Avocados 101 – The Basics

Avocados are a unique fruit often included in Hispanic foods. Their popularity has grown in recent years, so they are now being included in many other cuisines, and in dishes of all sorts. If you’re not quite sure what to do with avocados or are looking for something different, I have some ideas! Below are extensive notes on just about anything to do with avocados. Hopefully this will help!


Avocado 101 – The Basics

About Avocado
Avocados belong to the group Persea americana. There are over 50 different varieties of avocados within this basic group. Different varieties may vary in texture, with some being smoother than others. Color may also vary, with some being darker and richer in color than others. The skins may also have varying degrees of glossiness.

Mexico is the world’s largest producer and exporter of avocados. Avocados are also grown in Chile, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, China, and Guatemala. In the United States, most homeland avocados are grown in California and Florida.

Nutrition Tidbits
One-third of a medium size avocado is considered to be one serving. That mere one-third of this delicious and healthful fruit provides almost 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including an abundant amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. One-third of a medium avocado has 80 calories.

One serving (1/3 of a medium fruit) of avocado provides notable amounts of pantothenic acid and other B-Vitamins, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, folate, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, manganese, fiber, and Vitamin C. One avocado can have twice the potassium of a banana! Among a list of other phytonutrients, avocado also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, known to help protect the eyes from diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

How to Select an Avocado
A ripe avocado will have a slight give to it when gently squeezed in the palm of your hand. Make sure it has no dark sunken spots, cracks, or is very soft, as that specimen will be overripe. An avocado with a slight “neck” on it will have ripened longer on the tree, so it should have a richer flavor. An unripe avocado will be firm, and not give when squeezed. It may be advantageous to select unripe avocados if you don’t plan to use them right away.

Color alone is not enough to tell when an avocado is ripe. Some varieties, such as the Hass avocado, will turn dark green or even black when ripe. However, the skin of other varieties will stay light green, even when ripe.

One quick way to tell if an avocado is ripe is to lift off the little piece left at the stem end. If it’s green underneath, the avocado is ripe. If it’s brown, the fruit is overripe.

How to Ripen an Avocado
To speed up the ripening process of an avocado, place it in a paper bag and close the top. Store it at room temperature (65 to 75°F) until ready to eat, usually between two and five days. To further speed up the process, place an ethylene-producing fruit (such as an apple, banana, or kiwi fruit) in the bag with the avocado. The gas released will speed up the ripening process. If you’re not ready to eat the avocado once it is ripened, place it in the refrigerator for up to five days.

If you’re not in a hurry to ripen the avocado, simply place it on the kitchen counter for a few days. It will ripen on its own and will be ready to be used when it gives a little when gently squeezed.

How to Store an Avocado
Once your avocado is ripe, place it in the refrigerator if you don’t need to use it immediately. Ripe or soft avocados should be used as soon as possible, but should keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How to Prepare Avocado
Start with clean hands, then wash your avocado well and pat it dry. With a sharp knife, cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Give the avocado a quarter turn, then cut the avocado around the seed again, ultimately cutting it into four sections. Move the halves in your hand to release the slices from the seed. Gently remove the seed with your fingertips or a spoon. Starting at the tip of each section, peel the avocado by placing your thumb under the skin and peeling it back. Slice or dice the sections as needed. To help prevent darkening, sprinkle the cut avocado with some lemon or lime juice, or vinegar.

Here’s a video on an easy way to cut an avocado…

How to Store Cut Avocado
If you’re not going to use all of your cut avocado at one time, the California Avocado Commission recommends to sprinkle the cut avocado pieces with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an air-tight container. Store it in the refrigerator and use it as quickly as possible.

Cooking/Serving Ideas
Avocado is usually eaten raw in a variety of ways including being added to smoothies, guacamole, hummus, salads, sandwiches, toppings for vegetables, salad dressings, sushi, ice cream, quick breads, garnishes for assorted cooked meals from soups, to meats and main dishes, to desserts, and more.

When cooked, avocado can be grilled, roasted, and added to soups and sauces. It is noteworthy that cooked avocados can turn bitter. It’s helpful to use citrus juice with them, cook them for as little time as possible, and eat the food right away.

Quick serving ideas for avocados:
* Use diced avocado as a garnish for black bean soup.

* Spread ripe avocado on bread in place of mayonnaise when making a sandwich, or on toast in place of butter.

* Try a salad of diced fresh avocado with sliced fennel, oranges and mint.

* An interesting accompaniment to a Hispanic dish would be diced avocado with corn relish, topped with a fresh wedge of lime.

* Try mashed avocado on baked potato in place of sour cream. Top with a little shredded cheese for added flavor.

* Grill avocado by cutting it in half and removing the seed. Drizzle with lemon juice and place cut side down on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until the edges just start to sizzle. Season with salt and pepper or your seasoning of choice.

* Add avocado to your green smoothie for a boost of healthy fats and richness.

* Avocado can be used in place of shortening, butter, oil and eggs in baking. Use 1 cup mashed avocado in place of 1 cup of butter, oil or shortening (equal parts for substitution). Replace 1 egg with 2 to 4 tablespoons of mashed avocado.

* Add avocado to your favorite hummus.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Avocado
Basil, cayenne, cilantro, chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mint, miso, oregano, paprika, parsley, pecans, pepper (black), salt, sesame, sorrel, and wasabi

Other Foods That Go Well With Avocado
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black), bacon, beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, crab, eggs, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, shrimp, tempeh, tofu, tuna, turkey, and walnuts

Vegetables: Artichoke, arugula, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, chiles, chives, corn, cucumber, endive, fennel, greens, jicama, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, nori, olives, onions, radishes, scallions, shallots, spinach, sprouts, tomatillos, tomatoes, and zucchini

Fruits: Citrus, grapefruit, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangoes, melon, oranges, papaya, pears, persimmons, pineapple, pomegranates, and pomelo

Grains: Breads, bulgur, corn, couscous, quinoa, and rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese, ice cream, milk, sour cream, and yogurt

Other: Coffee, mayonnaise, mustard (Dijon), oil, rum, stock (vegetable), and vinegar

Avocado has been used in: Burritos, California cuisine, Central American cuisine, chili, desserts (esp. chocolate mousse), dips, egg dishes, fajitas, ice cream, nachos, quesadillas, relishes, salads and salad dressings, salsas, sandwiches, smoothies, sorbets, soups, spreads, stuffed avocados, sushi (vegetarian), tacos, and veggie burgers

Suggested Flavor Combos
Try combining avocado with…
Basil + lime
Basil + onions + tomatoes
Black beans + tomatoes
Celery + chiles + cilantro + cumin + garlic + lime + spinach
Chiles + cilantro + lime + onions
Chili powder + cilantro + jicama + onions + orange juice
Cilantro + cucumber + jalapeno + lime + mint + yogurt
Cilantro + garlic + lime + red onions + tomatoes
Citrus + jicama
Cucumber + green onions + lime + yogurt
Cucumber + mint + yogurt
Fennel + citrus (ie grapefruit, orange)

Recipe Links
California Avocado Salmon Bean Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/california-avocado-salmon-bean-salad

Curried Sweet Potato Noodle Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/curried-sweet-potato-noodle-salad

California Avocado Tri-Color Potato Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/california-avocado-tri-color-potato-salad

Stuffed California Avocado with Jicama Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/stuffed-california-avocado-with-jicama-salad

Bacon, Grape and Avocado Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/bacon-grape-and-avocado-salad/

Avocado Chocolate Mousse Tart https://producemadesimple.ca/avocado-chocolate-mousse-tart/

40+ Ways to Love Avocado https://producemadesimple.ca/40-ways-to-love-avocado/

15 Minute Shrimp and Avocado Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=21

15 Minute Cod with Avocado Salsa http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=133

Romaine and Avocado Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=45

Healthy Veggie Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=311

Southwestern Salmon and Black Beans http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=83

Salmon, Cucumber, and Dill Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=130

Guacamole https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/guacamole-recipe4-1920420

Easy Guacamole https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/14064/easy-guacamole/

Salmon, Green Beans, and Avocado https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/salmon-green-beans-avocado

10 Easy Avocado Recipes https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/easy-avocado-recipes?

49 Avocado Recipes So You Never Waste One Again https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/g2894/things-to-do-with-avocado/

60+ Easy and Satisfying Avocado Recipes You Need to Try ASAP https://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/food-drinks/g23/30-awesome-avocado-recipes-36194/?slide=6

Avocado Chocolate Mousse https://www.wellplated.com/avocado-chocolate-mousse/#wprm-recipe-container-34124

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.











Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

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