.  The difference being additions of mayonnaise, sour cream and other non-traditional ingredients including a bevy of preservatives and food additives.

avo classic guacamole

AvoClassic Guacamole

This product is as close to an acceptable fresh guacamole as we have found.  The avocado is mashed and chunky, not pureed and there are only a few additives of jalapenos, vinegar, onion, salt and granulated garlic.

Fresh is best but this is not bad if you need guacamole fast and you can't find any ripe avocados.

Molcajete - The Guacamole Bowl

The molcajete is the traditional Mexican mortar and pestle used for making guacamole and salsa. (read more about the molcajete inculding the history and uses of this grinding tool).  Still hand made in Mexico today from lava (basalt) stone.  A mixture of chiles, onion and salt is placed in the molcajete and ground to a paste then avocados are blending in (but not made smooth).  Guacamole should be served right in the molcajete.

molcajete with spoon and escobeta brush   

molcajete y tejolote lava stone 8" 

The molcajete is the traditional tool for making guacamole or salsa. Our molcajetes require no preparation other than a quick wash and application of our seasoning mixture. We have several molcajete styles available.

Fun Fact about Guacamole - Recipe Ingredients and History

Featured Recipe

Guacamole en Molcajete from Diana Kennedy, The Art of Mexican Cooking. Ms. Kennedy notes that proper guacamole should be made in a molcajete and the mixture should remain "lumpy" not smooth.

She also discourages the use of lime juice (to keep the avocado from browning) because she feels it spoils the balance of flavors.

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 4 chiles serranos 
  • 2 rounded tablespoons cilantro 
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 3 large avocados 
  • 2/3 cup tomatoes, finely chopped, not peeled 
Topping 
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons heaped, finely chopped cilantro 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped tomatoes 

If possible use a molcajete to prepare your guacamole. Grind the onion, fresh chiles, cilantro, and salt to a rough paste. Cut the avocados in half, remove pits (do not discard), and scoop out the flesh with a wooden spoon.

Mash the flesh roughly into the chile mixture, turning the mixture over so that the seasoning is well distributed.

Place the pits back into it for a nice effect and serve immediately or within 15 minutes in the molcajete. If you are using a blender, blend the base, turn it into a dish, and continue as a above.

Serve - In the US it is common to serve guacamole with tortilla chips. However, in Mexico, the proper way to serve guacamole is inside a fresh, warm, corn tortilla.

How To Buy, Ripen, Store Avocados

Firm avocados will ripen in about a week at room temperature. You can hasten the process by a couple of days by placing them in a paper bag with a small piece of apple or banana. 

Store Avocados and Guacamole

 Ripe avocados can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Lemon juice can be used on any exposed fruit to help retard browning but they will brown eventually once cut open.  Use up the ripe fruit within a couple of days.

To help keep your guacamole from changing color you can place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole

Freezing Guacamole

You can freeze mashed avocados but it best not to freeze guacamole with other ingredients such as tomatoes or tomatillos.  Those ingredients tend to get mushy and watery when thawed.  So if you want to have an "emergency supply" of avocados on hand for guacamole then start by simply freeze fresh, ripe avocados.

To freeze, mash the avocados with the back of a fork.  You do need to add one teaspoon lime or lemon juice per avocado.  Mix well.   Place the avocado in a freezer container just large enough to fill the container but don't under fill. Too much airspace allows the avocados to oxidize and brown.

You can also use a freeze-weight zip lock bag. Fill the bag with the mashed avocado. Leave the bag unzipped and fold it over and press out the air from the bag then zip closed and freeze.

Thaw frozen avocados in the refrigerator or place the container in a bowl of cool water to accelerate thawing.

Sources and Credits

California Avocados - California Avocado commission. Source for consumers and growers. A large collection of guacamole recipes and general information about avocados.
author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.