Guaranteed to disappear the minute it's served. Scroll to the bottom for detailed Notes with everything you need to know to achieve guacamole awesomeness in your kitchen.
2 medium Haas avocados (see notes)
½ teaspoon coarse salt (or half this amount if using table salt), plus more to taste if needed
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste if needed
3 Tablespoons minced white onion (see notes)
Minced cilantro leaves and stems to taste (see notes)
About a Tablespoon of minced jalapeno or serrano chile, or to taste (see notes)
1. Halve the avocados, remove the pits and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Add the salt and lime juice, and mash with a fork into a lumpy mass. Stir in the onions, cilantro and chiles – you can either add them all at once, or a little at a time if you’re concerned about it getting too spicy. (The spiciness of individual chiles can vary quite a bit – see notes.)
2. Taste and adjust things as needed: you may want another pinch or two of salt, an extra splash of lime, more chiles or cilantro, depending on the size of your avocados and other factors. And if you’re serving the guacamole with chips, taste it with a chip to be sure you don’t over-salt it.
Where to begin? (I’m an Arizona gal, so I’ve got a few things to say here.)
When I moved to New Jersey, I was shocked to realize that if not made properly, it’s quite possible your guacamole might taste terrible! (No offense, Jersey friends. I love you!) My neighbor (who is from Texas, so should know) says he thinks it's because some people don't take guacamole seriously enough.
Whatever it is, I'm here to help.
Here’s a clue: if your guacamole does not vanish into your guests’ mouths the minute you put it out, it’s probably not great. Properly-made guacamole is so delicious, it’s physically impossible to stop eating it. The only problem with serving it at a party is that it’s just about impossible to make enough. It goes FAST. And people will beg you for your recipe, as if there is some magic secret ingredient they've been missing.
You and I both know there's no secret trick or special ingredient. Just care and love. (And tastebuds help.)
This is one of those recipes where you’ve really got to be in touch with your ingredients to get things just right. Every single ingredient in guacamole can vary from day to day or store to store, so please don’t just slavishly follow the recipe. Get to know your specific ingredients before you start: smell your cilantro to find out how strong it is; taste a smidge of jalapeno to know how spicy it is; notice the size of your avocados and their pits, to decide if you'll need to pare back some other ingredients if they're on the small side. All of these things can change the outcome.
Avocados: for classic Mexican guacamole flavor, you’ll want Haas. They’re the ones with the dark, bumpy skin. If at all possible, I buy them several days ahead of time when they’re still bright green, and let them ripen on the counter. When they’re ready, you can transfer them to the fridge and they’ll keep for another several days, as long as they’re not cut open. If your avocados are smallish, use 3 instead of the 2 I call for. For more avocado dos and don’ts (and some fun facts on guacamole history), check out this post from a cooking class I taught a few years ago.
Onions: I’ve heard home cooks (ahem, New Jersey) say that guacamole should only be made with red onions. I'm not sure where this comes from - I never saw red onions in guacamole growing up in Arizona, and can’t recall seeing any red onions in my guac on my recent trip to Mexico. That said, I do think they’re pretty, so if you’d like to use them, feel free!
I’ve also heard fancy-pants chefs (ahem, Rick Bayless) encourage you to rinse your onions in cold water before adding them. Apparently, this will tame the bite (or something). I'm certainly not going to pick a fight with Rick Bayless (!), but I'm here to tell you I have never done this. Ever. For one thing, wet onions are going to add lots of water to my guacamole, which I absolutely do not want. For another, the onions in guacamole are completely ensconced and immersed in creamy avocado goodness. I have never noticed any unpleasant onion "bite" in my guacamole, and my guests gobble it up.
I've called for white onions here because I think that's traditional, but for some reason, my local Whole Foods never has white onions! (Why???) So I regularly make this with yellow Spanish onions, and again, in the midst of all that guacamole, onions are indistinguishable. So use whatever you have access to - as long as it's not Vidalia or some other sweet onion!
Cilantro: Freshly-harvested cilantro is powerfully fragrant. If you're growing your own cilantro on the back porch, you don't need much. It will seriously stand up and demand attention. If you buy it straight from the farmer at a farmers market and use it that very day, it will be almost as strong. However, if you bought your cilantro from the grocery store a week ago, and the roots were not left intact, you might want to use up to half a bunch for this recipe. Cilantro loses potency quickly, so by the time you come across it in the produce aisle at your grocery store, it's probably already at half-strength. It will retain its potency longer if the roots are kept intact, so if it's sold that way that's a good sign. I call for cilantro "to taste" so that you'll let your cilantro - not me - tell you how much to use.
The other thing about cilantro is that the stems are at least as flavorful as the leaves, if not more. So by all means, use the stems too! There are lots of situations in which you might only want to use the leaves of an herb, but this is not one of them. I mince up the leaves and stems together and add them all in. (But to sprinkle on top, I use the minced leaves without stems, just because I think it's prettier.)
Chiles: The heat of individual chiles can vary significantly, so I generally taste a tiny bit to know what I'm dealing with. If tasting raw chiles scares you, you can just add the chiles a little at a time to your guacamole and taste as you go. Some jalapenos are so mild that I might add an entire chile (or more!) to this recipe. Others are very strong, and I might only use a half or a fourth of the chile. I call for "about a Tablespoon" because in general that's roughly where I usually end up, but again, it can vary quite a bit.
The other thing is how to mince the chiles: They should be minced into the smallest pieces you can manage. The idea is that little flecks of heat are distributed throughout the guacamole, rather than large chunks that slap you in the face as you eat.
The other part about mincing is whether to include the pith (white parts inside) and seeds. I do, and I recommend you do as well. American chefs sometimes advise that we remove the pith and seeds and use what's left, but I think this comes from a time when Americans were afraid of heat. It's true that the heat is concentrated in the pith and seeds, but the flavor is too. So I recommend you mince everything up together. If you want your guacamole to be mild, just use less.
So there you have it - everything I can think of to help you make the most delicious guacamole anyone has ever tasted. Good luck!! And, let me know in the comments how it turns out!