They were once banished from the healthy eating equation, but avocados have made a serious comeback as nutritious fruit that has uses well beyond guacamole. Their green and gold flesh make for some amazing breakfast and dinner photos, but we love them for their delicious flavor, creamy texture and filling, satiating quality. Here is our take on making the most of these fruits in time for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations — and how to enjoy them in a host of ways outside of the Mexican food comfort zone.
Avocado Nutrition Notes
Avocados are a nutrient-dense food, and count as a fruit serving if you keep up with Dietary Guidelines. About one-fifth of an average-sized avocado is considered a serving (about an ounce), which has 50 calories. For a fruit, avocados are relatively high in fat (hence the higher calorie count for the portion size). But those fats are mostly from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and can help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the avocado for a nutritional win-win.
Selection and Storage
Choosing a ripe avocado is tricky since you shouldn’t prod and squash them too hard to determine their recipe readiness status. Choose avocados that are uniform in color without blemishes, but don’t rely on color cues solely to determine ripeness since the peel of some varieties doesn’t change color dramatically when ripe: It’s best to hold the base of an avocado in the palm of your hand and ever so gently squeeze. If it yields to slight pressure, it’s probably ready for sandwiches or diced preparations. Leave firmer avocados on the kitchen counter to ripen if you’re not in rush. And you can encourage ripening of firm avocados by placing the fruit in a paper bag with an apple if you need it sooner. Once ripe, you can refrigerate the avocado for a day or two. If you let a precious avocado get a tad soft, don’t despair. Use it in dressings, sauces or smoothies.
Avocado Prep 101
Okay, so the big elephant in the avocado room is the avocado seed. Luckily, we have not one but three great ways to deal with liberating that large, sometimes awkward seed, depending on how you’ll use your avocado. Here are some options.
It’s up to you if you want to use the seed, but some avocado connoisseurs swear that saving that avocado seed and tossing the whole seed in a bowl of fresh guac will help the avocados stay green. (Maybe because of the polyphenols found in the pit?) If you are making a dish, such as a guacamole or sauce, adding the whole seed to leftovers may help preserve the green color, but you can also try using plastic wrap pressed up against the avocado surface to prevent browning. (Although there is a lot of information online about eating the seed, we haven’t yet tried that trend! Pitch the seed before digging into your guac or other creation.)
Get the recipe: Superfast Guac
If eggs are the cook’s ultimate ingredient, withstanding multiple manipulations for different results, textures and culinary capability, avocados must be a close second. That’s because the fruit’s fat content provides a creamy richness that balances assertive flavors, becomes a rich sauce when puréed or mashed, or acts as a substitute for less-nutritious solid fats (think saturated fats) with great results in the kitchen. This avocado recipe collection highlights some amazing treatments of this fruit bowl mainstay.
Here are some other fun, tasty ways to think outside the guacamole bowl:
Top a whole grain English muffin with mashed avocado and a little flaky sea salt for a satisfying breakfast or snack.
Place a quarter of an avocado in a smoothie for a creamy texture and satiating snack.
Try the toast trend with a tomato soup.
Don’t mash your avocado but dice it and toss with mango for a salsa twist.
A soft avocado replaces the oil in this creamy, zingy vinaigrette.
A slightly firm avocado will slice up beautifully for a sandwich, such as this Indian-Spiced Veggie Burger.
Avocados make a spicy sauce for grilled fish.
Try this refreshing vegan cold soup, which blends one avocado and uses another as a garnish.
Serve Seaweed, Carrot and Avocado Salad alongside roasted salmon or chicken.
Save the avocado peel, and use it as a serving vessel for Shrimp and Cucumber Stuffed Avocados.
What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy avocados?