Ask cookbook author Pat Tanumihardja about some of her favorite food memories growing up in Indonesia, and avocados will figure prominently in her response.
“Half an avocado, drizzled with palm sugar syrup,” she says with a happy sigh.
In many cultures, from Indonesia to Brazil to Sri Lanka, the avocado is treated as the fruit it actually is, sometimes topped off with a squirt of chocolate syrup or sweetened condensed milk, and, more often, incorporated into sweet drinks.
Known across Asia as “butter fruit,” the avocado has a mild flavor and creamy texture that makes it a remarkably adaptable ingredient for many recipes, including desserts. Americans are discovering that avocados can go far beyond standard chip-and-dip fare.
Avocado and coconut ice cream
Serves 6 (makes 1 quart)
Neither eggs nor dairy is required for this luscious frozen treat, which gets its creamy texture from pureed avocado and rich coconut milk. Calling it “ridiculously yummy,” Mexican American chef Pati Jinich notes that the nutty flavor is enhanced by a topping of toasted coconut flakes or nuts – and a drizzle of chocolate syrup would not be amiss.
This recipe calls for an ice cream maker, but this coconut-avocado mixture can be chilled and served as a cold mousse or packed into a container and frozen to a dense soft-serve consistency.
MAKE AHEAD: For an optimal ice cream consistency, the churned ice cream needs a few hours in the freezer before serving.
Adapted from chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich.
1 1/2 cups regular coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
Flesh of 3 large ripe Hass avocados halved, diced (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup dried shredded coconut or sweetened coconut flakes lightly toasted, for garnish (optional; may substitute toasted almonds, pine nuts or pistachios)
Combine the coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. then transfer to a blender or food processor, along with the avocado and lime juice. Puree until completely smooth.
Transfer the puree to an ice cream maker; churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. It will still be somewhat soft. Place in a separate, freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze for a couple hours before serving.
If using, lightly toast the coconut in a small saute pan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. The coconut toasting should take less than a minute. Once the coconut becomes fragrant and acquires a tan, remove from the heat. Sprinkle as a garnish over the ice cream.
| Per serving: 320 calories, 2 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 22 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar
Iced avocado and coffee drink (es alpukat)
Singapore native Pat Tanumihardja grew up on refreshing avocado drinks like this one, which combines chunks of avocado in a coffee-laced milk sweetened with a thick simple syrup. This version is blended into a creamy vegan shake, but it can also be made with regular or low-fat milk.
The syrup is steeped with pandan leaves, which have a lightly citrusy vanilla flavor. Use the same syrup to sweeten tea and cocktails; if you have trouble finding pandan leaves, you can substitute a split vanilla bean and add a squirt of lime juice.
Make ahead: You’ll have syrup left over, which can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Pandan leaves are available at Asian markets (typically frozen).
Adapted from a recipe by Seattle food writer and cookbook author Pat Tanumihardja.
For the syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 pandan leaves, trimmed and tied into separate knots (see headnote)
For the drink:
Flesh of 1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup espresso plus more for garnish
2/3 cup water (may substitute 1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled)
2 cups almond milk (may substitute other plant-based milk)
1/2 cup ice cubes, or more as needed
Chocolate syrup, for serving
Instant espresso grounds, for serving
For the syrup: Combine the sugar, water and pandan leaves in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; once the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until thickened, adjusting the heat as needed. Discard the leaves, then pour the syrup into a heatproof container or bottle. The yield is about 2 1/2 cups; you’ll need 1/4 cup for this recipe.
For the drink: Combine the avocado, espresso, almond milk and pandan syrup in a blender. Add ice, cover and blend on high until smooth and frothy. Add ice and blend again, as needed, for a thicker consistency.
Divide the drink among individual glasses or cups. Drizzle with chocolate syrup, and sprinkle with ground espresso. Serve right away.
Avocado Key lime pie
Serves 6 to 8
The natural creaminess of avocado provides the perfect texture for this tart pie filling, with the added bonus that it requires no stovetop cooking.
If you can’t find Key limes, you can substitute regular limes or even use bottled Key lime juice – just don’t forget the fresh lime zest.
Make ahead: The baked, cooled crust needs to be refrigerated for 1 hour before using. It can be tightly wrapped in its dish and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Defrost before using. The assembled pie needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.
Adapted from a recipe by Lara Ferroni, author of “An Avocado a Day: More Than 70 Recipes for Enjoying Nature’s Most Delicious Superfood” (Sasquatch, 2017).
For the crust:
2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 squares)
1/4 cup sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup coconut oil (liquefied) or unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
Flesh of 2 ripe Hass avocados, smashed (2 cups; may use fresh or frozen/defrosted)
4 teaspoons finely grated zest and
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice (from about 5 Key limes; see headnote)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
Finely grated lime zest and/or thin lime wheels, for garnish (optional)
For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the oil or melted butter and stir until the crumbs are evenly coated, with the consistency of wet sand.
Use a spoon or the underside of a measuring cup to press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate, Bake (middle rack) for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for 1 hour, or until well chilled.
For the filling: Combine the avocado, lime zest and juice, condensed milk, vanilla extract and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth and silky. Transfer the mixture to the chilled crust, then use an offset spatula to spread it smooth and evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight, before serving.
Garnish with whipped cream and the lime zest and thin lime wheels, if using.
Per serving (based on 8, using coconut oil in the crust): 410 calories, 3 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 30 g fat, 22 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 16 g sugar
Chocolate-dipped avocado cookies
Makes 28 to 30
Avocado adds a mild flavor and tenderness to these tea-time-size cookies.
Make ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 day. The dipped cookies need to set for about an hour before serving or storing.
Adapted from a recipe by chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich.
For the cookies:
1/4 cup coconut oil (solidified), at room temperature
1/4 cup ripe, diced Hass avocado
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lime, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 1/3 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch kosher salt
For the icing
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped or broken into pieces
1 tablespoon coconut oil
For the cookies: Combine the coconut oil and avocado in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed, until smooth. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
Add the sugar; beat on medium speed for a few minutes, until fluffy, then add the egg, vanilla extract, lime zest and juice; beat until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating to just long enough to form a soft, well-blended dough.
Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there and sprinkle lightly with flour so you can gather the dough into two logs, each about 9 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Roll in plastic wrap, twisting the ends to make a tightly packed log. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 day.
If the logs of dough aren’t fairly firm, place them in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Unwrap the dough logs and place on a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to cut each one into 14 to 15 thin slices. You may want to wet the blade of the knife after 4 or 5 slices to make it easier to cut. Arrange the dough slices at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake (upper and lower racks) for 9 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The cookie should be pale but lightly browned at the edges.
Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the icing: Re-line the baking sheets with new parchment paper or wipe clean the silicone liners.
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely bubbling water (medium-low heat), stirring until shiny and smooth. Remove from the heat.
While the icing is warm, dip one side of each cookie halfway into it, then transfer to the baking sheets to set for about 1 hour before serving or storing.
Per cookie (based on 30, using half the icing): 70 calories, 1 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar