The creamy, silky texture of avocados can be used in much more than on toast and in guacamole. The familiar Mexican fruit—avocados are technically considered a single-seeded berry—may be typically used in savory preparations, but it can be a versatile ingredient in desserts, too. Here's how you can think outside the box and go the sweet route.
Choose the Best Avocados
Chef Pati Jinich, chef, author, host of Pati's Mexican Table on PBS, prefers avocados from Mexico because they are always in season and readily available in grocery stores year round. "I choose avocados at the store by picking them up and giving them a light squeeze," Jinich says. "The fruit should slightly give in to the pressure if it's ripe. Firm avocados aren't ready for eating or cooking with yet, and those that feel too soft are overripe."
Avocados From Mexico supplies 84 percent of the U.S. market, with more than two billion pounds of Hass avocados imported each year, according to the Hass Avocado Board. Hass avocados make up 95 percent of the avocados eaten stateside and they've dominated the market thanks to their high fat content and rich nutty flavor. Plus, the tough black skins help hide blemishes and protect the fruit during shipping.
Ripen and Store Correctly
Leave unripe avocados on the countertop at home and they should ripen within five days, but this can be expedited by putting avocados in a paper bag with an apple or banana for a day or two. Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days to keep them fresh. "If you aren't using the whole avocado, you can even preserve half of an avocado by coating the flesh of the leftover half in lemon juice or with olive oil," Jinich recommends. "Wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge, where it will keep for a couple days."
Swap Them In for Fats
"Avocados are a great substitute for butter, shortening, or oil," Jinich says. "If a recipe calls for one cup of butter, you can easily swap for one cup of avocado instead." Swapping avocados into your favorite dessert recipe can reduce calories and increase nutrient intake considering heart-healthy avocados are full of potassium, fiber, monounsaturated fat and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals like vitamin K and folate. It's also a great way to adapt a recipe so that it's vegan.
Get Inspired by Southeast Asia
Indonesia's national drink is es teler, an icy cocktail of coconut, avocado, jackfruit, condensed milk and fragrant pandan. And instead of ice cream, Indonesians blend avocado into their milkshakes, sweetening the thick drink with condensed milk and chocolate syrup. Similarly, in Vietnam, sinh tố bơ, or avocado milkshakes, are popular, made with the same combination of ripe avocado and sweetened condensed milk.
Pair With Chocolate
Avocados add depth and body to chocolate desserts and are delicious in chocolate avocado pudding, vegan chocolate avocado brownies, truffles or fudge. With just avocado, cacao powder and honey or maple syrup, you can make a fluffy mousse-like dessert in a blender, or frosting for cupcakes.
"Avocados bring an unbelievable velvety quality to chocolate sweets," says plant-based cookbook author and wellness advocate Jules Aron. "I especially love how rich and creamy chocolate desserts turn out when I use the green fruit as the base."
Make Naturally Green Icing
Food writer and chef Holly Nickels Fann uses avocado to make a vibrant green icing for her cakes. She substitutes avocados for butter at a 1:1 ratio for ganaches and buttercreams. "Slowly creaming the fully ripe avocado flesh with the addition of fresh lemon juice in a stand mixer with powdered sugar will result in a creamy and velvety-textured, wonderfully green icing," Fann says. "Slightly thinner than standard buttercream, it can be refrigerated to help stiffen up slightly before using."
Bake Better Vegan Pies
Avocado is a key ingredient for paleo- and keto-friendly vegan key lime pies, creating a cheerful green hue. Cookbook author Chris-Rachael Oseland also uses avocado as a go-to filling when her vegan clients want a chocolate cream pie. "It's even easier than making a proper custard-style chocolate pie filling," she says. "All you need is a blender and patience." Oseland uses chia seeds to thicken her avocado pie fillings, although soaked and food processed cashews and arrowroot powder are also good alternatives.
"Chia seeds aren't cornstarch," she says. "You can't toss them in and expect them to gel in minutes. It will take hours and there is nothing you can do but wait. If you want a chia thickened dessert you have to plan it a day in advance." You'll need time to refrigerate and let set for a minimum of four hours, but preferably overnight.
Be Careful With Color
Since avocados are green, Oseland cautions home cooks to be careful when choosing which ingredients to mix with avocados as many combinations might taste good, but come out visually unappealing. Lime works because it's already green, and cacao easily covers the green to make brown, but when Oseland mixes raspberry or strawberry with avocado, she has to be more careful and use food coloring to get the desired hue.
If you're using avocado on its own, as opposed to blending it with other ingredients, be sure to use lots of acid, like lime juice, to prevent oxidation.
Frozen treats help cool us down in summer and avocados make for light and refreshing ice cream since creamed avocado pulp freezes without crystallizing. "Avocados translate well to ice creams and smoothies because they are easy to blend and complement many different flavors," Jinich says. Try this avocado green tea ice cream recipe or paleo avocado ice cream for a dairy-free option. Feel free to experiment with additional flavorings, perhaps adding superfood powders like spirulina or collagen protein to the mix. Try topping your ice cream with cacao nibs, sprouted buckwheat or fresh fruit for an equally nutritious garnish.