how to make guacamole

All photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman (click them to go to her site)

This is not just a guacamole recipe and preparation, it’s a broader lesson about aromatics and acid and using seasonal foods.  It’s avocado season, so they’re really good now!  And they will be all summer long.  Avocados are one of my favorite fruits; they’re kind of like butter, a ready made sauce—all you have to do is adjust texture and add flavors.

I recently offered this mortar and pestle to followers on OpenSky (more on OpenSky here), and it makes a gorgeous service piece in addition to being a practical cooking tool.  I mash garlic and salt to a paste, then add minced shallot (yes shallots!). Then I add lime juice.

This is one of those great all-purpose techniques I use in many preparations, from mayo to vinaigrettes. First, the juice dissolves the salt so that it can distribute easily throughout the creamy or fatty environment (salt has a hard time dissolving in fat).  But most important, macerating the garlic and shallot in acid for ten minutes eliminates all their harsh qualities, leaving only their sweetness and flavor. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle or the traditional molcajete, you can mash the garlic with a knife of put it through a press—I don’t have a problem with garlic presses if you remove the germ first.  Then add salt shallot and lime juice.)

The rest is just a matter of mashing in the avocado—I use a fork because I like the uneven texture, but you can also use a pestle—adding tomato for color (it’s April, they’re still not the best, but you can elevate them by salting them ahead of time), and seasoning with more salt and lime as needed, garnishing with cilantro.


  • 2 cloves garlic, halved, germs removed
  • kosher salt (a solid three fingers full), and more to taste
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice from 1 to 2 limes
  • 3 avocados
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and tiny diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  1. Mash the garlic with the salt in the mortar till it’s a paste (or add it crushed or finely minced to a bowl).

    A pestle turns the garlic and salt to a paste in moments.

  2. Add the shallots and the juice of a lime and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, so that the lime juice can do its business on the garlic and shallot and continue to dissolve the salt.  Cut the the avocados in half.  Remove the seed by firmly tapping the blade of your knife into the seed, then twisting to release it from the fruit.  Scoop the avocado into the mortar or bowl.  Mash it with a fork or the pestle.

    Notice the shallots nicely macerating in the lime juice

  3. Fold in the tomatoes (see photo at top), taste, season with more lime juice (it probably needs it), the cilantro, more salt if necessary.

    A fork makes a great reamer for citrus.

  4. Serve with tortillas or use it to top some tacos or a burger. Or just about anything.

    I like casual and so just spread the chips around the mortar on the board.

Donna and I and the kids devoured this and then weren’t even hungry for dinner so this is recipe is enough for eight normal people or four piglets, such as ourselves.

If you liked this post on making guacamole, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.