Genius Recipes

Guacamole Gets Even Better, Thanks to This Genius Move

And the crowd goes wild.

May 21, 2019

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we’re revisiting the column’s Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)

Today: How to make an even better guacamole.

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It's pretty hard to make a bad guacamole. Unless you use an unyielding avocado or a colorless tomato, people will always like you more if you bring guacamole to the party. 

By willingly tasting as you go (and obviously, that is what you will be doing), there are endless ways to land on your own best combination of tang, salt, and spice.

But who says you can't learn to make an even better one? Can you be even more popular at the party? No one, and yes.


The guacamole recipes in life tend to fall into two categories: 

The Chunk: You chop up onion, chile, cilantro, maybe garlic, maybe tomato, then stir the avocado all around it, so you stumble on crunches of sweet or hot as you go. It's a bit like you've hidden pico de gallo in your otherwise plain avocado. 

The Blend (a.k.a. The Tableside): You start by pummeling your flavorful ingredients (in a molcajete, if you're really serious), then grind the avocado in too. Everything usually becomes one creamy, well-blended mass. Then chips go in it.

Both are good; both disappear quickly. I'm still going to tell you about a third method, one that I heard about from both Food52er LLStone and Caitlin Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee. Freeman called it "the best guacamole I’ve had in my life (from my hands or the hands of any other)." It skates between The Chunk and The Blend, and it might change the way you think about guacamole.


The technique comes from Roberto Santibañez' Truly Mexican, a contender for our 2012 Piglet trophy. (Just so you know, there are 75 pages of salsas and guacamoles in there, all of them bookmark-worthy.)

It's in his Classic Guacamole that Santibañez takes the traditional ideal for guacamole from his native Mexico and defines it for modern American kitchens, using everyday tools. Amanda's pretty, but rather impractical, mortar and pestle might not look like your everyday tools—don't worry, you have other options. 

What Santibañez wants cooks to realize, he told me, is this: "There is a very important textural thing to guacamole—we never really mush up the avocado. You want to feel everything."

In his recipe, the ingredients are what you'd expect; he just handles them differently. With a mortar and pestle, or the side of a big knife, or even a fork, he first pulverizes chile, onion, cilantro, and salt into a bright green slurry, then gently folds in cubed avocado. 

He crushes only enough of the avocado to warrant it consideration as a dip rather than a salad, but leaves the rest of the cubes intact, bathing them in the vividly flavored chile sauce, "a bit like salad properly dressed in vinaigrette," he writes. 

More chopped cilantro and (optional) lime juice finish it off, and you have a dip that ignites as it first hits your tongue, then cools as you break through each lump of clean, creamy avocado. The star gets to shine alone, but still party with its friends.

Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole

Adapted slightly from Truly Mexican (Wiley, 2011)

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, including seeds, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted 
A squeeze of lime, if desired

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • johnaka
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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


johnaka August 9, 2019
Instead of adding lime, I add the drained liquid from cut tomatoes and cucumbers and a big helping of pomegranate molasses. It adds a complex sour and sweet that pairs nicely with the rich avocado. With some freshly ground cumin, cilantro, and the cucumber/tomato mixture, it makes a substantial if not messy bruschetta.
Laura D. May 27, 2019
I had my first Guacamole about 60 years ago and was hooked from the first bite. I lived in Texas for 10 years and had many variations all over the State. The recipe I rely on uses minced scallions and peeled, seeded, finely diced fresh tomatoes (1 ea for 2 avocados); the avocado is both cubed and randomly mashed with a fork; to increase the creaminess, I add a couple tablespoons of salad oil along with the lime or lemon juice.

The most interesting Guacamole I've eaten had a goodly amount of finely grated celery in it - this intensified the color as well as added a healthy crunch and extended the quantity of dip for a crowd.
Katherine K. May 26, 2019
I will enjoy trying this recipe. One of the things I love about guacamole is I love the texture that non-mortared minced onion and jalapeño bring to the dish. I also add minced garlic, chipotle powder as well as switching out the jalapeño for Fresno.
Sue W. May 24, 2019
Hard to believe something so simple could be so good. Everyone raved about this stupidly simple recipe. I guess less is more. Thanks!
Tashipluto May 23, 2019
I've been making this guac for years (Thanks to the Genius cookbook!) and it has really burnished my reputation as the person who makes the BEST guacamole!
may May 23, 2019
Thank you for this one. I made it yesterday and was so excited and so surprised. Everything was as the video portrayed on youtube. A wonderful way to remove the pit, and a wonderful fresh preparation. I nearly overate, ok, I did overeat it. It was perfect.
Mary May 22, 2019
Don't mean to be a spoiler , but I don't go crazy over guacamole. One way or the other. I eat my avocado straighy, by the slice, several slices with every meal, when I have it. I never make guacamole because I think that dilutes the avocado flavor and creaminess.. It is enjoyable plain and adapts to any food, breakfast, lunch or dinner. I am from Jamaica where we have the Simmons variety which is three times the size of Hass and the flavor is more intense. I have always planned to make guacamole but never have extra fruit to try. Glad I am not the only one that dislikes cilantro. I am trying my best to acquire the taste, a little at a time. Trader Joe's has a good creamy guacamole (two packages in a sleeve) with lots of garlic. I am not a chips person but I have tried it for entertaining. Very good. Maybe someday I will make my own and try this one. Sounds good.
eugeniamarcus July 7, 2021
The issue with cilantro is genetic. People who have this particular genetic trait hate cilantro. It has an awful taste for them. My husband is one of them. So I never use cilantro in anything that he is destined to eat. So it has nothing to do with the cook, but everything to do with the genes.
Holly May 22, 2019
WOW! Got to get this cookbook! I actually learned something about guacamole today! Food52 Rocks!
Robert May 22, 2019
Has great texture I will give it a try but still enjoy the chunkiness of the tomatoes, onion,cilantro and a dab of cottage cheese,I use lemon instead of lime
Woofgang May 22, 2019
Interesting, I've never tried it with lemon and I have no idea why, I LOVE lemon. Another "must try" adds. Thanks!
Beth May 22, 2019
Personally, I prefer the basic NM guacamole: perfectly ripe avocados mashed with a pastry cutter, salt, lime juice, chopped tomato and chopped green chile, preferably from Hatch. No onion, garlic, or, heaven forbid! cilantro!
Sergio May 22, 2019
I go back and forth about adding tomatoes. I don't think it's authentic Mexican, but I guess you can add whatever you like. That's the beauty of cooking.
Smaug May 22, 2019
There are approximately 47,000,000 authentic Mexican recipes for guacamole. Mexican cooks are pragmatic, they use what they have to make what they like.
Dnavarro May 22, 2019
Can't wait to make it.mmm
Emily May 22, 2019
I have always made my guacamole by hand - literally! I just squeeze the avocados through my impeccably clean fingers, and I find this is the best way for me to gauge the texture that is desired, optimally a mix of smooth with chunks. Add salt, lime, and ground cumin et voila!
nildy May 22, 2019
You are correct, he did say he didn’t invent the recipe. But rather that it was possibly thousands of years old. So no, he is not reinventing the wheel. Still there is some wealth of knowledge to be gained here. At least there was for me.
Especially to those who are averse or have friends who are averse to cilantro, but also for those who over blend the avocado (guilty!)...It’s easy to do.
Woofgang May 22, 2019
Some of the comments are a bit disappointing. I think Mr. Santibanez made it very clear he didn't invent the recipe, he's just showing us how a classic guacamole has been made for many, many years. I have never considered making the cilantro, onions, jalapeno and salt ahead of time (that alone is genius) or making it almost like a pesto to mix. My question is, has anyone tried doing that with a food processor? I have a mini which I think would work well with minimal number of pulses. I'll try it, but curious to know if anyone else has done this. Of course, a large pestle and mortar offers a beautiful presentation so it may be better to stick with that method anyway. Thanks for an old take on guacamole!
TMc May 22, 2019
For about 5 years now, I’ve been zipping up my onion, jalapeños, lime juice and salt together in my food processor then blend it into the avocado/cilantro by hand. I find processing everything kills and bruises the delicate avocado and cilantro texture. “If” I add tomatoes, they get deseeded and folded in. I just don’t care for them in my guac. The onion slurry has been amazing on up’g my guac game. No harsh raw onion pieces to alter the texture but the taste is still there. I do like a rougher cut of jalapeño at the end, too. More of a garnish to let others know it is in there.
Sergio May 22, 2019
Woofgang, you can use a mini food processor if you'd like but what you get with a pestle and mortar is more control. Anytime you use a food processor or blender, especially if it's high end you create friction and heat (have you ever prepared and cooked hot soup directly in a Vitamix? It's awesome!). In some cases, you'll change the flavor profile of herbs because of that. Now if you're carefully pulsing and paying attention to what you're doing I'm sure you can get away with using a food processor. A pestle and mortar will also give you more control over the texture. It really comes down to how picky you want to be when it comes to technique.
Woofgang May 22, 2019
Yes, I should have been more clear - I was thinking about the pre-mix (everything but the avocado) being made in the food processor! Your comment makes a lot of sense, I agree that the avocado would turn to mush!
Ameena May 22, 2019
I honestly don't see what's different or special about this recipe....also, I use a potato masher to mash my avocados and that gives quite a bit of mixed texture...
nildy May 22, 2019
Mind blown! The cilantro stems help counteract the cilantro “soapiness” flavor!?! The paste is genius.. Yes on the lime, in my opinion. Also saw suggestions to add cucumber. I think this would add texture by way of crunch as well as bright freshness. Great for summertime. I love this and will definitely try it.
WyoGal May 22, 2019
Always remember MANY dislike cilantro. If you have a particular gene, it tastes like soap! Personally, this El Paso gal much prefers very simple guacamole: a bit of garlic and perfect avocados. Period.
patricia G. May 22, 2019
Interesting. I hit upon the chunky approach years ago, except I scoop out irregular avocado chunks so there are thin edges that will melt into creaminess as you toss the chunks with crushed cumin, chili, cilantro, salt, and a squeeze of lime juice. I usually add a nib of garlic and sometimes a pinch of Mexican oregano which deepens the flavor. Once the chunky mix is tossed, I sprinkle a mix of finely diced tomato, onion, and --for crunch -- green bell pepper over the top. And more chopped cilantro. I like cilantro.
michele L. May 22, 2019
Love this recipe but where can I get the flat, white ceramic mortar and pestle? Looks like something from the MOMA...
Matt May 23, 2019
The Moma does have an online store. I've bought a few kitchen things from them before. It's worth a shot just to see if they have it.
mm May 31, 2019
Smaug May 21, 2019
Don't see anything new to this recipe- a lot of people use various methods to mash as much or as little of the avocado as they desire (I use a balloon whisk), and certainly dressing a cubed avocado is not exactly revolutionary. By the way, for the lazy or rushed, mixing a good Pico de Gallo (Salsa Mexicana) with avocado makes a pretty respectable guacamole.