Guacamole Troubleshooting Guide for Cinco de Mayo and Forever

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor

Photo credit: Food52

Are you making your guacamole using avocado, tomato, garlic, tons of lime juice, and a bunch of spices from the cabinet?

Well, we don’t mean to tell you how to live, but it’s possible you’re committing what some would consider fairly grave avocado-related sins, there. To those of us who love the buttery fruit, burying its creamy texture and luscious flavor under unneeded extras is just short of criminal.  

No matter how good your more complicated go-to guac recipe is, ever since we discovered the method of making a paste out of jalapeño, onion, salt, and cilantro, and gently tossing it with the avocado, we have been converts. It’s spicy, salty, herbaceous and buttery in equal measure. A symphony of flavors. A guac opera.

So here’s a knockout guacamole recipe for Cinco de Mayo and really, every day all summer, and forever. And here’s an (admittedly super-opinionated) troubleshooting guide.

Just, no:

GarlicWe know. We used to do this, too. But adding garlic to guac is like inviting your loudest, most obnoxious friend (who you still love!) to a party. It takes over.

Dried spices. Oregano, chili pepper flakes, dried coriander: We’ve seen all of these things elbow their way into our beloved party dish. Again, your guests love avocado. Let them taste the avocado.

Tomato. If you’re anything like us, you grew up eating guacamole on nachos at Mexican (or “Mexican”) restaurants where the guac had been cut with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and all sorts of other add-ins. There’s a reason for that: avocados are not cheap. Like $2 a pop not cheap. But tomatoes water down the texture of guacamole. No one wants that.

Too much lime juice. “Screw the limepocalypse! All of the limes!” Look, limes are great. But again, too much acid and you won’t be able to taste the heat, salt, and butteriness that makes guac guac.

Not enough salt.  You gotta tread carefully here, because everybody’s taste for salt is different, and if you have super salty chips, you don’t need a super salty guacamole. But! You’ve got to have enough salt, or the flavors won’t come alive. So test it using a chip (or fresh tortillas, if you’re amazing like that) to see how it will taste all together.

Over-mashing.  If you follow the recipe below, you’ll get perfect little cubes of avocado. When you mix everything together, leave a few of those cubes intact. People love the texture, and you will get compliments to the moon. 

De gustibus non disputandum est, as the Romans said: There’s no disputing taste. But still. Give this recipe a whirl, and come back and scold us in the comments if you’re not a convert. 

Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole
From Food52
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or jalapeno chile, including seeds, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
A squeeze of lime, if desired

1. Mash the onion, chile, salt (the coarseness of kosher salt helps you make the paste), and half of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife or a fork, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.

2. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with a spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well (it should be like salad properly dressed in vinaigrette), then add the rest of the cilantro and mash very coarsely with a pestle or a fork. Season to taste with lime juice (if you’d like) and additional chile and salt.