Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.
For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.
Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole
Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.
The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.
Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.
My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work. Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.
How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe
When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.
Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.
Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor
Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.
A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.
How Many Avocados?
3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.
Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.
Family Favorite Guacamole
The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill.
This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.
This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.
- 3 avocados
- 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
- 1 lime
- 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
- 2 TBS chopped cilantro
- 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
- 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional
Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves.
Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.
Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out.
Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork.
Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.
The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole.
The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole.
Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.
For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip.
Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If there ever is a meal that makes everyone around the dinner table happy, it’s tacos. I don’t believe this just pertains to families with young children, adults love tacos too. Say, “Come and get it. Tacos for dinner”, friends young and old will pick up their step and chassé over to the dinner table. Yippee-yi-yay, it’s taco night. Grab your partner and do-si-do, it’s taco time.
One of my favorite types of tacos are fish tacos. I love the light and fresh flavor of fish paired with a spicy salsa, avocado, fresh lime juice and cilantro. Soft and sweet corn tortillas make the meal even brighter. One bite of these fish tacos reveals the composed flavors of delicate fish, tangy crunchy slaw, and sweet and spicy salsa. It is a very refreshing and flavor packed meal.
Most importantly, I believe a taco isn’t a taco unless avocados are part of the meal. Either in a salsa, guacamole, or an added slice for a topping, my tacos must include an avocado. For these fish tacos, I wanted the avocado paired with fruit for a sweet contrast to the smooth avocado. Honestly, I designed the whole fish taco recipe around the mango avocado salsa.
Avocados are my desert island food. I miss avocados when a day goes by without eating one. I also love avocados combined with sweet and spicy ingredients. Both mangoes and avocados have soft and creamy textures, but the mangoes add a nice burst of sweetness that pairs well with avocados. In this salsa, the sweetness of the mangoes and creaminess of avocados offsets the heat from the chili peppers. Each ingredient creates a balance, nothing is either too sweet or too spicy. Just how I like it.
More easy fish dinner recipes:
I designed this fish taco recipe so all three parts compliment each other and create one perfect taco. The cabbage slaw is made with fresh herb and buttermilk dressing for a little tang and brighter flavor. Corn tortillas are on the small side, so either serve the slaw in the taco, or on the side as a salad. Either way, it tastes great with the fish and the salsa. I added jalapeño pepper to the slaw, but kept it mild by removing the white pith and seeds. I believe it is always good to have one part of the meal without a lot of heat and spiciness. All the recipes are on the mild side of spicy, and are easily adaptable to your desired heat tolerance.
What is great about all these recipes is you can easily make them for a great dinner of fish tacos, or serve them separately for a plated dinner. You can also make each item separately and pair with other recipes. The fish is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Mango avocado salsa makes a great dip for chips, and the cole slaw is a perfect side salad with grilled fish or meats. You have three recipes in one, and multiple options for many dinners ahead.
Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa
Buttermilk yogurt dressing for the Citrus Slaw
- 3 tsp cider vinegar
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic grated or crushed
- 1-2 TB minced cilantro
- 1-2 TB minced dill
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 2-3 TBS Greek yogurt
Citrus Buttermilk Slaw*
- 1/4 head of purple cabbage thinly sliced or shredded
- 1/4 head of green cabbage thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 large 4 oz carrot julienne or grated
- 2 ears of fresh corn sliced of the cob
- 4 small scallions minced light green and white parts
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers** minced
- Buttermilk Yogurt dressing to taste
- 2 TB fresh lime juice
- Zest from half a lime
- Pinch of cayenne pepper optional
Fish for Tacos
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh fish like tilapia
- Sprinkle of Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil Kosher Salt
Mango Avocado Salsa
- One mango peeled and chopped
- 1 avocado chopped
- Juice of 1 Lime divided
- 1/4 tsp pinch of Flaky sea salt
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil divided
- 2 TB minced red onion
- 2 jalapeno peppers** minced
- 8 grape tomatoes quartered
- 10 sprigs cilantro minced
- Zest of half a lime
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of Kosher Salt if needed
Assemble the tacos
- 8 Corn tortillas
- Seared Fish
- Buttermilk Citrus Slaw
- Mango Avocado Salsa
- Lime wedges
- Side of crema Mexicana or creme fraiche (optional)
- Side of Salsa Verde optional
Citrus Slaw with Buttermilk and Yogurt Dressing
Make the Buttermilk dressing
Whisk together the cider vinegar, lemon juice, Kosher salt, lemon zest, garlic, and fresh herbs. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk until incorporated then whisk in the yogurt. Taste the dressing and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Cover and set aside until the slaw is ready to finish.
Make the Slaw
Thinly slice or shred the red and green cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl. Grate the carrot with a box grater and add to the cabbage. Add the fresh corn kernels, minced scallions and minced jalapenos. Mix together then add the buttermilk dressing. Add about half the dressing at first, mix together, then add more dressing if needed. Add the lime zest and juice and give it a final stir. Taste and adjust any seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make the fish.
Sprinkle kosher salt, cayenne and sweet paprika over each side of the fish. Before you turn the fish over to season the other side, rub about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil over the seasoned fish. Turn over the fish and repeat on the other side. Let rest for about 15 minutes.
Pre-heat a skillet or non-stick electric griddle to 350F. Spread about 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or canola oil across the pan. Place the fish on the skillet or griddle and sear for 2-4 minutes per side. The thicker pieces will need longer then the thin ones. Time it to turn the fish over only once. The fish is done when the meat is opaque and will separate when you press down on the top of the fish. Keep the fish warm in a 200F oven.
Make the Mango Avocado Salsa
Peel and chop the mango into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium bowl and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Peel and chop the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the avocado to a small bowl and squirt about 2 teaspoons of lime juice over the avocados and a very small pinch of flaky sea salt. Toss to coat. Add the avocados to the mangoes along with the remaining ingredients. Gently stir to combine. Taste and add salt or other seasoning if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve.
Prepare the Tacos
Warm up the tortillas, either by heating them in a skillet over medium heat for about a minute per side. Keep the heated tortillas on a covered plate in a warm oven, or an insulated tortilla warmer.
To assemble the tacos decide if you are using the Citrus Slaw as a side dish or as a part of the taco.
If using the slaw for the taco, place the slaw down on the tortilla then add the fish, divided into manageable size pieces for each taco. Add the mango avocado salsa on top of the fish and serve with crema Mexicana or creme fraiche, and/or citrus slaw on the side.
* If you are serving the Citrus Buttermilk Slaw as a side salad, you may want to add more shredded cabbage. I originally made this recipe using a 1/2 of cabbage each of the purple and green cabbages. I found I had a lot of slaw, enough for at least 8 servings for salad. I pared the recipe down for tacos, where a small amount of slaw is required.
** The heat source in chili peppers is found in the white pith inside the peppers. This is where the seeds are attached. The seeds hold heat as well, but not as much as the pith. You control the level of heat from chilies by slicing out the pith. Wear latex gloves when working with chili peppers, or wash your hands thoroughly after holding them. The oils from the peppers get on your hands and if you touch your eyes it will burn.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.