Warm and cozy may not be the first words that come to mind when discussing avocados, but they might just be the key to perfect guacamole. Here’s why: Buying avocados that aren’t ripe yet, then letting them ripen in the warmest part of your kitchen, will ensure they’re perfectly ready for your dip.
This expert tip comes from Chef Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS and spokesperson for Avocados From Mexico, who says the most common mistake people make when preparing guacamole is failing to plan ahead.
“The most important thing to getting your guacamole right is getting the right avocado,” she says. “Don’t leave that for the last minute. Try to go to the store one or two days before, and find the avocados that aren’t ripe yet.”
This is especially important when prepping guacamole for major events, such as the Super Bowl, because other shoppers are likely stocking up as well.
“Don’t wait for an hour before, because the thing is, you never know what you’re going to find,” she says. “Sometimes you go to a store and all they have is overripe avocados, and there is really no way to fix that.”
Jinich suggests looking for Mexican Hass avocados, which have a dark, pebbly skin and a buttery, creamy texture when ripe. Buy them when their skin is more green than black and they feel hard as a baseball when gently squeezed. Put them in a paper bag with an apple or banana (together they’ll release ethylene gas to hasten ripening), then place them in the warmest area of your kitchen. She suggests a window that receives morning light, or next to your stovetop if you do a lot of cooking.
“They can even be hard the night before, but if you keep them warm and cozy, they will be ripe the next day,” she says. “You have to be kind and considerate to your avocados.”
If you go to the store and all of the avocados are ripe—characterized by darker skin (more black than green), and a slightly soft texture—not all hope is lost. Bring them home and put them in the fridge to prevent them from over-ripening. You can keep them in there for four to five days.
Once you have a perfectly ripe avocado, the rest of the recipe is much more forgiving. Jinich suggests starting with the classic ingredients, then offering guests the option of adding their own toppings. Her go-to recipe starts with two to three ripe avocados, a generous amount of sea salt or Kosher salt, and one to two tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lime juice. To that, she adds chopped cilantro, a little bit of white onion or scallion, and a fresh chopped jalapeno or Serrano chili. Stir to combine.
“You can serve that classic, and you can top it with pomegranate seeds,” she says. “You can grab another bowl, and top it with queso fresco or Feta cheese. Or you can grab another bowl and add some fresh tomatoes.”
Other crowd-pleasing options? Seared chilies marinated with soy sauce and lime juice, fried chunks of Mexican chorizo, crunchy Japanese-style peanuts, and freshly diced pineapple. For a classy spin, she suggests adding crab meat and seasoning with olive oil.
Give some TLC to the chips, too. Instead of using store-bought, make tortilla chips at home or opt for baked pita chips. Or cucumbers, carrots, snap peas, and jicama sticks make great carb-free options, she says. To preserve leftover guacamole and keep it from browning, stick plastic wrap directly onto the dip instead of over the entire bowl—though Jinich doubts they’ll be much leftover.
“I think that guacamole really speaks to the fun side of cooking and entertaining,” she says. “If you say guacamole, people expect to have fun.”