Whether you smash it on toast, dollop it on tacos, or serve it as dip, this easy one-avocado guacamole makes just the right amount for one or two people to enjoy.
Have you ever made a bowl of guacamole just for yourself? Okay fine, for yourself and a friend? Maybe two friends? This one-avocado guacamole can be shared, but the beauty of it is that you don’t have to. It’s quick, it’s practical, it’s tasty, and it creates minimal waste while preserving any leftover ingredients for later use.
Aside from the avocados, guacamole uses things — onions, lemons, some sort of pepper — that I almost always have on hand. It’s filling but not too filling, comes together in less than 10 minutes, and it doesn’t get the whole kitchen dirty. It’s become my favorite weeknight snack because of how well it bridges the gap between lunch and dinner, especially when I’m cooking and know dinner won’t be ready for a while. On weekends, it’s a filling mid-afternoon snack or the perfect addition to an egg-and-toast breakfast.
I make one-avocado guacamole when I’m hungry, but not hungry enough for a full meal, or when I need a bit of oomph to make an otherwise small meal feel bigger.
Guacamole browns quickly when exposed to air, so it’s not something you want to make more of than you’ll eat. Lots of guacamole recipes use multiple avocados, a whole jalapeño, half an onion — measurements that feel large and cumbersome. But when I want to make just enough guac for a cozy night in, I scale the whole thing way down so I only use what I need. (And there’s just something deeply satisfying about working with such small measurements.)
how to tell when an avocado is ripe
There’s a million old wives’ tales claiming to know when an avocado is just right. The most common is that if you remove the stem and see bright green, it’s ripe. The problem is… so many people now do this at the store that finding one with a stem on is impossible. Plus, if someone removed the stem from a ripe avocado and didn’t buy it, exposing that spot to air means it’s now brown, even if the avocado flesh inside is actually perfectly fine.
So I go by feel. A guacamole-ready avocado should have a little bit of give to it when you squeeze it gently. If it squishes or your fingers make deep, visible indentations, it’s overripe. If it feels rock hard, it’s underripe and will need a few days to soften up.
To speed up the ripening process, leave your avocado out on the counter or in a paper bag. To slow down the ripening process, put it in the fridge — this should keep it at peak ripeness for at least another 24 hours.
how to cut an avocado
Remove the stem and use a sharp knife to slice through the skin until you feel the knife hit the seed in the middle. Rotate the avocado, turning it against the knife blade until you’ve cut all the way around the pit. Take each side of the avocado in your hands and twist. The pit will remain inside one of the halves. The other half will slide off.
how to remove the avocado pit
Hold the avocado half with the pit in it in a clean dishtowel (to protect your hand) with the pit facing up. Then, gently whack the knife blade into the pit. Twist the knife to release the pit. To get the pit off your knife, tap the knife firmly on the edge of your garbage can to dislodge it directly into the trash. (Video here.)
Note: There’s no truly guaranteed way to know if an avocado is ripe without opening it. If forgot about one in the back of the fridge and it feels squishy, cut it open before you chuck it. It might be fine! It also might not be, but you were throwing it out anyway, so it can’t hurt to check.
how to cut a jalapeño
First, remove the stem end. Then, cut off about 1/4″ of the tip, enough that you can see where the ribs run the length of the pepper. Stand the pepper upright, with the wider end against your cutting board. To remove a length of pepper line the knife up just outside two of the ribs, then slice downward to remove just the flat section between them.
That flat, rectangular piece of pepper (what I call a “length” of pepper) can then be sliced thinly lengthwise and then across to mince.
Why use this method? The heat in a hot pepper comes from the seeds and the ribs (as discussed when we made hot sauce). Too much heat will quickly overpower such a small batch of guacamole.
This is a cleaner way of getting just the amount of pepper you need for one-avocado guacamole without making a mess of the seeds. Your pepper will also last longer in the fridge: Once you start cutting a fresh veggie, it starts going bad faster as more of the surface area has been exposed to air. Keeping the pepper as whole as possible for as long as possible will also keep it fresh longer.
how and why to quick-pickle your red onions
Though I know lime juice is perhaps more traditional in guacamole, I use lemon juice for two reasons. The first is that I just like the way it tastes. The second is because you can use the lemon juice to quick pickle the chopped onions by with a pinch of salt before adding the rest of the ingredients.
If I have a little extra time, I also add some lemon zest to the mix. Lime juice and zest will work all the same, but again, I just prefer the way lemon tastes.
The quick pickle method (h/t to Smitten Kitchen) takes some of the raw, eye-watering bite out of the red onion while still preserving its fresh, tangy sharpness.
it also goes great on potato pancakes
At Bottega Louie, one of my favorite breakfast spots in L.A., my two favorite dishes are their avocado toast and potato pancakes. The avocado toast is massive and topped with a poached egg and sliced Fresno peppers and chorizo slices. The potato pancakes have scallions in them, and are thick and crispy. One morning the waiter told me it was possible to combine the two dishes — avocado toast on a potato pancake. It is truly the breakfast dreams are made of.
Slice a few extra thin pieces of red onion and toss them in lemon juice and a pinch of salt to quick pickle as a garnish over the top.
tools & tips
- Avocado keeper — I don’t usually save avocados for later, but I do use my avocado keeper to store pieces of guacamole ingredients that I’ll use to make more guac later in the week. It’s the perfect size to hold the rest of a jalapeno, a small nub of onion, a wedge of lemon, etc.
- Muddler — When I want a really creamy, well-mashed guac I use my trusty cocktail muddler instead of a fork. But a fork will do just fine, too.
- Sharp knife — In order to cut through the avocado skin and remove the pit using the method outlined above you want a good, sharp, sturdy knife.
- For 3-4 days of one-avocado guacamole with no waste: Buy 3-4 avocados, 1 jalapeño, 1 small red onion, and 2 lemons. Keep avocados in the fridge until a day or two before using them (depending on ripeness).
one-avocado guacamole with quick-pickled red onions
- 1 ripe avocado
- 3 slices red onion (chopped or diced)
- 1 length jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed (see notes)
- juice from ¼ or ½ lemon (depending on the size of your avocado)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- pinch cayenne (optional)
- ½ tsp fresh cilantro (chopped, optional)
- 1 clove garlic (minced, optional)
- 4 cherry tomatoes (chopped, optional)
- Cut open your avocado to make sure it’s good. If it is, great! Set it aside. If it’s not, I’m sorry, you’ll need to use a different avocado.
- Combine chopped red onion, lemon juice, and pinch of salt in a bowl to quick-pickle. Stir and let it sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Mince the jalapeño and any other optional additions (cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, etc). Set aside on your cutting board.
- Use a fork to scoop the avocado out of the skin and into the bowl with the lemon and onions. Use the fork tines to mash the avocado into large chunks.
- Add the jalapeño, another few pinches of salt (~1/4 tsp), the ground black pepper, and any of the optional additions, to the avocado. Continue mashing with the fork or a muddler until you reach your desired consistency.
- Adjust to taste — add more lemon, salt, pepper, etc if you think it needs it. Serve!
- To slice a length of jalapeño, remove the top with the stem and the bottom tip of the pepper. Stand the pepper upright, with the stem-end on your cutting board. Look for where the ribs of the pepper are attached, then slice downward removing a length of the pepper from between two of the ribs. A pepper usually has 3-4 lengths, so you’re looking for a section of pepper with no ribs or seeds — just the wall of the pepper, removed cleanly.
- Avocado browns quickly, so if you do plan on storing this for later press a sheet of saran wrap smoothly against the surface of the guacamole to keep air from reaching it. Then stretch another sheet of saran wrap or a container lid over the top as well. It won’t stay good for days, but you might be able to eek another 24 hours out of it.
- If you don’t have a jalapeño pepper, a poblano, Serrano, or Fresno pepper will work fine. Since those peppers differ from the jalapeño in size, aim for anywhere from 1-3 TBSP chopped/minced pepper, depending on how hot you want it or how big your pepper pieces are.