Avocados may not be the first vegetable you think of for smoking or grilling. After all, as oceans of guacamole and acres of toast suggest, avocados are splendid raw. But wood smoke imparts haunting umami flavors that take guacamole from average to astonishing. To reinforce that smokiness, I like to add chipotle chiles along with the customary jalapeños. For dipping, I propose Chia Seed-Grilled Totopos (tortilla chips)—the recipe follows.
Method: Indirect grilling with wood smoke (smoke-roasting)
Grill/Gear: Best smoked on charcoal or wood. If grilling, you can use a gas grill. You’ll also need a wire rack set over an aluminum foil drip pan filled with ice; hardwood chunks or chips (unsoaked); and a molcajete and temolote (or mortar and pestle) or food processor.
What Else: You’ll need ripe avocados for this recipe—preferably Hass (they’re available year-round), or Florida avocados when in season. Ripen them at room temperature until gently yielding when squeezed between your thumb and forefinger. You have three options for adding wood smoke: traditional smoking, smoke-roasting, or grilling over a wood or wood-enhanced fire. For even more flavor, serve the guacamole in the smoky avocado skins.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Smoking Time: 10 to 15 minutes
- 2 ripe avocados
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
- 1 luscious ripe red tomato
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 clove garlic, peeled (optional)
- 1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
- Grilled Chia Seed Totopos (recipe follows) or other chips, for serving
- Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grid if wood grilling
Set up your grill for indirect grilling (or your smoker for smoking) and heat to medium-low. Add wood chunks or chips to the coals. If enhancing a gas fire, place the chunks under the grate directly over one of the burners or add the chips to your gas grill’s smoker box.
Meanwhile, halve and pit the avocados, but leave the skin on. Rub the cut sides of the avocados with a bit of the fresh lime juice to keep them from discoloring; set the remaining juice aside. Cut the tomato in half widthwise. Cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds for milder guacamole; leave them in if you like more heat. Place the avocado, tomato, and jalapeño halves, cut sides up, on a wire rack over an aluminum foil pan filled with ice. (This keeps them cool during smoking.)
Place the ice-filled pan with the vegetables on the grate away from the heat. Place the garlic clove (if using) atop one of the tomato halves. Lower the lid and smoke-roast (indirect grill) the vegetables until infused with wood smoke, 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t overcook—you want the avocados and tomatoes to remain cool in the center.
Transfer the smoked vegetables to a cutting board and let cool. Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skins with a spoon (optional: save the skins for serving). Dice the tomato, discarding the stem end. Stem and mince the jalapeño and garlic (if using).
Traditionally, guacamole would be made and served in a pumice stone mortar called a molcajete. If you have one, add the jalapeño, garlic, and chipotle chile and grind to a paste with the stone pestle (called a temolote). Work in the avocado, leaving it a little chunky. Work in the tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste: The guacamole should be highly seasoned. Alternatively, chop the vegetables by hand and mash in the avocado with a fork. Or use a food processor: Combine the jalapeño, garlic, and chipotle in a food processor and finely chop, then add the avocado and pulse the processor in short bursts to coarsely chop. Work in the tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper—again, running the processor in short bursts: The guacamole should remain chunky.
Transfer the guacamole to a bowl (or serve directly in the molcajete or the smoked avocado skins). Serve with Chia Seed–Grilled Totopos.
Variation: Wood-Grilled Guacamole
You can also make guacamole with grilled avocados—preferably seared over wood or a wood-enhanced fire on a charcoal grill.
Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to high. If using a wood-burning grill, start grilling while the fire is still smoky. If using a charcoal grill, add 1 to 2 hardwood chunks or 1 1/2 cups wood chips (unsoaked) to the coals. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well. When the wood starts smoking, arrange the avocado halves and tomatoes (cut sides down), and jalapeño and garlic on the grate. (Thread the jalapeño halves and garlic on a small bamboo skewer.) Grill just long enough to infuse the ingredients with wood smoke, but not long enough to cook them, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the ingredients to a cutting board to cool, then prepare the guacamole as described in the main recipe.
Grilled Chia Seed Totopos (Tortilla Chips)
Grilled tortilla chips are more flavorful—and healthier—than the traditional fried chips. These have the added flavor of fire-toasted chia seeds.
- Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate
- 4 small (6-inch) flour or corn tortillas
- Extra virgin olive oil or toasted (dark) sesame oil, for brushing
- 3 tablespoons chia or sesame seeds
- Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well.
Lightly brush the tortillas on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with chia seeds and salt and pepper (if using).
Arrange the tortillas on the grate and grill until lightly browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn.
Transfer the hot tortillas to a cutting board and immediately cut each into 6 wedges. Transfer the wedges to a wire rack—they’ll crisp upon cooling. I eat them right away, but any stragglers can be stored at room temperature in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container for a day or so.
All recipes excerpted with permission from “How to Grill Vegetables” by Steven Raichlen, photographs by Steven Randazzo. Workman Publishing copyright 2021.