If I could give away my most valuable tip on how to be successful in creating dishes, that tip would be: Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavor pairings.
Case in point: this Spicy Three-Chile Guacamole went from “Oh, that’s nice,” to “Where has this been all my life?!?!”—all it took was a combination of peppers and one humble spice.
While a three-chile guacamole may seem a bit fiery to your taste buds, rest assured, the creaminess of the avocado base and the smokiness that the charring imparts tones down the heat. Flecks of crisp red onion and the brightness of the cilantro round out the flavors in this dip to ensure your guacamole has a kiss of heat that’s not too overwhelming.
Which Chiles Are Best?
A balance of mild and spicy chiles was essential in making this guacamole spicy, but still edible. For me, there’s nothing worse than a dish being so spicy that it hurts you to eat it.
I used serrano, poblano, and jalapeño chiles. Each has a distinct flavor and varying levels of heat.
How a Pepper’s Heat Is Measured
When it comes to how hot a pepper is, the authoritative guide is the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). With zero being no heat at all and one billion being “I want to die,” the chart is a manual for picking the right heat to use in your recipes.
The mildest pepper in this Spicy Three-Chile Guacamole is the poblano, with an average of 1,250 SHU. Jalapeños and serranos are spicier, averaging 6,750 SHU and 10,000 SHU, respectively. (Here's a guide to picking the best jalapeños for your spice level!)
TIP: If you’re just dipping your toes in the chile pool and want to start out mildly, I would recommend using just one of the hotter chiles (either the jalapeño or the serrano) and substitute the other, hotter chile with an Anaheim or ancho, in addition to the poblano.
These milder chiles have the lowest SHU, coming in at only 1,000. On the flip side, if you’re a chile daredevil and want to ramp up the heat, increase the spice with chile de arbol (15,000 SHU) or pequin chiles (40,000 SHU). You can add these fiery peppers to the milder poblano, but I wouldn’t recommend pairing them with the jalapeños or serranos.
How to Roast Peppers
Whenever I roast peppers, I do so outside if at all possible. The fumes from a charring pepper can be pretty intense in a closed space.
If you have a grill that has a searing box, that’s the best way to char your peppers. Just turn the burner on and roast the peppers over high heat for 7-8 minutes, turning them as their skins blacken, blister, and the seeds inside the peppers begin to snap.
If you don’t have a searing box, you can char the peppers in a cast iron skillet, or under the broiler; use the same method as with the searing box. Be sure to ventilate your kitchen well to avoid respiratory discomfort.
Pepper skins are not only bitter, they’re unattractive when stirred into your guacamole. A quick steam and swift scrape with the back of your knife will remove the charred skins, leaving your guacamole with all the smoky-spicy flavor and none of the bitterness.
This Spicy Three-Chile Guacamole was great right out of the gate, but I wanted to add a bit more smokiness without tacking on more spice. The solution? A hit of ground cumin! This unassuming spice accented the char from roasting the peppers and brought out the buttery flavor of the mashed avocado.
When Is an Avocado Ripe?
Selecting the best avocados for your guacamole doesn’t have to be intimidating. Choose an avocado that has its nub of a stem still attached. Avocados ripen from the rounded end to the stem end. By the time the stem has fallen off, your avocado might be too far gone.
Pressing the avocado slightly will also give you an idea of how ripe it is. An avocado that yields slightly when pressed is just ripe for the picking, and for your guacamole.
How to Keep Guacamole From Turning Brown
Unfortunately, guacamole can’t remain perpetually green. In spite of all of the “surefire” tips and tricks flooding the internet, nature’s process will take place. With proper preparation, though, we can keep it green for as long as it takes to devour it. Here are some tips:
- Add lime juice: Stirring in lime juice, which is highly acidic, helps to impede the oxygenation of the guacamole. Covering your prepared guacamole with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the dip will protect it from exposure to oxygen.
- Refrigerate your guac: Refrigerating the guacamole also helps to delay browning. Inevitably, the guacamole will develop a brown layer, even with all your precautions. It’s not harmful, nor does this layer ruin the dip, it’s just unsightly. So, scrape away that thin layer of discolored guacamole, and enjoy the rest.
- But it's really best is to serve guac right away: Once the peppers are roasted and chopped, this guacamole comes together quickly. The best way to make sure it doesn’t discolor before your guests arrive is to make it about 15 minutes before you want to serve it.
Truth be told, guacamole doesn’t last long after it’s made, and as easy as it is to prepare, you can whip up a batch in no time at all. If you do have leftovers, or need to prepare it in advance, follow the tips above and remember to keep it chilled. Prepared guacamole may be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator.
Need More Guacamole?
- Copycat Chipotle Guacamole
- Guacamole with Charred Sweet Corn, Bacon and Tomato
- Bacon and Blue Cheese Guacamole
- Guacamole Deviled Eggs
- Mango Avocado Salsa
Spicy Three-Chile Guacamole
- 2 poblano peppers (approx. 6” long)
- 4 serrano peppers (3-4” long)
- 2 jalapeño peppers (3-4” long)
- 4 ripe avocados
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of lime juice
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat your grill or broiler:
Set your oven’s broiler or your grill’s searing compartment to high. Roast the peppers for 7-8 minutes until the skins are charred and blistered, turning the peppers as they begin to shake, and the seeds inside make snapping noises.
Steam the peppers and remove the skins:
Once the peppers have been charred, remove them from the heat. Put the peppers into a shallow dish or bowl and cover them with a towel to steam.
After the peppers steam, their skins are easy to remove. Use the back of your knife to scrape the charred, papery skins from the peppers, then discard.
Dice the peppers:
Once the skins have been removed, slice off the stem end of each pepper. Cut the poblano and jalapeños in half lengthwise, then scrape away the white membrane and the seeds with the back side of your knife (this helps prevent scraping away valuable pepper flesh).
Because serrano peppers are so skinny, rather than slice them in half, use the back of your knife blade and drag it down the length of the pepper to push the seeds out from the cut end.
Dice the peppers into 1/4-inch pieces.
Mash the avocados:
Cut the avocados in half and remove, then discard the pits. Scoop the avocado flesh into the mixing bowl and use a fork or potato masher to smash the avocado into a semi-chunky paste.
Gently stir in the lime juice to help delay the browning of the avocado. Try to avoid stirring too much as it will break up the avocado.
Finish the guacamole:
Fold in the chiles, red onion, cilantro, cumin, and salt until the ingredients are well incorporated. Taste the guacamole and adjust the salt to suit your preference.
Allow the flavors to meld:
Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole and cover your bowl with a lid. Refrigerate the guacamole for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors of the chiles and the cumin to meld and deepen.
Enjoy the guacamole within 3 days. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. If the guacamole browns, scrape off the brown layer and discard before serving.