Learn how to make perfect guacamole with these expert tips and tricks. Plus, find out how to keep guacamole from turning brown and ways to make this delicious dip a little healthier.

Emily McKenna and Kimberly Holland

Pictured recipe: Tequila Guacamole

Guacamole is always a crowd-pleaser, whether it's game day or fiesta time. Creamy guacamole dip is also highly versatile. While commonly served as a dip, it's also a taco condiment, sandwich spread, grain bowl topper, sweet potato topper, and so much more.

Homemade guacamole beats store-bought any day. It's fresher, healthier, tastier, and takes just minutes to make. If you're ready make guacamole from scratch, this ultimate guide has everything you need. Here, we're sharing our best tips, tricks, and secrets to making the best-and healthiest-guacamole.

Guac Tip #1: Use Ripe Avocados

The foundation of any respectable guacamole is a ripe avocado. The slightly bumpy skin of the Hass avocado, one of the most common varieties available year-round, turns from green to purplish-black as it ripens.

Look for the "button"-the tip of the stem-still attached to a Hass avocado. Sometimes the button falls off an avocado when it's ripe, but the remaining indentation should still be green. If it is still on, pick it off and the color underneath is your guide to what the rest of the avocado looks like. If the indention is yellow, it's not quite ripe enough to eat, whereas green means go, and it's ready to eat. Avoid a black indention; the avocado may be rotten.

Another good indicator is to go by feel. When ripe, the avocado will give ever so slightly when you press it gently. You can speed up the ripening process, which can take up to a week, by putting avocados in a brown paper bag with a banana or an apple.

Guac Tip#2: Be Bold with Garlic and Onion

Getty Images: Randy R.A. Gibbs

Finely chopped onions and garlic are essential to any good guacamole, along with a little salt. Sprinkle the salt directly onto the chopped onions and garlic to bring out their juices and natural flavor before mixing into the guacamole.

If I have some time, I roast some garlic, which adds a sweet earthiness that balances the sharp bite of the raw stuff. I use one large finely chopped clove of raw garlic for every two cloves of roasted garlic. Roasting garlic is easy: simply wrap a whole head in foil and roast it in a 400ºF oven for 40 to 50 minutes. After the garlic cools, you can squeeze the cloves out of their skins.

If you like more heat, add chili powder to taste or a diced jalapeño.

Related: 5-Ingredient Dip Recipes

Guac Tip #3: Use Fresh Cilantro and Limes

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Fresh cilantro and lime juice are to guacamole what milk is to a chocolate chip cookie. Absolutely necessary! Resist the temptation to used bottled lime juice-fresh-squeezed juice makes a difference. A whole lime or two squeezed into your guacamole, along with a handful of chopped cilantro, will provide a welcome burst of brightness and astringency to your dip. A bonus: Fresh lime juice slows down the oxidation process, preventing your guacamole from turning brown.

Lime Buying Tips: Look for shiny, bright-green limes that feel heavy for their size. Opt for limes that give a little when squeezed, rather than hard ones.

Cilantro Buying Tips: Look for cilantro that has bright-green leaves that look fresh, not wilted. The stems have as much flavor as the leaves, so don't be afraid to use them. Just discard any tough ends before chopping.

Guac Tip #4: Take Smart Shortcuts

Getty Images: Monkey Business Images

If your guacamole craving cannot wait while you chop garlic and herbs or juice limes, take some help from the supermarket. Just add a couple spoonfuls of jarred pico de gallo, which has all of the traditional guacamole add-ins, to your recipe and shave off a good five minutes of prep. If you are really in a rush-say with only five minutes left until halftime is over-grab a package of pre-mashed avocado, available in the produce department of some markets.

Related: Healthy Avocado Recipes

How to Keep Guacamole from Turning Brown

Pictured recipe: Guacamole Chicken

While brown guacamole is safe to eat, it's not all that pleasing to the eye. Keep guacamole green with these three strategies.

Cover with Water

If this method sounds a little odd, hear us out: Smooth your guacamole with a spoon, and pour a tablespoon or two of water to cover the entire surface of the guac. Then, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. The layer of water over the guac prevents air from getting to the avocado dip, which stops any browning, but the fat-filled dip doesn't absorb the water. Pour the water out of the bowl, give the guac a stir, and serve. No one will ever know your little secret.

Add Extra Lime Juice

The acidic nature of lime juice guards against oxidation, so pour an extra squeeze or two atop the dip before storing. When you're ready to eat, mix the juice back in. Not only does it help slow browning, it'll give the guac a burst of fresh flavor.

Press on the Plastic Wrap

Decrease the amount of air that can reach the guac by pushing plastic wrap onto the surface. The direct contact between the dip and the wrap will slow oxidation, leaving your guac more presentable for a longer period of time.

Guacamole Nutrition

Pictured recipe: Sweet Potato Skins with Guacamole

Is guacamole healthy? The short answer is yes, but it's important to keep an eye on your portion size.

While avocado is certainly loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, it's also loaded with calories: half a medium avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 12 grams of unsaturated fats. What's more, avocado is also a great source of filling fiber (7 grams per half avocado) and potassium (almost one-seventh of your day's worth is in just half the fruit).

Most of the ingredients you'll add to avocado to make your signature guacamole-onion, tomatoes, cilantro, peppers and lime juice-won't add many calories, but the temptation to heavily dip into this creamy appetizer may be so strong you'll lose track of how much you've consumed.

How to Make Healthy Guacamole

Pictured recipe: Jason Mraz's Guacamole

Use one of these methods to cut calories in your favorite guac so you can dip a little bit longer.

Use Low-Calorie "Fillers"

In our Skinny Guacamole, we replaced half the avocado with shredded zucchini, a stealth secret to cutting calories and bulking up each bite. One serving of this lower-calorie option shaves off 100 calories and 6 grams of fat from the traditional version. You can also blend in some peas or edamame for a matching mash that adds body and bulk without boosting overall calorie count.

Make a Salsa-Guac Combo

You can add instant flavor to mashed avocado and cut calories per serving by stirring in your favorite salsa. A tomatillo salsa keeps the green theme, but tomato-based salsa (or chopped fresh tomato) also makes a delicious add-in. Salsa has just a few calories per tablespoon, so you can keep your creamy dip while stretching your calorie allowance. Just be sure to check labels-and taste before adding any salt-salsas can be high in sodium.

Swap Chips for Veggies

Calories can really stack up high if you're dipping into guacamole with fried tortilla chips. Choose bell pepper strips, carrots, celery or other veggies instead for a lower-calorie, nutrient-packed alternative.

Read more: 4 Healthy Reasons to Eat Avocados

Watch: How to Make Copycat Chipotle Guacamole

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