How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

January 27, 2014

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often

Today: Don't settle for inferior versions -- the guac of your dreams is just around the corner.

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Having grown up in Texas, I learned that certain things are truly sacred, and Tex-Mex is definitely one of them. Really good guacamole is creamy, a little spicy, and perfectly seasoned. It's delicious on enchiladas, in fajitas, or all on its own with nothing but a bag of tortilla chips to shuttle vast amounts into your mouth

It is easy to make, but for reasons I don't completely understand, many people are intimidated by it, and either settle for inferior guac, or worse, buy those packages of powdered I-don’t-know-what grocery stores sell in the produce section. 

The trick, my friend, is pick up all fresh, quality ingredients and let them shine, melding into the perfect scoopable party food. It’s way healthier and darn tastier, too.

How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

1. Roast a jalapeño over an open flame -- a gas stove and a metal kabob skewer are perfect for this. If you are going to use a wood skewer, do soak it first so that it doesn't catch fire. Let the jalapeño cool before handling.


2. Cut up a couple fresh avocados -- 2, 3, 4, depending on how many you’re feeding -- and mush them with a potato masher or fork in a bowl until still creamy but slightly chunky.


3. Add in some diced red onion, diced tomato (optional and best during the summer when in season), the zest and juice of a lime, a couple cloves of minced garlic, and a good bunch of chopped cilantro.


4. Once the jalapeño is cool, deseed it, chop it, and throw that into the guac party.


5. Add a little salt, and give it a taste. Depending on how much heat the jalapeño has, I sometimes add a bit of Greek yogurt to cool it off. 


6. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the dip to keep from browning, and place in the fridge for half an hour to let the flavors get to know each other before serving. It's fine to refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, but make sure to give everything a good stir if it's been much longer than that to help preserve the color.


7. Unless you like your guac ice-cold, let it sit out for about fifteen minutes before serving.

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • PWT
  • gasgirl
  • marsiamarsia
  • Sammy
  • Donna Lewis
    Donna Lewis
A native Texan, I enjoy escaping the chill of New England, if only in my imagination, often setting my novels in the places I loved growing up. I live in Connecticut where I am also an artist, a self-proclaimed music snob, and recovering Dr. Pepper addict.


PWT September 8, 2015
I totally agree about Ron's nasty comments. There are enough sites out on the web that allow this kind of juvenile behavior. I had hoped Food52 would not be one of them, but they have allowed his comments to remain, so...
gasgirl September 8, 2015
marsiamarsia...you are so right...this site ought not be nasty and Ron's comment are a sarcastic and mean! He even throws in a comment about being Republican! He should find another site to criticize!
marsiamarsia September 8, 2015
Oops. I wrote "je-n'est-çe-pas" earlier, but I meant "je-ne-sais-pas flavor."
I also have to say this: the responses below by Ron Svetgoff to my comments, and to those of leslie, are the first mean-spirited, sarcastic responses I have ever read on this website. I hope that Food52 will take steps to make sure this website will remain a friendly forum for the exchange of ideas on cooking, without people being viciously lambasted on a personal level for their opinions. Neither leslie nor I deserve that kind of verbal abuse, nor does anyone who is sincerely trying to contribute to the Comments on FOOD52.
Sammy September 7, 2015
I must be genetically defective cuz I hate most of these - Cilantro, Jalapeno, Coriander, Cumin - and use minced onion & minced garlic VERY sparingly in ANYTHING! MY RECIPE for Guacamole is on the back of those packets you get in the veggie section of the grocery store - haven't made it for a while, so don't remember what goes in - just buy 1 envelope of Mild, and 1 envelope of Spicy & mix it together with 4 (I think) Avocado's and whatever else (except for all of the above) it says on the packets!! I've had people tell me it's not too mild & not too spicy - the BEST they've ever had!!! I also have to say that I agree Mexicans keep it more mild to offset the hotter/spicier dishes - cuz other than my own, the next best is what we get in Mexico at a bordertown about once a month!! Their's is more mild than spicy. Fyi - I do the same with hummus - 1 container of Roasted Garlic & one container of Classic (or mild) - mix both together for a just-right dip with Pita bread!
Donna L. August 6, 2015
I live Hawaii and we use cilantro for a lot of local dishes, except we call it Chinese parsley. I also use it in my turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whoa, the buggah broke the mout' Ono.
Ron S. August 6, 2015
Wow, Leslie, you graduated from what med. school? Because half the population hates the taste of the vile, bitter herb that cilantro is, we have a genetic defect, yes? You are really saying that? You must be a stay at home house mom with insecurity issues. This is a post about guacamole and how people make it with different ingredients. Get over yourself Leslie, no one is complaining, we are merely giving our opinions. Geez, because you live "amongst" Indians, you are an expert, and their culture uses cilantro, and the reset of us are stupid and ignorant because we don't put a weed in our guac! Really Leslie. I'm going to my Dr. today and ask him to treat me for "dislike Cilantro desease". Most of us call it DCD. I pray there is a cure for me and the others that despise the taste. Once again, its my opinion Dr. Leslie. Your post might be the most idiotic post I have ever read. They are opinions Leslie. But thank you for diagnosing my genetic defect.
leslie August 6, 2015
let's get past this cilantro (coriander in Europe and India and Asia) argument. There has been recent findings that for those that find the taste of cilantro "soapy" or disgusting there is a genetic factor involved. So if you don't like it, get rid of it, but stop complaining. In my book, you simply have a small, genetic defect. Did I say? I love cilantro -- and living in England amongst so many Indians, there is nothing more fabulous then fresh coriander chutney to accompany Indian food (or to eat on chips or in a pinch add to Mexican dishes!)
marsiamarsia August 5, 2015
I hasten to add that if I'm making guacamole from scratch, I omit hot peppers and go easy on the onion. Guacamole in authentic Mexican restaurants (owned, run, and cooked by real Mexicans) is not spicy; it's smooth, creamy, and mild to offset the heat in other dishes eaten at the same meal. I believe that's why cultures known for spicy food have at least one dish (or spice) that acts as a counterbalance to their hot peppers; for Mexican food, it's guacamole and cilantro. IMO.

FYI to Ron Svetgoff: Although there is an ongoing battle between Americans who like and don't like cilantro, cilantro is a staple ingredient of Mexican cooking! I didn't like this herb when I first tasted it, but after eating it twice, I now can't get enough of it. (I'm talking about fresh cilantro.) Ground coriander tastes nothing at all like fresh cilantro.
Ron S. August 5, 2015
Marcia, if you read my post, I actually gave you a compliment for using Pace when making guac. But you just couldn't help yourself and felt compelled to give me a lecture on guacamole and cilantro. Thank you mom. Can I have an opinion, marsia? Or I guess my "opinion" is wrong. Glad you have tasted cilantro twice, my god you are now an expert and should have your own cooking show on TV! I have been picking cilantro off my enchiladas in Dallas for the last 30 years. I don't like the vile, bitter, herb. Its a weed to most of us in Texas, so please, no more lectures from the expert on cilantro who has tasted it twice. My god, you must be a republican, yes? Thought so.
Ron S. August 5, 2015
marciamarcia, I thought I was the only one to use Pace's picante sauce in my guac! However, I draw the line at cilantro. It is a vile, tasteless, weed! Its horrible in any form!
copywolf September 17, 2014
Agree re garlic in guacamole. Serious yuck. But the more lime and cilantro, the better.
marsiamarsia May 1, 2014
I live in Austin, Texas, and a coworker once showed me the easy, fast way to make guacamole: to the mashed avocado, add some chunky picante sauce (she used Pace's). I like the "mild," but you might prefer "spicy" picante sauce. Adding this takes care of the tomato, onion, and jalapeño in one easy step. Besides lemon or lime juice, I like to add a dash of ground coriander for that mysterious, je-n'est-çe-pas extra flavor. Even people who hate cilantro (same as coriander) like the taste of ground coriander in guacamole, I kid you not.
Brenda April 27, 2014
I was born and raised in Texas! I can't tell you how many different ways I have had guacamole.Mostly from transplant people! It is so simple to make! First no cilantro! We use lemon instead of lime. The lemon keeps it from turning dark! You use minced red onion,1/2 of minced garlic,1/2 a can of drained rotel(the hot one), you can also add jalpeno if you want. Mash together.There you have it.If you want a little creamer use 1/4 cup of salad dressing. I always add cumin to this dressing.
SusanMurie April 27, 2014
I strongly disagree about the use of garlic in guacamole! I find it overpowers all other flavors. I look to Diana Kennedy for great Mexican recipes and hers doesn't have it. Avocado, lime, finely chopped onion, jalpeno or serrano pepper, a bit of cilantro, salt. I love the idea of adding some lime zest. I only add a little tomato, in summer, that has been squeezed of all the water and seeds.
Edgar H. February 20, 2014
Try adding a dash of chicken bouillon instead of salt. It adds another layer that compliments the freshness of the ingredients.
Cookie16 February 18, 2014
Everytime I forget what to include in my guac, I think to the trusty Trader Joe's Guac kit to get me started: Avocado, tomato, lime, jalapeño, shallot, and garlic. Cilantro added if I happen to have it on hand.
Caitlin B. February 1, 2014
No lime? Blasphemy.
PWT February 1, 2014
See No. 3 in the directions.
Yvette J. February 1, 2014
Another tip: deseed the tomato and add only the meat. This keeps the guacamole very rich and creamy, the the juices/seeds tend to water down your guacamole. I prefer the richer, creamier version and people who eat mine always comment on how rich it is. That's my secret.
Lisa February 1, 2014
PWT, your reaction to the cilantro is biologically unique to the tastebuds of a population of people. Not long ago there was an article in the NYT about this very thing.
PWT February 1, 2014
I saw that article. Supposed to be genetic. My husband and I both hate cilantro and think it tastes like soap and so does our son, however, hubby and I are not genetically related, so I don't know. I did read another article that said people like us are Super-tasters, meaning we can taste even small nuances the majority of the population cannot. Don't know if I agree with that either. All I know is cilantro does taste like soap to my family.
PWT February 1, 2014
I've made this for many years, however I leave out the cilantro as we think it tastes like soap. I also save a pit from one avocado and put it in the bowl with guac after I am done making it. This keeps the guac from turning brown.
Mark S. February 1, 2014
I agree that the simpler the recipe the better and your recipe gets that point across very well. I do love some fresh tomato in my guacamole but refuse to buy greenhouse tomatoes in the winter. I've found that my homemade salsa which includes fire roasted jalapeño, plenty of garlic and cilantro is a reasonable substitute and less expensive alternative during the winter months when avocados are most abundant.