By Rochelle Bilow. Photos by: Alex Lau, Christopher Testani, and Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott.
Look, we know you all have a lot of ~feelings~ about guacamole. Like politics and religion, it’s a sensitive subject that’s best approached with tact (or better yet, not at all. Definitely never on a first date). But whether or not you put peas in your guac, there are a few non-negotiable rules to this Mexican staple. Here are the most common things people screw up when making it, according to senior food editor (and guacamole Jedi master) Rick Martinez.
1. Using Under-, Over- or Not-Uniformly Ripe Avocados
In a perfect world, we would all be blessed with perfectly ripe avocados whenever the urge to make a batch of guac strikes. But life’s not like that, so Martinez advises planning ahead: Most grocery stores sell under-ripe avocados; buy them a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on the countertop. They’ve reached optimal ripeness when they have a little give, but aren’t soft or mushy. In a pinch, Martinez has made guac with under-ripe avocadoes (“Just mash the sh*t out of them”), but that’s, of course, not ideal. Additionally, never combine avocados with different levels of ripeness. The textures won’t meld together, leaving you with hard little icebergs of avocado floating in a sea of mushy guac. You can do better than that.
2. Not Using Hass Avocados
When it comes to the lusciously creamy texture we associate with guacamole, there can only be one variety: Hass, the king of all avocados. Hass avocados have a richer and more concentrated flavor than other varieties, like the larger—but more watery—Florida avocado. Luckily, the options most commonly available in grocery stores are Hass. They’re smaller with dark green, pebbled skin.
3. Not Cutting Out the Blemishes
A bruise or brown and mushy spot on your avocado isn’t a deal-breaker (unlike mold on bread, it won’t contaminate the whole thing). However, it will turn the rest of your guacamole “dirty swamp green,” according to Martinez. Ensure your guac stays brilliantly verdant by spending an extra 30 seconds cutting out the blemished spots.
4. Busting Out the Food Processor
Don’t bother with the food processor. Why dirty more things when it’s much easier to mash the guacamole by hand? Besides, a food processor will turn your guacamole into a purée. While not everyone loves a super chunky guac, it shouldn’t have the consistency of baby food. Just mix it in a bowl or better yet, a Mexican mortar and pestle known as a molcajéte.
5. Going Wimpy on the Salt
You really need to go big and be aggressive when it comes to seasoning guacamole. This means adding more salt than you think you need. Martinez uses about one teaspoon of kosher salt for three avocados. The pro tip here is to wait five minutes after seasoning before tasting—this gives the flavors time to meld together. Only then can you really discern whether you need to add more or adjust the levels.
6. Skipping (or Substituting) the Lime
All guacamole needs acid—otherwise it’s too fatty and rich. Martinez uses about one to two tablespoons of lime juice for three avos. It will also help keep the guac bright green. Just don’t substitute lemon—”that takes things in an ‘avocado toast‘ direction,” Martinez explains. If you really want to earn authenticity points, seek out key limes. (That said, the more commonly-found Persian limes are just fine.)
7. Mixing in Other Stuff (Tomatoes Are Okay. Maybe.)
Okay, ignoring the dubious fact that we have a recipe for celery guacamole on our website, we’re taking a stance here: No add-ins! No mix-ins! No friggin’ peas! The only exception here is tomato, which Martinez explains is sometimes added to stretch a batch, add acidity, and avoid having to make a batch of pico de gallo along with the guac. Hey, if it worked for Martinez’s mom, it works for us.
This story originally appeared on Bon Appetit.
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