What is Guacamole?

Nina Z.

Guacamole is a thick, avocado-based dip typically served with tortilla chips. Much like any traditional dish, it boasts an infinite number of recipes, with ingredients depending on the cultural surroundings and taste preferences of the chef. The most basic recipe, however, includes mashed avocado, chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, lime, and chilies, and is seasoned with salt, cumin, and pepper. In restaurants, it's often served in a mocahete, or a rough stone mortar and pestle commonly found in Mexican households.

Guacamole is used as a dip, topping, or side dish.
Guacamole is used as a dip, topping, or side dish.

The origin of the name lies in the Aztec word ahuacatl, which the Spanish conquistadors transliterated as aguacate, and in the Mexican word mole, which means sauce. The dish itself is best traced back to the Aztec ahuaca-hulli, or avocado sauce. While countless Central American cultures show evidence of having used the avocado for culinary purposes before its widespread cultivation, only the Aztecs have a specific recipe for something which approximates guacamole.

Avocado is the essential ingredient in guacamole.
Avocado is the essential ingredient in guacamole.

The avocado itself, which is integral to the dip, has an interesting history. Ahuacatl, its Aztec name, literally translates to "testicle tree," and was named as such for the fruit's resemblance to male anatomy. Women in Aztec villages were not permitted to leave the house during the avocado harvest, for fear of sexual impurity, and this stigma continued for centuries. In the 1920s, avocado growers even used it to their advantage for a promotional advertising campaign.

Guacamole is often flavored with cilantro.
Guacamole is often flavored with cilantro.

In addition to being a possible aphrodisiac — and scientists have neither denied nor confirmed the validity of this claim — guacamole has several nutritional benefits. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas, are high in vitamin A, and are the richest fruit source of beta-sitosterol, a compound that interferes with cholesterol absorption, as well as glutathione, which functions as an antioxidant. When prepared, it contains additional antioxidants and vitamin C from tomatoes. Still, the dip is best eaten in moderation because of its relatively high fat content: approximately 4.5 grams of fat per ounce (28.3 g).

Ground cumin, which is used to flavor guacamole.
Ground cumin, which is used to flavor guacamole.

When choosing avocados for guacamole, cooks should try to find California-grown Hass or Fuerte varieties. Californian avocados have higher fat content and are therefore richer than those grown in Florida, and Hass and Fuerte have the most traditional taste and texture. Ripe avocados should yield to gentle pressure, but should not have "valleys," which are a sign of rotting. Ripe Hass avocados are very dark green to black, while Fuerte generally do not pass the dark green stage.

Onions, which are used in making guacamole.
Onions, which are used in making guacamole.
Guacamole typically includes chopped tomatoes.
Guacamole typically includes chopped tomatoes.
Limes are a basic ingredient used in making guacamole.
Limes are a basic ingredient used in making guacamole.
Some cooks mix salsa into their guacamole to make a spicy, robust dip.
Some cooks mix salsa into their guacamole to make a spicy, robust dip.

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Discussion Comments

Perdido

@Oceana – I love guacamole inside of shrimp tacos. It's a great filler, and it makes everything moist, too.

I think it is so satisfying because it contains fat and calories. The more fattening something is, the more appealing its flavor, usually.

Oceana

My favorite Mexican restaurant gives customers a choice between salsa or guacamole, and I always go with guacamole. It contains so many flavors that I love.

Cumin is distinctly Mexican, and it is one of the predominant flavors in guacamole. Also, the cilantro comes through rather strongly.

I've had guacamole inside of tacos before, and it was so delicious. It can make regular grilled chicken into something very special and flavorful.

feasting

I love guacamole dip with tortilla chips. If I have any left over, I just refrigerate it promptly.

After many meals, I let my dogs clean my plate, but since guacamole contains avocado, I make sure they don't get anywhere near it. Avocados can kill a dog.

David09

@everetra - My favorite guacamole recipe involves mixing it with red onions, cilantro, chilies, pepper and salt and tomatoes to taste. I could eat this stuff all day (even though I know I shouldn’t).

everetra

@elfi64 - Guacamole can be used for just about anything. I once ate at an Asian restaurant where they served a guacamole beverage laced with chocolate syrup. It was absolutely delicious, but no doubt loaded with calories.

It has both good and bad fat, and doesn’t have the amount of fiber you would get with other vegetables. Eat in moderation.

elfi64

Guacamole is an absolute delight, but loaded in calories, so one can enjoy it in limited quantities. Unless you substitute something else for part of the avocados. Frozen, pureed lima beans seem to do the trick. You will reduce some of the fat and calories and not loose on flavor.

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