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Phony Guacamole: Skyrocketing Avocado Prices Have Caused a Frightening New Trend

Chowhound logo Chowhound 7/22/2019 David Watsky
a bowl of food on a table: tomatillo guacamole recipe © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. (video) tomatillo guacamole recipe

Avocado prices are on the rise due in part to increased global demand, a reportedly bad growing season, as well as unfavorable geopolitical headwinds—namely tariffs on Mexican imports from the current administration. The ripple effect can be felt in supermarkets where the price of avocados is up 129 percent. Last week USA Today reported that a 25-pound box of Mexican avocados was going for a staggering $84.25, compared to $37 around the same time last year.

Related Reading: How to Use Avocado in Everything from Drinks to Dessert

The avocado price hikes also trickle down to restaurants, of course, and especially Mexican joints and taquerias where avocado and guacamole are staple offerings. Recently, an LA-based food reporter named Javier Cabral uncovered an alarming trend rumored to be on the rise in some Southern California and Mexican taco spots; "mock guacamole" or guac made without any avocado but served under the guise of the real stuff. 

So what exactly is this phony guacamole and how can you know if a restaurant is pulling a fast one on you? The substitute in question is made using a recipe nearly identical to traditional guac with garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice but substitutes tender Mexican squash—sometimes referred to as Mexican zucchini or calabacitas ("little pumpkins")—for increasingly pricey avocado. The result, according to Cabral who himself made a batch to test its authenticity, is shockingly similar to the real stuff in flavor, if not a bit more watery in texture. Cabral, a self-proclaimed taco expert, notes that taco shops often serve a slightly more watery version of guac to begin with, blending it with tomatillos so the difference is likely not as stark as with a chunky homemade version and might explain how some taco shops are getting away with it. Sort of.

It's impossible to know how widespread this faux guacamole is at the present moment given there is not much transparency among restaurateurs to broadcast the news for obvious reasons—and to be fair, the reporting so far has only pointed to a few examples of consumer suspicion, mostly via social media; rumors that have yet to be substantiated by admissions from restaurateurs or any scientific testing. But it is reasonable to assume that if avocado prices don't normalize business owners will increasingly look for creative ways to cut costs. We can only hope they'll be upfront and honest if they're serving avocado-less guac.

Related Reading: 11 of the Best Mexican Recipes to Grill This Spring & Summer

If you want to see for yourself how close "mock guac" is to the real thing, Cabral shared the version he adapted from one of Paola Briseño González's recipes and shared with readers. There already exist a good number of substitute guacamole recipes, mostly targeting those with avocado allergies. And who could forget the green pea guacamole hysteria of 2015?

For best results, it's suggested to use ripe squash to mimic the tender creaminess of a ripe avocado.

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