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Why Taquerias Are Making Guacamole Without Avocados


Imagine going into your favorite taco joint and loading up on your favorite salsas and guacamole only to find out that there is absolutely no avocado in that guacamole. What? I am totally serious. That is exactly what is going on in some taquerias in Mexico and Los Angeles right now. Javier Cabral looked into this culinary deception and wrote about it for the site L.A. Taco. He joins us now.

Hey, Javier.

JAVIER CABRAL: Hey. What's up?

CHANG: Hey. So I'm kind of flabbergasted because I am guacamole addict. I have eaten buckets and buckets of guacamole over the course of my lifetime. I don't see how anyone can get away with this. How do restaurants even make guacamole without avocados?

CABRAL: Well, the secret ingredient that I'm sure, you know, no taqueria would ever be 100% proud to admit is Mexican summer tender, little squash.

CHANG: Squash.

CABRAL: Squash, yeah, squash.

CHANG: How does that even come close to feeling and tasting like avocado?

CABRAL: Well, the Mexican variety is light in color, almost the color of, like, a nicely, buttery avocado. And when you have a nice, tender one and you blister some jalapeno or serrano chile in the oil a little bit and you blend it, the oil emulsified beautifully into the sauce and with some tomatillos that add, like, kind of tang that we all love and that cilantro that adds that kind of refreshing herbaceousness and the garlic that just kind of seals the deal. And it's pretty scary, to be honest.

CHANG: You mean it's scary how much it does taste like the real thing.

CABRAL: Yes, it's scary how much this fake guacamole tastes like the real guacamole. And I want to make it a point to say that when I'm talking about this fake guacamole, I'm talking about fake - what everyone calls a taqueria guacamole. A taqueria guacamole is different in the sense to your, you know, homemade guacamole that someone makes, you know, with tomato and onions because it's blended up.

CHANG: Yeah.

CABRAL: And it's kind of made to sauce a taco and not so much...

CHANG: Right.

CABRAL: ...Kind of scoop it on a taco unless we're talking about...

CHANG: It's a little more liquidy (ph).

CABRAL: Exactly. It's liquidy for the right reasons because it doesn't take away too much from the actual meat in the taco so that way you're not having a guacamole taco, but you're having a taco de carne asada with a little bit of guacamole flavor.

CHANG: So if you were, like, a guacamole connoisseur like yourself and you knew that this was not real guacamole and you really focused on it, what would be a dead giveaway that this is fake, that it actually is from squash, not avocado?

CABRAL: Well, that's the thing. You know, it's eerily similar. The one thing that you will only be able to tell when doing a side-by-side taste comparison is that Mexican summer squash is sweeter so that it - when you blend it up with the rest of the ingredients, you have a subtly sweet flavor that is not in the avocado guacamole.

CHANG: If this fake guac (ph) tastes as good, if not better, to some people, is it bad that it's happening?

CABRAL: I think the only thing that's bad about it is that it's not disclosed. No one's proud to admit that, you know, like, 'cause obviously zucchini guacamole or a Mexican squash guacamole does not sound as sexy as just guacamole. But also think about the last time you've had taqueria guacamole. Did you see any label...


CABRAL: ...That said that's a guacamole, or was it just a green...


CABRAL: ...Like, thinned-down salsa in the salsa bar that...

CHANG: Exactly.

CABRAL: ...You just spooned over because it's second nature to you? So you know, maybe there isn't much duping going on because we've taken taqueria guacamoles for granted. So what I recommend is if you're curious about it, try it. And honestly I understand that avocados sometimes aren't cheap. And this recipe can definitely get you through that tough time.

CHANG: I still think it's sacrilege. That's Javier Cabral, a food journalist with L.A. Taco.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

CABRAL: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.