Most people know avocados best for their star role in guacamole, but the fact of the matter is, this powerhouse fruit, available year-round from Mexico, is way more versatile than you might imagine. From breakfast all the way through to dessert, avocado can be either front and center or a supporting player in delectable recipes that can satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
The relatively neutral flavor of this creamy fruit means that it can go well in both sweet and savory dishes, pairing with a variety of spice mixes. Here are seven of our favorites, most of which you can blend at home with staples you already have in your pantry or spice rack:
1. Guacamole Spice Mix
There are more ways to make guacamole than you ever imagined, with dips inspired by cultures and cuisines from Mexico City to Mumbai, but if you want to stick to a traditional recipe, you can make your own guacamole spice mix, store it in a dry glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and pull it from the spice rack when you’re ready to whip up some dip.
To make this DIY guac spice mix, place 4 tablespoons of salt (fine, not coarse), 3 tablespoons each of garlic powder and onion powder, 5 tablespoons of cumin, and 3 tablespoons of cayenne in a jar; then, stir or shake well to ensure the spices blend. This recipe will give you plenty of spice mix for several batches of guac; start by adding 1 tablespoon of the spice mix to your dip, then taste test to see whether more is needed.
2. Chili Spice Mix
Chili is the ultimate comfort food and like guacamole, it’s versatile; you can use any number of beans, not just the standard kidney bean, and switch ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken for chorizo, or opt out of meat entirely. If you ask us, though, there are two non-negotiables: a spice mix to give the chili some kick, and sliced or diced avocado served on top or to the side of the chili.
Regardless of the specific chili recipe you use, a basic chili spice mix is a great pantry staple to have at hand, especially during colder months. To make your own chili spice mix, blend 1/2 cup of chili powder with 1/4 cup of cumin, 1 tablespoon of coriander, 1 tablespoon of cayenne (or any other ground chile powder — ancho, chipotle, and guajillo are some common Mexican chiles sold in a dried form in supermarkets; you can grind them into a powder and add them to your mix), 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, and 2 tablespoons of garlic salt. Shake well and store in an airtight jar. Mix into the chili while simmering, then ladle into bowls and top with avocado!
3. Taco Seasoning
Every family should have a Taco Night once a week: It’s hard not to please with a meal that offers endless variety and the fun of build-your-own fixings. It’s easy to set out a taco bar with all sorts of toppings — avocado, cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, spicy chiles, and, if you’re more adventurous, traditional Mexican additions like nopales, or strips of cactus paddle — but when it comes to the meat filling, make sure you’ve cooked it up with some spicy taco seasoning.
You could buy the pre-packaged envelopes of taco seasoning at the grocery store, but you? You’ve got this! Just pull a few basic spices from your cabinet and in five minutes or less, you’ll have your own homemade seasoning that will last for at least a month’s worth of Taco Nights.
Here’s what you need: 4 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons paprika, 6 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 4 teaspoons of fine sea salt, and 4 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Mix and shake well so all the ingredients are blended; then store in an airtight jar until Taco Night!
4. Italian Herb Blend
There’s really no need to buy salad dressing if you have olive, grapeseed, or avocado oil at home, as well as a balsamic or champagne vinegar (fruit-based vinegars, such as fig, work well, too), and a few basic spices. If you whip up this super-easy Italian Herb Blend, you can dash it into a homemade vinaigrette and serve an impressive salad topped with avocado at your next dinner party. You can also use this mix to add to pasta, pizza sauce, or any other recipe that calls for Italian seasonings.
All you need are 2 tablespoons each of dried basil, coriander, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Mix them all up and once blended, store in an airtight jar.
5. Garam Masala
Garam masala, or “hot spice mix,” is a classic Indian spice blend traditionally used in curries and other lentil-based dishes. Clever cooks who enjoy its complex flavor have found loads of other uses for it, however, and garam masala can now be found in everything from popcorn to chocolate zucchini bread. And it pairs exceptionally well with avocado, whose creamy, neutral flavor is the perfect foil for the smoky, sweet, and savory blend.
It’s ideal if you can make your garam masala with whole spices that you’ve pan-toasted and then ground yourself, but if you’re short on supplies or time, you can use this quick recipe with powdered spices instead. The “five C’s” make up the base of garam masala: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin. Once you’ve mixed the proportions indicated in the recipe, you’ll add 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1.5 teaspoons of ground black pepper. As always, blend well and store in an airtight jar.
6. Homemade Tajín
Tajín is a spice mixture that’s a fixture on many Mexican tables, and if you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll have no trouble imagining how it can go on everything, from simple, sliced avocados to crisp jicama sticks, to sweet, juicy mango slices, and even to the rim of a cocktail glass.
But Tajín isn’t always easy to find in the U.S., so gather the basic ingredients and mix up a homemade version. There are only three ingredients you’ll need: chili powder (you can use store-bought or you can grind your own using your favorite chiles), salt, and dehydrated lime juice. Since you probably don’t want to go to the trouble of dehydrating lime juice, either buy dried lime peel or make your own as a substitute. Taste test as you mix your ingredients to find the just-right proportion; you might want yours saltier or spicier.
7. Chamoy Sauce
Chamoy sauce isn’t a spice mix — it’s a sauce — but it’s loaded with spices, and once you make it, you can bottle it up, store it in the fridge, and pull it out for drizzling on avocado slices, salads, or just about anything really (we know some people who top their ice cream with chamoy)!
Take one cup of apricot jam and put it in your blender. Add 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper, and 1 teaspoon of ancho chile powder (if you can’t find this in your supermarket, buy dried ancho chiles and pound them into a powder using a molcajete or a spice grinder). Pulse or purée until the mix is smooth, then pour into a jar or bottle and store in the fridge.