Adding tomatoes may or may not be one of them.

Photo: Wynn Myers; Prop Styling: Lauren Smith Ford

Like a sip of bourbon near a campfire or your favorite song coming on the radio on a road trip, there are moments that can transfix us in a state that some might call contentment. Where seconds feel like minutes and everything within them seems perfect. This is what good guacamole is capable of.

Sadly, so many of us make mediocre guacamole, or even worse, buy a tub of whatever has been languishing at the grocery store’s prepared foods counter. But no matter who you are or what experience you’ve gained in the kitchen, the good news is that all earth’s children can make great guacamole. Just keep these tips in mind, and you will avoid any proverbial pitfalls.

Bad avocados yield bad guacamole. We have a saying around the office that can be replaced with just about any pleasurable eating experience: “If you’re going to eat a biscuit, eat a biscuit.” This applies to cheeseburgers, donuts, pie, and any other food that should be enjoyed selectively in its full splendor. This also proves true with guacamole. Just because you have a hankering for it doesn’t mean you should use whatever sub-par avocados you have on-hand. Take the time to find the best ones, even learn which grocery store has the most on-point shipments. Some of our editors will only buy them in mass quantities at the international grocery store on the other side of town. Starting with good avocados matters more than any other principal we may list here.

  • Pico de Gallo is not mandatory. Like wearing white after Labor Day, there are some things people continue to do because of an arbitrary societal standard that was set many moons ago or because their grandmother said so. Our position? Unless you’ve made some fantastic pico with in-season tomatoes, leave it out. It’s only watering down your concoction and adding in flavorless textural elements.

  • Keep it simple. All you need to make truly transcendent guac is good avocados, lime juice, cilantro, onion, maybe a jalapeno, and salt. While some restaurants add in everything from blue cheese to strawberries to bacon, they become more distractions than enhancements.

  • We like it chunky. There’s no need to transfer your guacamole between bowls and food processors and other implements to get it baby food-smooth. Good guacamole is chunky with juicy bits of onion and jalapeno so it doesn’t get texturally monotonous. And no Vitamix or high-powered Cuisinart will save your from an underripe avocado. We wish you could blend it into submission, but alas.

  • Give your guacamole time. While many restaurants boast “tableside guac” on their menu, the best guacamole has had a minute or five to rest so the lime juice, salt, avocado, and onion really meld into each other. That way when you taste it, you’ll truly know whether it needs more of any other element.