Is your guacamole fake? Restaurant controversy looms as avocado prices soar

It looks like guacamole and it kinda tastes like guacamole, too.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

With avocado prices on the rise, a new controversy is bubbling up around one of America's most beloved dishes: guacamole.

This summer, restaurants have been accused of serving a guacamole-like dip that isn't even made with the creamy green fruit. It's made with a much cheaper substitute that's really a member of the squash family.

So, naturally, guac enthusiasts are not impressed.

The main controversy started on July 3, when a tweeter based in Cancun, Mexico, claimed that this sneaky swap out is happening more often than many consumers might think.

"How old were you when you learned that the 'avocado' sauce from taco stands has no avocado in it but cooked zucchini that gives it the color and texture?," the tweet, translated by Google, reads.

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It didn't take long for that tweet, which now has hundreds of comments, to reach the U.S. A small Los Angeles publication called L.A. Taco decided to test out the fake guac recipe and made the bold assertion, "There is a fake guacamole that has very quietly sauced our tacos for who knows how long now. It is a confusingly neon-green, avocado-less crime against taco humanity that no taquero will ever proudly admit to committing."

The magazine hypothesized that if you eat a lot of tacos, you've probably been duped at least once, adding, "I’m willing to bet that we have all had it at least once. Just think of the last time you have complained to yourself or aloud that the guacamole is too watery?"

Though the publication did not name specific restaurants, one Los Angeles-based restaurant owner admitted to adding a little bit of lettuce to her own taqueria quac to thicken things up.

So why the fake guac?

In March 2018, Steve Barnard, chief executive and president of Mission Produce, the largest grower and distributer of avocados in the world, told The New York Times that his company was "scrambling" to keep up with America's booming desire for the creamy green fruit. Since the early 2000s, Mission Produce has grown between 10 to 15% each year to meet the rising demand. But when the land doesn't cooperate, exponential growth won't fill the void.

With avocados becoming so desirable in the midst of one of the smallest crops in more than a decade, the stone fruits are reaching record-high costs. According to USA Today, the wholesale price of a 25-pound box of avocados was just $37 in July 2018. This year, the same sized box is up to $84.25. According to the USDA, the cost of one avocado has nearly doubled in most grocery stores.

Avocado Ranch Dip

Avocado Ranch Dip

Martha Stewart

When faced with rising ingredient costs, restaurants have two options: take that item off the menu or find a way to substitute it.

Enter calabacitas, a zucchini-like squash that's native to Mexico. It has a light green color and a creamy texture that's similar to avocados. When blended together with other guacamole ingredients like jalapeño, cilantro, garlic and tomatillos, it becomes even harder to distinguish between the two — especially once that sauce is combined with the other smoky, spicy, meaty flavors from the taco.

To date, no restaurants or taco trucks have come forward to say they've been changing the recipe (without notifying customers) but, despite the lack of confessions, tweeters remain pretty upset by the notion that someone might be messing their with their favorite way to eat avocados.

Others, however, are intrigued by the cheaper alternative and want to try making it at home.

One even wants to become a "guacamole taste tester." What a great public service.

Hey, somebody's gotta do it.

If you're dining out and the guac on your dish seems particularly watery or thin, just ask your waiter or waitress if something else besides an avocado-based sauce is being used.