I eat a lot of guacamole. And I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic sense. At least every afternoon, when the pangs of hangri-ness wash over me, I grab for chips and guac to soothe myself. While I will make guacamole from scratch if I’m having friends over for game day or a dinner party, the stuff I eat in the afternoon is often bought at my local grocery store. But I’m not talking about something that’s sold by an actual food company; I like the fresh stuff from the deli counter.
Guacamole may be Mexican in origin, but if you were to take a survey of the many grocery stores nationwide, you undoubtedly would come away thinking it’s the most American snack in the country. It rivals hummus as a standard dip, especially in L.A.
I surveyed more than a dozen grocery stores in Los Angeles to see which ones have the best deli-counter guacamole and to find out what’s really in their recipes that sets them apart. Fresh is usually best, or you can stop by your local Mexican restaurant to see if it’s available for purchase. But if you’re already shopping and a craving hits hard and fast, reach for these:
Lassens Organic Guacamole: Ostensibly mashed avocado topped with pico de gallo, this stir-before-you-dip guacamole is vibrant and fresh, despite the odd appearance of lemon juice on the ingredient list, which, as it turns out, is shockingly welcome here.
Vallarta Fresh 100% Hass Avocado Guacamole, Mild: Slightly chunky and balanced in flavor, this mild guacamole is perfectly suited to snacking at the kitchen counter. Dress it up with a squeeze of fresh lime and a pinch of salt if you want a more potent dip.
Vallarta Fresh 100% Hass Avocado Guacamole, Spicy: As good as its original guacamole but unfortunately, not spicy at all; the greenness of the chiles is noticeable, not their heat.
Erewhon Organic Guacamole: The potent heat of both jalapeño and serrano chiles comes through loud and clear in this guacamole more than others labeled “spicy”; the all-organic ingredients shine in this well-balanced dip.
Gelson’s Homestyle Guacamole: Cayenne is the only outlier ingredient in this otherwise classic guacamole that is seasoned with garlic powder for a strong savoriness; plenty of fresh lime juice gives it a pleasant tartness.
Erewhon Organic Kale Guacamole: Made with two kinds of kale and lemon juice, this guacamole tastes more like a kale salad blended with avocado than guacamole — not awful but the chlorophyll flavor of the kale dominates.
Whole Foods Mild Guacamole: If the ingredient label is to be taken literally, this guacamole is a mix of avocados and pico de gallo, which already contains the tomatoes, onions and lime juice needed for good guac; unfortunately, the flavor is a little tomato-heavy.
Bristol Farms Guacamole: Habanero chiles add an intriguing heat to this guacamole, but a pairing with “sweet onions” in the mix makes for an overall too-sweet dip.
Ralph’s Deli Guacamole: A little too smooth, this almost whipped guacamole is fine if you add more salt, lime juice and some fresh chile to cut through the overwhelming creaminess of the avocados.
Trader Joe’s “Spicy Chunky Guacamole Auténtico”: The heat of dried arbol chiles cuts through the avocados nicely, but the presence of diced red bell peppers gives the guacamole a perplexing fruitiness.
Trader Joe’s “Avocado’s Number Guacamole”: Distilled white vinegar gives this too-smooth guacamole an odd acidity.
Herdez’s Traditional Guacamole: This brand of guacamole, sold at Ralphs, Vons and other grocery stores, is the classic brand served on Mexican dinner tables. It’s the best of the non-deli-made, store-bought guacs, thanks to its use of all real ingredients — as opposed to powdered acids or stabilizers — and a pleasant creaminess.