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Fake Guacamole is Here. The Secret Taquerias Don’t Want You to Know About and How to Spot It

Left: Fake guacamole. Right: Real Guacamole

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]f you have noticed the guacamole at a taco spot looking and tasting a little more watery than your standard runny, but still rich taqueria guacamole, it’s because it probably never had any avocado in it, to begin with.

What I’m about to share may shock you and may also shake the very foundation for your love of tacos. It may even violate that sacred trust that we all have painstakingly built with our favorite neighborhood taquero, but it must be disclosed. There is a fake guacamole that has very quietly sauced our tacos for who knows how long now. It is a confusingly neon-green, avocado-less crime against taco humanity that no taquero will ever proudly admit to committing.

A false guacamole made from...blended calabacitas (Mexican squash), without a single buttery slice of ripe avocado in sight.

Chilango, the magazine that covers all things Mexico City, was the first whistleblower that exposed the breach of avocado security last week. In the article, they reveal that a Twitter user named @Karligrafia was the first to tweet about the scam and become viral for it. But even before this tweet, a popular Youtuber named Alejandra de Nava known for recreating popular Mexican dishes for home cooks revealed the classified recipe to the world. To date, the video has almost 2 million views in less than a month. It was brought to my attention by my wife who shared the video with me last night before going to sleep. She said I had nightmares all night. 

Mexican squash and tomatillos being lightly cooked

The fake guacamole recipe is nearly identical to your standard taqueria guacamole. Tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño are still the core ingredients, instead, the imposter substitutes the green gold for the tender summer variety of Mexican squash usually sauteed in guisado form. The fake guacamole gets its creaminess thanks to the oil used to blister the jalapeño that emulsifies the rest of the ingredients. 

Fake guacamole being blended

As a service to the taco community, I took it upon myself to test this poser guacamole recipe out to see if it really was as eerily real as everyone is making it out to be: My verdict? It is.  

Left: Fake guacamole. Right: Real Guacamole
Left: Fake guacamole. Right: Real Guacamole

When blended with the rest of the traditional taqueria guacamole ingredients, the slightly boiled Mexican squash emulsifies into a stunningly bright green guacamole-like salsa. However, the scariest part is that it tastes almost exactly like your standard taqueria guacamole: bright, spicy, rich, and very satisfying. For someone who has eaten over a thousand tacos this last year alone with all kinds of taqueria guacamoles for Las Crónicas research, it almost fooled me. 

Fake guacamole

It took a side-by-side taste test with a traditional taqueria guacamole that I whipped up right after with plenty of avocado and the same ingredients to taste the difference. 

The main difference between the poser salsa and the real thing? There is the faintest, subtly sweet flavor from the squash one that is not present in the guacamole with aguacate. But even for an experienced taco palate, when spooned over a nicely toasted tortilla, juicy meat or oozy cheese, onion, cilantro, and lime, it would be extremely hard to notice. Even the fake guacamole oxidized and started to turn brown after about 30 minutes. 

How likely is it that you’ve been duped? If you eat a lot of street tacos wherever tacos may roam. I’m willing to bet that we have all had it at least once. Just think of the last time you have complained to yourself or aloud that the guacamole is too watery? It doesn’t help one bit that we have been living through a severe avocado shortage for the last couple of weeks that has rippled across the U.S. 

“Every time there’s avo shortages things get crazy,” Jennifer Feltham admits when asked about how Sonoratown has been managing this recent avocado price hike. She has proudly revealed in the past that they add a little iceberg lettuce to their own taqueria guacamole recipe, in the style of Asadero Los Campas, the carne asada specialist in Sonora that inspired her and her partner, Teo Diaz. “I’m not ashamed of the lechuga.” 

I guess it could always be worse. At least it wasn’t peas

Faux-Guac

Recipe adapted by Paola Briseño González

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 Mexican squash, ends trimmed and quartered
6 medium tomatillos, husks removed
1 jalapeño, stem removed and sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup oil (grapeseed, vegetable, or any neutral-flavored oil)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan over high heat, add enough water cover the squash and tomatillos, about 2 cups. Bring water to a boil, add squash and tomatillos and cover with a lid. Cook until the tomatillos changed to a dark green color and the squash is just cooked through, about five minutes. Remove vegetables from the water using a slotted spoon and discard the water.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the jalapeño and cook until it is golden and charred in some spots. Remove chiles from the pan and reserve oil.

In a blender, add squash, tomatillos, jalapeño, oil, garlic cloves, cilantro, and salt. Puree until a creamy and smooth consistency. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Pour into a bowl and allow to cool. Serve as the real thing.

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