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Summary Article: Avocado
From The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

Originally native to Central America and the Caribbean, this tropical fruit today has over 500 cultivars planted around the world. Fruits of different species range from the lumpy-skinned, small Hass to smooth-skinned, large Mexican and Guatemalan types. Most commercial varieties today are hybrids of the latter two, and have a mild, somewhat nutty flavor and a smooth, oily texture. Avocados, which are sometimes called avocado pears because of their shape, contain exceptional levels of monounsaturated fat (the good kind), about the same amount of potassium as bananas, and nearly twice the amount of soluble fiber found in apples.


Since avocados ripen off the tree, you can buy them firm and let them ripen at home. Or look for ripe ones: under gentle thumb pressure these will have a slight “give” on the shoulder near the stalk end.


Allow avocados to ripen on a windowsill or kitchen counter (not in the fridge), then eat when ripe. If using only half a ripe avocado, coat the cut surface of the unused half with lemon juice and wrap it in plastic wrap to prevent it from turning black, then store in the fridge for 2–3 days.


Avocado is best used fresh, although it is sometimes baked or cooked in a soup. Slice for sandwiches; add to salads, especially seafood salads; mix it with sugar and pineapple; or purée to make ice cream.

Flavor pairings

Parma ham, dried beef, shrimp, tomatoes, grapefruit, lime, mango, pineapple, sugar, balsamic vinegar.

Classic recipes

Guacamole; insalata tricolore .

Preparing avocado

Avocado goes brown quickly, so prepare just before use, or sprinkle well with lemon juice.

  1. Insert a sharp knife at the stalk end and cut all the way around the stone, through the skin and flesh. Twist the cut halves in opposite directions to separate them and reveal the stone.

  2. Carefully but firmly press the blade of the knife into the stone, then twist the knife to pull the stone free from the avocado. Alternatively, scoop out the stone with a teaspoon.

  3. To remove the flesh from the skin, cut each half lenghthways in half again, and gently peel the skin away from the flesh.


A medium, small-stoned variety, this has a nutty flavor and oil-rich flesh with an easily spreadable texture.


The only year-round avocado, the Hass is a good choice for dips and spreads. The creamy flesh is silky smooth and the flavor is wonderfully rich and nutty.


An easy-peeling variety with a mild flavor and pale yellow flesh that slices well. It is ideal for salads and salsas.

Classic recipe

This popular dip, which has its origins in Mexico, can also be used as a condiment for grilled meats and seafood.

Serves 6

  • 3 large, ripe avocados (preferably the Hass variety)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and minced
  • 1 or 2 fresh hot red chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus a few sprigs to garnish
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
  1. Pit and skin the avocados. Place the flesh in a bowl and combine with a fork or potato masher until the mixture is mashed but still chunky.

  2. Add the lime juice then the onion, tomato, and chiles. Mix well, then stir in the cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

  3. Fold in the sour cream, if using. Mound the guacamole into a bowl, garnish with cilantro sprigs, and serve immediately. If you cannot serve immediately, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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