Recipe Review

Is Fake Guacamole as Good as the Real Thing? We’re Not So Sure

updated Jul 26, 2019
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Credit: Grace Elkus

When a Los Angeles-based website for the taco-obsessed called L.A. Taco announced last week that “fake guacamole is here!” we were more than a little intrigued, and we weren’t alone. Food sites and even news sites from NPR to the London Telegraph covered the story.

In the article, Javier Cabral claims taquerias in Mexico and L.A. are serving guacamole made with blended calabacitas (a Mexican squash similar to zucchini) instead of avocado, due to the recent avocado shortage and the fruit’s skyrocketing prices. The photos that Cabral took of the two guacamoles — one made with avocado and the other with squash — look identical. It’s been riling up taco fans ever since.

The morality of serving fake guac aside, we had to find out: can you really make a good guacamole without avocado — so good, in fact, no one will know it’s missing?

Credit: Grace Elkus

Let the Taqueria Guacamole Showdown Begin

Let me say right off the bat: the type of guacamole in question is not the chunky stuff they charge extra for at Chipotle. Taqueria-style guacamole is a spicy, tangy, blended dip made with tomatillos. It more closely resembles a smooth salsa than it does a super-chunky guac.

To most accurately determine whether squash-based guac could stand in as a substitute for avo-guac, I needed a traditional taco-shop guacamole to compare it against. L.A. Taco didn’t disclose which recipe they used in their comparison, so I turned to Chef Roberto Santibañez, the chef/owner of Fonda in Brooklyn, whose classic guacamole taquero has many of the same ingredients as the squash guac recipe shared by L.A. Taco.

I started by making the fake stuff. I boiled my Mexican squash and six tomatillos, charred a jalapeño in oil, then blended it all (oil included, which is supposed to emulsify the ingredients and give the guac its “creaminess”) with garlic, cilantro, and salt. Once combined, I was left with a thin, pale-green, slightly foamy substance. I poured it into a bowl and waited to taste it until I had made the other.

Santibañez’s recipe was much simpler. I blended up raw tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapeño, lime juice, and salt until smooth, added the flesh of one avocado, then blended again. I was left with a rich, vibrant guacamole, much thicker than the other, but still pourable. Finally, I crisped up some tortillas to use for the taste test.

Credit: Grace Elkus

Guacamole Made with Squash Tastes as Mediocre as It Sounds

As you can see from the picture I took, the two dips that I made look very different from one other, unlike Cabral’s photos. They also varied greatly in consistency. While you might not notice a difference if the sauce was simply drizzled onto a taco, comparing them side by side made the distinction very clear.

A chip dipped into the squash-guac left no trace — the watery salsa pooled right back over the indentation. A chip dipped into the thicker avo-guac, on the other hand, left a noticeable streak.

They were both quite spicy, but that’s where the similarities ended. The avocado guac was full of fresh, tangy flavor, and the fatty avocado added richness and body. The squash guac was fine but, honestly, I wouldn’t make it again. It didn’t taste any more similar to guacamole than a tomatillo salsa does, and the boiling and blistering steps were a hassle. Even if I had doctored it up with raw onion and lime juice — the two ingredients my avocado guac included that my squash one didn’t — I doubt I would have been any more excited about it, let alone preferred it to the real thing.

One point in the squash-guac’s favor: Avocado prices being what they are, it’s cheaper to make. But I’m not so sure guacamole made with squash is a good alternative to the real deal — and I’m not alone. Radio host Patty Rodriguez also made the fake guac, and had a mixed opinion too, ultimately deciding it “tastes like green salsa.”

My suggestion? Splurge and make real-deal guacamole with the creamy, buttery avocados we all know and love. Or, if you just can’t stomach paying current prices for an avocado, make a delicious — and honest — tomatillo salsa or salsa verde instead.