Avocados — once the poster child of overpriced food, lambasted as the reason spendthrift millennials can’t afford houses — aren’t as expensive (at least in a lot of places). Australia is actually currently in the midst of an avocado glut. Closer to home, the Mexican state of Jalisco has reportedly been approved to export the creamy fruit to the good old US of A.
While I don’t purport to be an expert on the global supply chain, I can tell you that I bought my most recent avocadoes for 97 cents and a buck a piece (they tend to range from $1.50 to $3 each normally). Whether that’s due to some larger economic force (or organized crime) or just what happens when they’re in season, I’m not sure of the why of it all. Point is, avocados are cheaper than peaches now, and as my grandpappy once told me “don’t look a gift fruit in the mouth” (he was senile).
Long story short, now’s a perfect time to enjoy some avocado toast and I’ve got the perfect recipe for you. What do I know about avocados? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been finding ways to “just throw some avocado on stuff” (the logic underpinning avocado toast) since I was just a teen. My best friend growing up had big avocado tree in his back yard, and there was many a night that we came home famished from a long night of drinking next to canals and tried to slake our hunger with any avocado preparation that could be accomplished using 60% or less of brain cells. Sometimes that was just salt and a spoon, which is still pretty good, honestly.
I’ve come a long way since then (sort of), but the same basic rules hold true: avocados need very few accoutrements to be delicious. And frankly, a lot of the additions I see at restaurants and in recipes online detract more than they enhance. Side note, stop cooking your damned avocados. 99.99% of the time they taste better raw.
Anyway, the following recipe is the result of synthesizing some techniques I learned cooking other things, plus my years of avocado toast trial and error, put in service of the simplest but best avocado toast recipe possible. To put it in slightly different terms, I think you could use fewer ingredients than this and have reasonably good avocado toast, and you could use more ingredients than this and it would also be pretty good, but neither would be quite as good this avocado toast. That, to me, is what we mean when we say “refined.” Everything here is here for good reason.
- 1 slice of bread
- About 1/2 a medium-sized, ripe-but-not-too-ripe avocado
- 1 garlic clove
- A wedge of lime
- Parmigiano Reggiano (preferably aged longer than a year)
- Extra virgin olive oil (not pictured) for grilling
- Salt and black pepper (not pictured)
I think any bread will do here, but I prefer the “artisan” type loaves from my local supermarket bakery — something a touch bigger and denser than a baguette, so that it can stand up to the spread, and ideally will get a crunchy on the outside while staying slightly gooey on the inside when grilled, which is what we’re going to do here. Sourdough works great too.
As for the avocado itself, hopefully you know what a ripe avocado feels like by now, but my preference is one that has some give when you squeeze it but not too many softer spots. When you cut it into cubes, the cubes should melt in your mouth but they shouldn’t completely mush down flat when you spread them — that’s the ideal texture, to me. Doesn’t have to be perfect though, slightly sub-perfect will still be delicious.
- Bread knife
- Spreader knife
- Microplane grater
- Cast iron pan (not pictured) — or any other pan, really.
Do you need a special spreader knife like I have? Could you get by with a spoon and a butter knife instead? Sure, but when you make as much avocado toast as I do, these spreader knife thingies are pretty nice to have. You can do your cutting and scooping with a single utensil. You don’t need a microplane either, but they also simplify the process.
Heat up that pan on medium heat and get a few glugs of oil in there, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Having done this a few times, my preference is olive oil, both because it tastes pretty good with the other ingredients and because it gives a nice consistent fry. I’ve also used butter (spread on the bread), which tastes good but doesn’t fry quite as crisp, and avocado oil, which is flavor-consistent but for some reason the bread sucks up more of it than with olive oil so you end up having to add more halfway through. I don’t know the science behind that but I’ve seen it happen.
Your pan/oil should be hot enough that the bread sizzles when it hits it. If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot. You can usually tell when the bread is toasted enough by smell. This is gonna sound dumb but it’s true: the toast is done when it starts to smell like toast.
Once your toast is done, slice a little piece off your garlic clove so that it’s flat on one end.
Now, take your garlic and rub that flat side all over the bread just like you’re grating some cheese. You might not think this would add much garlic flavor, but trust me, it does.
See how much garlic came off that clove? Also you might notice the bread getting a noticeable sheen from the oils in the garlic. Good times. I rub my bread on *both* sides because I’m a Big Time Garlic Daddy™ but you can only do one side if you want. (I also grew this particular garlic myself, are you impressed yet?).
Now for the avocado.
I realize there are different ways to do this. For instance, I’ve seen people scoop out the avocado with a spoon and then cut thin vertical slices almost to the end of the avo and then fan it out on the toast, which does look pretty. That’s fine, this is my standard technique, which is easy, functional, and guarantees the maximum avocado-per-square-millimeter of toast. I tend to think that’s a little more important than aesthetics alone, plus you don’t have to be as fussy with it.
So you take your spreader knife (or butter knife, as the case may be) and make a little cross hatch on the avocado, being careful not to pierce the rind. Then you scoop that out and just spread it on the toast. Granted, this method doesn’t work as well for the smooth-skinned avocado varieties (which also taste delicious) that you have to peel with a fruit peeler. But that’s a digression for another day.
I call this “pretty enough.”
Now take your lime wedge and squirt a little lime on there. Doesn’t have to be a ton, four or five drops works just fine, just enough to brighten it up. If you don’t have limes, lemon works fine too.
Salt after lime. How much salt? This part is more art than science, but I would say the ideal amount of salt for avocado toast is more than you’d put on an egg, but less than you’d put on a steak.
Now cracked black pepper on top of the lime and salt. I feel like there are a lot of dishes where people add black pepper more out of habit than for any noticeable flavor benefit, but I swear by black pepper on avocado toast. Black pepper and avocado are a great combination. (I have not tried this with white pepper, please respect my privacy at this time).
And now for the coup de grace, motherf*ckin 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano. If you want to shave it on there instead of microplaning? Go nuts. That would probably look baller as hell, but for me personally I couldn’t make my shaved cheese look as good as my microplaned cheese.
Cheese is probably my most controversial addition here, but like I said up top, I truly don’t believe avocado toast with any fewer or more ingredients than this will be better than this. Aged parmesan has that slightly nutty, umami quality that pairs beautifully with slightly nutty, citrus-brightened avocado with just a hint of peppery heat from the black pepper. I make this for guests all the time and I’ve never not had one say, “Holy shit, this is good!”
I’m not staunchly against adding more ingredients when they’re in season and makes sense. Thinly sliced hot peppers, like jalapeño or serrano? Sure, why not. Thinly sliced, pickled radish and/or onion? Hey, that could be good. I still have some super ripe tomatoes and tiny serranos from my garden lying around, and I’ll throw those in there from time to time, just for a little something different, like so:
That’s a fun variation, but at its heart it’s a change up. Throwing a change-up only works when you surround it with fastballs. Grilled toast-garlic-lime-salt-pepper-parmesan is my avocado toast fastball. I dare you to try it and disagree.
Vince Mancini is on Twitter.