Avocado

We Tried the Avocado Mac 'N Cheese the Internet Can't Stop Talking About

August 22, 2017

The internet—that digital sinkhole, a waiting room for articles, pictures, stories, interviews, recipes. We surf blithely, as its shadowy peripheries remain mysteries to us. Last night, I found myself face to face with a late-stage mutation of millennial gastronomic fascinations: a recipe for Avocado Mac ‘n Cheese.

Originally conceived of in 2015 by Nicole Iizuka of PopSugar food, the recipe presents itself as a healthy, avocado-laden take on the comfort food favorite. And while the cheesy pasta is known—and allowed—to take many forms, this version incensed online audiences when it manifested as a recipe video on Glow by PopSugar’s Facebook page over the weekend. Twitter users took to the platform to defend the integrity of their favorite cheesy childhood snack or decry the seemingly boundless limits of the contemporary avocado moment. Food media responded accordingly, documenting the frenzy and pondering the integrity of the recipe. So like a brave Spartan, I preheated my oven and set sail to pay a visit to this creamy green Helen of Troy, this baffling recipe that launched a thousand tweets.

The recipe for “Comforting Avocado Mac ‘n Cheese” is simple. 12 ingredients total. I had half of the ingredients in my house, so I headed to the grocery store to finish stocking my mise en place. It was at the avocado display that things first went awry. I asked a fellow shopper what she thought about the recipe. Would she try it? Does it sound like a good idea? Our hands darted around the tender green fruits, squeezing the rough skins in search of a perfect mushy give. She gave me a look that balanced between disgust and incredulity. Why? She mused. Why does that have to exist? "I like my mac and cheese with cheese and I like my avocado on toast." I nodded in sympathetic agreement. She wished me luck, she laughed, and we parted ways.

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Back in my kitchen, ingredients in tow, I set out to bring this recipe to reality. With diligence, I toasted almond flour in coconut oil and set that aside. Meanwhile, I brought my pasta water to a boil. In my Magic Bullet (shout out to my favorite kitchen appliance), I combined two whole soft avocados, basil, lime juice, some goat cheese, a clove of garlic, and red pepper flakes. The recipe calls for a splash of skim milk, but I used whole because I don’t believe in skim milk. What came out of my blender was a creamy, tangy, avocado mousse. It was strange, but not sickening; a fluffy soft smoothie the consistency of yogurt. After draining my pasta, I folded in the green puree, sprinkled it with mozzarella cheese and the toasted almond flour, and popped it in the oven.

Not enough cheese! Photo by Valerio Farris

As it cooked, I rewatched the recipe video, which said that avocado is “a healthier substitute for cheese.” A small semantic unpacking of that statement would reveal that yes, in many ways, avocado is healthier than cheese, but no, avocado is not a substitute. Cheese is cheese, while avocado is a fruit. It’s an alternative perhaps, but in no way is it a substitute. Call me a traditionalist; I’ll just shrug my shoulders and agree with you.

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Top Comment:
“One of the best soups I've ever had was a cold cucumber soup where, after the cucumber-onion mix was cooked & cooled, avocado was blended into the mix. Then it was topped with shredded chicken. Perfection. As a beginner cook I thought, "This would be even more awesome warm!" Nope. Not.”
— EmmyLoop
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I pulled the pan out of the oven and called out to my roommate. She shuffled out of her room and begrudgingly took her plate. Her apprehension did not bode well for the rest of our dinner. We dusted our plates with salt and pepper and took our first bites. To be friendly, the meal was earthy; to be honest, it tasted like dirt. The recipe called for whole wheat pasta, which only magnified the musky depth of the avocado. Cooked avocado is a rarity for a reason: the heat renders the fruit’s refreshing flesh mushy. The creamy tang of the goat cheese, while a bright addition, did little to satisfy an urge for cheese. And the scantily grated mozzarella on top created few, if any, gooey cheese strings. The salty comfort of mac and cheese was nowhere to be tasted. In its place was a decent, at best, plate of whole wheat elbow pasta, with a moussey sauce that kind of gathered around the pasta’s ridges.

Maybe it was a branding problem. Maybe I wanted mac and cheese and got something different. Maybe I was too caught off guard by the unconventional approach to a beloved cafeteria favorite to make space for this lower-calorie version. But maybe the recipe was also bad. And maybe avocado, blended, was never meant to adorn pasta.

Quite the hue. Photo by Valerio Farris

So, I finally arrived. I docked my ship on the shores of this recipe’s coast, brazen, bewildered and hungry. I blended and baked and tasted. And then I left, full, a little annoyed, and probably none the wiser.

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26 Comments

Linda P. August 27, 2017
I make a great pasta dish on those nights when nothing has been planned and I have to rely on what's there. Cooked pasta, cubed avocado, rocket from the garden, salami or ham or whatever I can find, 2-3 pesto cubes (I freeze home made pesto in summer in ice cube trays), some halved baby tomatoes and a glug of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Topped with grated parmesan it always hits the spot. Oh yes and maybe a crushed clove of garlic.
 
Kim K. August 25, 2017
Avocado pasta is a favorite of my family, but we don't cook the avocado! Toss hot pasta with an avocado that has been puréed with lemon juice, basil, garlic. Top with Parmesan. Doesn't make the avocado taste like something it's not, does make a nice creamy pasta sauce that is healthier than alfredo.
 
ReneP. August 25, 2017
That sounds good, too! We'll have to try that this year. We're going to have more avocados than we'll know what to do with, once they get a little bigger.
 
Sydne N. August 27, 2017
I make a slightly similar dish to Kim but I don't even puree the avocado, I just slice it thinly. I fear the air that gets mixed in during the pureeing process also turns the green color to that unappetizing shade more quickly, although the acidity of the lemon might help (I toss the sliced avocado in lemon juice). Beard on Pasta actually includes a recipe for avocado pasta dough but I've never been willing to try it...
 
ReneP. August 25, 2017
I have two loaded avocado trees in my back yard, and am always looking for new things to do with them, but baking avocados into "mac & cheese" never crossed my mind! I see now there is a good reason why it has never crossed my mind, so thanks for forewarning other avocado lovers.
 
tamater S. August 25, 2017
If you have too many avocados to use, perhaps you could donate some to a soup kitchen or food bank? <br />Also, have you heard of avocado chocolate mousse? I had some once, and it was pretty good.
 
ReneP. August 25, 2017
That's a good idea, although we do give away a ton of them to friends, neighbors, and co-workers all through our "avocado season". Last year we found a recipe that used avocado in chocolate chip cookies, (in place of half of the butter), and they were pretty good, but we haven't tried making a chocolate mousse with them yet. We'll have to try that this year.
 
asbrink August 24, 2017
Avocado actually makes a decent pasta sauce mashed up with salt, garlic, and a bit of lime juice--a really simple guac, NOT heated up. Add just enough pasta water to make it creamy and stir it into pasta. Chili flakes and maybe some parm to finish, though I usually don't even bother with the cheese. Seriously not half bad.<br />But this baked stuff is mad weird.
 
EmmyLoop August 24, 2017
It's either avocado or pasta. Putting them together is just "overthinking" food. And as for warm avocado? One of the best soups I've ever had was a cold cucumber soup where, after the cucumber-onion mix was cooked & cooled, avocado was blended into the mix. Then it was topped with shredded chicken. Perfection. As a beginner cook I thought, "This would be even more awesome warm!" Nope. Not.
 
Lynda N. August 24, 2017
I don't know why it is that people will forward and share recipes that they have never tried themselves. Thank you for critiquing this recipe for all so we don't have to wonder if we should have tried it!
 
EmmyLoop August 24, 2017
Yep<br />
 
Fifa A. August 23, 2017
Avocado and pasta COULD go well if, you're NOT baking the avocado. And use melted butter for mashed avo (I prefer mashed, not mousse). Delicious with prawn topping.
 
Liz B. August 23, 2017
Avocado and pasta are a great combination when the former is raw, processed with basil/mint/cilantro, garlic, lemon, and olive oil (credit to Oh She Glows for the original recipe); the end result is creamy and rich. Cooked avocado tends to turn mushy, and loses its flavor. That being said, deep-fried avocado is amazing; because the heat barely (if at all) reaches the core of the slices, it retains its texture and flavor. Some Tex-Mex places put deep fried avocados in tacos or stuff them with chicken - so good!
 
[email protected] August 22, 2017
Thank you for trying so we don't have to!
 
Joni August 27, 2017
Definitely 😖
 
VanessaJo August 22, 2017
Definitely not the only one.
 
VanessaJo August 22, 2017
Sorry, that was meant to be a reply to Olivia Bloom.
 
Anthony August 22, 2017
Whatever
 
Olivia B. August 22, 2017
There's something about warm avocado that grosses me out. Am I the only one?
 
annmartina August 22, 2017
No. There's something about the texture of warm avocado that even thinking about it makes me feel like gagging
 
Azora Z. August 22, 2017
yes. it feels incredibly unappetizing.
 
ArizonaBorn August 22, 2017
As much as I love avocado - warm avocado - i.e., cooked avocado - seems like the worst thing ever! Description in the article clearly describes what I believe in my heart.<br />
 
Spork August 22, 2017
deep fried avocado is amazing though
 
ArizonaBorn August 23, 2017
I have considered trying deep fried avocado . . .
 
amanda R. August 23, 2017
Agreed, deep fried avocado is fantastic! I had it on a taco in Austin and I think of it often.
 
EmmyLoop August 24, 2017
Hard to describe warm avocado: salty? metallic even? Sum ting wong.