If you’re vegan and/or a Millennial, you’re probably familiar with the avocado’s secret-weapon power to lend dairy-free richness and plush texture to all sorts of foods, both sweet and savory, but if you haven’t yet explored these intriguing…avo-nues, you’re in for a revelation.
You can use avocados as a mayo substitute, an emulsifier in salad dressing, and a creamy ingredient in almost everything else: smoothies, truffles, vegan fudge, pudding, mousse, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, and all manner of baked goods (try fudgy avocado brownies with a buttercream-style avocado chocolate frosting). They can enrich deviled eggs, or be deviled themselves. They can even serve as edible bowls, and be blended into boozy cocktails.
While we’re far from the first generation of American home cooks to use the fruit in creative applications, it’s fairly safe to say that most of the new crop of recipes are more tempting than the verdant horrors of the 1950s, like this salmon-avocado mold monstrosity:
See? Everything old is new again! So if you’ve been content to stick to guacamole, diced avocado in your chili, and sliced in your salad up til now, why not try branching out?
The reason avocados are so good at adding richness and body to so many dishes, of course, is that they’re high in fat, which is unusual in the fruit world, and makes them similar to olives—but it’s heart-healthy monounsturated fat, which some studies suggest might reduce inflammation and cholesterol, and possibly even help prevent cancer. No need to bother with low-fat avocados, then (although in the interest of avoiding avocado hand, you may want to keep an eye out for the pitless variety).
Avocados are also high in potassium, yet notably low in carbs and sugar, so scarfing down a ton of guac isn’t really too bad for you, at least until you factor in the tortilla chips you probably used to scoop it up. It makes total sense that avocados are widely considered to be a superfood—in addition to being so nutritious (and versatile, and delicious), they might even help you get dates!
There’s more to the fruit than its fabulous flesh, too. Avocado oil is a great cooking medium since it’s nutritious and has a high smoke point. And avocado leaves, although they can be a bit hard to find, lend a unique flavor to many Mexican dishes.
It is the lush, pale green flesh, however, that’s most beloved, and therein lies the frequent frustration of being an avocado devotee: how difficult it can sometimes be to procure a perfectly ripe one when you want it. It often seems like all you find at the store are rock-hard fruits or mushy, overripe specimens. If they’re not too far gone, you can still use super-soft avocados—especially good in recipes where they’ll be blended or pureed; just scrape away the really brown bits and mash or puree the rest to use in dishes where other flavors and ingredients will be paramount. Obviously, you should always taste your overripe avocados first to be sure they haven’t become actively unpleasant—but even then, you can always use them in food-based home beauty treatments.
As for unripe avocados, there are various tricks you can try to speed them up on their journey to the sweet spot of firm-yet-creamy insides, from newfangled avocado socks to the old paper bag trick. Once they do reach peak perfection, stash them in the fridge for a few days if need be, then get down to utilizing the dreamy green stuff in all kinds of wonderful ways. If you don’t use the entire avocado at once, you can wrap the leftover portion tightly in plastic, maybe sprinkled with some lemon or lime juice, or even store it with some sliced onion (not the best choice, perhaps, if you plan to use it in a smoothie or dessert). Even if it oxidizes a little in the fridge, a tiny bit of brown won’t hurt.
So come on and get cooking! (Or not cooking, since plenty of avocado recipes also possess the beauty of being quick and easy and are mostly a matter of pushing buttons on the blender. Seriously, what’s not to love?)
If you’re in the mood for something a little stronger than a smoothie, you can still get your liquid avocado fix in cocktail form. It’s basically an avocado margarita, but with the interesting addition of thyme. Get our Copa Verde recipe.
While guacamole may be the go-to avocado appetizer, they’re great in lots of other dips too, like raw spinach and avocado dip, vegan asparagus-dill-avocado dip, and this tangy, creamy yogurt spread, which is great with raw vegetables for a healthy snack. You can even thin it out and use it as a salad dressing if you have any leftovers. Get our Avocado Yogurt Dip recipe.
Chilled soup doesn’t have to be borscht or gazpacho; blended avocados make for a beautiful bowl, which is obviously perfect at the height of summer, but can bring a little brightness into a winter day as well. If you’re not into corn (or refuse to use frozen), try this avocado zucchini soup with mint, or avocado bisque with grilled shrimp for something a bit more substantial. Luckily, you can get good avocados all year long, so try playing around with lots of different flavors and toppings throughout the seasons. Get the recipe.
For a healthier alternative to alfredo that’s also a little like particularly rich pesto, try this creamy avocado-sauced pasta, which brings in basil and walnuts too. Since you’re being so virtuous, feel free to grate on lots of extra cheese. Get the recipe.
If you’re a bit bored with salmon burgers, try these tuna avocado cakes for a change. Should you be cutting carbs, or just up for trying something else new, consider serving them on these low carb avocado burger buns—perhaps with our Chipotle Avocado Dressing on top for good measure, because why not? Get the recipe.
Speaking of chipotle and avocados…Breaded and baked slices of the fruit make an interesting crispy-creamy side dish, even better when there’s a zesty sauce to dip them in. We use a panko coating in our Avocado Tacos too, but those are deep fried; you could always use this baking method instead for a healthier option. Get the recipe.
Avocado is obviously great as a more traditional salad ingredient (try shaving it with a veggie peeler for extra-elegant presentation), but it also makes a mean dressing, or can be used more simply, as in this chicken salad where it’s mashed and mixed in rather than mayo. Try the same thing with eggs or tuna, or chickpeas, or tofu… Get the recipe.
Avocado does dessert, and quite well, too. It’s a great way to add creaminess to dairy-free ice cream, and works with a range of flavors from Mexican chocolate to pistachio, but this rendition adds a little heavy cream to really amp up the smooth, rich texture, along with coconut milk, rum, and a smidgen of lime juice. Serving in coconut shells is a nice touch, but this would be just as good straight out of the ice cream machine. Get the recipe.
Avocado is one great way to get ultra smooth, super rich vegan tarts, like this no-bake deep chocolate version in a crunchy coconut-date shell (which is gluten-free as well). There’s a definite appeal to simply blending and chilling the ingredients (like in this no-bake avocado lime cheesecake…), but avocado can replace the butter in more conventional desserts too, like this Sheba from Queens cake, another one for chocolate lovers. Get the recipe.
If you’d rather not fuss with a crust, avocado makes for silky, decadent vegan pudding that’s incredibly healthy, but doesn’t taste like it. Get the recipe.
If you’re a true avocado fiend and even crave them in the morning, while you could simply add some to scrambled eggs, bake a whole egg in one avocado half, or go for the classic avo-enriched smoothie, if you also love baked goods for breakfast, try these sweet and zippy lime-honey donuts made with mashed avocado. Toast will be but a distant memory. Get the recipe.