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« Next Stop: Jamaica | Main | Craving a Chaat? »

The Secret Life of Avocados

Creamy Avocado Milkshake 


I don't know about you, but when I discover that a favorite food of mine has a secret life I was previously oblivious to, I tend to get a little irrationally excited. It happened when I discovered coffee could be consumed in solid form; it happened when I discovered olives were for more than just snacking with cocktails, and it happened when I discovered, on my first and only trip to the enchanting island of Bali, that avocados are just as good in dessert as they are in sandwiches, salads, dips and California rolls.

It did, admittedly, take me about a week of seeing it on menus before finally deciding to take the after-dinner avocado plunge. It wasn't that I didn't trust local tastes - on the contrary, everything we ate, without fail, was amazing. It was, rather, my culinary narrow-mindedness finally catching up with me. You see, avocados, along with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, belong to that strange category of fruits that all of us who grew up with the Anglo-Saxon culinary mindset prefer to consider vegetable. Chocolate mousse with tomato coulis? Green pepper tarte tatin? Ugh. Even if we may be more than happy to eat certain vegetables in roles normally reserved for fruit - rhubarb, sweet potatoes and carrots, for instance - these transvestites of the produce world will no sooner be decorating a pot de crème or filling a cake of ours than lamb brains and pickled chicken feet. In fact, as I worked up the nerve to order avocado for dessert that very first time I realized how just how deep my prejudices go - while I'm normally more than happy to experiment on dinner, when it comes to dessert comfort, familiarity and yes, even predictability are the order of the day. And I suspect I'm not alone.

But the invention of avocado-based desserts is not the brainchild of the molecular gastronomy posse or even the delusions of left-wing tofu-cheesecake-consuming health nuts. In fact, as avocado-eaters go, around the world it's those who confine them to savory preparations who are in the minority. Who would have imagined, gazing across their grilled chicken salads, their California BLTs and their dollops of guacamole, that avocados are eaten for dessert all over Asia and South America? Who would have suspected that the Brazilians blithely blend them into frothy batidos; that Filipinos mash them with sweetened condensed milk to make velvety puddings; that Indonesians innocently anoint them with sugary ice-cold coffee? Not me. But as I was utterly startled to discover that sweltering day in Bali, where I was overcome by the desire for something cold, sweet, and liquid, they really are delicious this way - and fully deserving of the very biological categorization I had never seen fit to agree with.

Of course even with my avocado horizons broadened, I don't have any plans to stop consuming them in all the savory forms I adore, and likewise at dessert time I doubt you'll ever find me turning up my nose at good old chocolate and vanilla. But as I've happily discovered over the years, it really never hurts to have too many dessert options.

...unless, of course, those options include tomatoes, peppers or eggplant!

Creamy Avocado Milkshake

Serves: 2
Notes: Rich and creamy drinks made from avocados and sweetened milk are classic ways of enjoying this fruit across Asia, and are really delicious once you get past any initial 'this is weird!' reaction. Watch out for over-ripe avocados, however, whose slightly rancid taste will spoil the drink. The best avocados to use are those that gently yield to pressure, that are free from dark blotches inside the fruit. If you have any doubts, taste a piece first. Also, I really love the citrusy note that a little bit of orange essence adds, but the avocado also has enough flavor to stand up on its own, or to other dessert flavorings like vanilla and dark rum. Or try a shot of espresso, as they like it in Indonesia. p.s. Did I mention this drink is rich?

1 ripe Haas (dark-skinned) avocado, peeled and pitted
4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cold milk, more or less depending on thickness desired
few drops orange extract, or some vanilla, rum or coffee (optional)
crushed ice and additional sweetened condensed milk for serving

Combine everything in a blender and blend until very smooth (if you like you can add some of the ice here to give it more of a frosty milkshake character). Fill two glasses with additional ice. Drizzle a little more sweetened condensed milk over the ice before filling each with the avocado shake. Give it a quick stir and serve promptly, accompanied by a spoon.


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Reader Comments (77)

Fantastic! I'm with you on the initial aversion to the idea of making something sweet with something I so traditionally associate with flaky salt, olive oil and lemon juice. But this sounds so refreshing and delicious! I'd love to make it and make people guess what it's made of....
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa
Funny how we never think of the obvious. Now thinking of it, avocados are definitely 'shake worthy'. I am thinking of making the shake with some yogurt,honey and vanilla. Just like the Indian mango lassi.
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGini
So glad you are back! Love your writing and great ideas. This a new one to me and I will try it out!
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchannah
Who knew? Maybe some avocado ice cream would be just the thing, too. Must give this a try.
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlindy
thought I should let you know that avocados are a very common dessert item in Brazil too

Ironically enough, I was born and raised in Brazil and absolutely HATED avocados - back home they do a very simple dessert, "cream of avocado" which is basically avocado blended with enough sugar to make it palatable... :-)

After moving to the US many many many years ago, I became a total avocado-addict. But exclusively in savory dishes: guacamole, avocado salads, salsas.

Dessert? I think I'll pass.... of course, I don t mean to discourage your experiments with this tropical fruit!

ps - love your site, found it not too long ago, great job!
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSallyBR
Wonder ful shake.
Going to give a try definetly.
Nice picture.
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commentervineela

You are a constant source of food discovery ... to be honest I've never heard of avocado used in dessert. But what a discovery! I can only imagine how deliciously rich this is. Thank you!
May 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne
I had a friend who loved avocados this way. I loved to poke fun of him until I tried it once and I was hooked.

June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermatt
Oh, i forgot: if you're ever in San Francisco you simply must try Mitchell's avocado ice cream. Yea, it's pretty good :)
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermatt
Ok I promise I'll stop:

glad you're back :)
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermatt
Avocados are definitely one of the wonder foods. As in "I wonder what else these green things are good in..."
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjared
I come from the Philippines where avocados are routinely used for dessert in the form of shakes, cold dessert soups, even ice cream.

My personal avocado shake recipe combines avocado with milk and sugar, with a sprinkling of toasted rice called "pinipig" on top. =P

Btw, great blog. Gorgeous photos, too.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMara
I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this. I recently determined I have an allergy to avocados - and while researching it, I stumbled across information that people with a latex allergy are frequently allergic to avocados and a range of other 'tropical' fruits. Plus, it has that big seed inside, botanically a fruit. :^)

So anyway, while it sounds intriguing, I won't be trying it - but I'm sure many others will enjoy this new way of thinking about avocados!
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTricia
Americans usually see avocados as a savory product, not a sweet one. I'm Filipino; I'd always had avocados in a shake, with milk and sugar or honey. Vanilla ice cream as a topper is good, too.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
Glad you're back to cheer up my work day! I guess I shouldn't have secretly cringed every time one of my friends ordered the avocado milkshake with their lunch atthe Vietnamese place when we were in high school.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAshley
Wow, I'd only heard of using avocados in quick breads. What a rich and creamy treat!
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKat
Hi, I've been reading your posts for a while, thanks for the interesting ideas. Just wanted to tell you not to be so sure about the eggplant! I experienced eggplant jam at a friend's house and it was really good, although you can never ever imagine that it is made of eggplant if you are not told so. It was bought from a special sweets-shop in Istanbul. I'm turkish and also living in Istanbul for some time now, but I'd never heard about it before.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterpınar
hi melissa, what a lovely post and gorgeous picture! my favourite, by far, of the avocado drinks to be had in indonesia is the variant with a shot of strong local coffee and a few scoops of the chocolate malt powder known as milo - divinity in a glass...
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ
Hey there :)
Just wanted to say that I so love your blog. I peruse several food blogs on a daily basis (at least it's a free addiction as opposed to the one of cookbooks suffered by so many foodnerds) but yours I always read through and through. I love the one about The Vegetarian Table: North Africa. I was a veggie while working at a quaint bookshop (ie underpaid) and I remember when that series came out. How much I wanted them!! I think I may just have to add them to my wishlist.

Your photos are fantastic as well. I've only just started my foodblog and am still new to the whole "food as porn" side of things so I am truly inspired by your pics. :)
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Hi Melissa
After living in SF, I also took the avocado shake plunge. The drink is good with some chocolate in it as well. I think the avocado has a nice nutty flavor to it- Alton Brown recently did a show on this avocado as dessert thing, he did a beautiful homemade ice cream with it, citing the avocado as having similar fat/protein (I believe) ratio as eggs therefore it is a substitute for them.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCallipygia
I went home at lunch and made this shake, to die for.
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret
hey melissa, great post as usual - I've seen a recipe for an avocado chocolate mousse in a WFM, billed as a low fat choc dessert - I'll have to dig it out and try it now you've convinced me! I have a wedding dress to get into after all! When does your stint at Food and Travel start by the way?
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkookiegoddess
FIRST I wanna' just say it was love at first sight with you food blog! From the layout to the pictures to the recipes, this is definitely up there in my favorites.

Magnolia Brand ice cream makes an Avocado flavor that I've love since I was a child. It's readily available at any Filipino or large Asian supermarket.

Keep doing what you do!
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMasPinaSarap
I saw a drink recipe calling for avocado just recently and I wasn't convinced at all. Mmm - I better look that recipe up again now - or better still, try yours:) Nice picture, too! Hope you're enjoying your well-deserved trip to that sunny faraway land!
June 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPille
Gorgeous! My fave stall here offers these shakes with a shot of whisky. It also happens to be located right next to our favourite chicken rice stall. The two make a heady combination. You have to come try it some time.
June 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS

The first time I heard of avocado as a sweet was at an eclectic cafe, where they had avocado shakes. I was so excited to try it, until my cousin said, "Ew, do you know how much fat is in that?" Honestly, the shake was good, but just thinking about the fat grossed me out, and I couldn't take more than a few sips. Now that I know avocados have "good fat," I made Epicuriou's avocado gelato. I didn't care for the gelato-it was gummy. But if you make the gelato without freezing it, it's a delicious pudding. Also, Good Eats did a show on avocados. Alton Brown made avocado frosting! Much healthier than the traditional butter variety.
Yippee, Melissa's back! Glad to hear you've (mostly) finished your thesis, powered by the magic of Indian chaat.

A few years ago I made an avocado ice cream (or would you call it a sorbet, as I don't believe it included any cream or egg?) that contained tequilla and lime juice. It was tasty, as I recall, but what sticks in my mind was its voluptuous velvety consistency.

A scoop would be a perfect garnish to a summer tomato gazpacho, bridging the gap between sweet and savory.
June 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrett
I remember a story by MFK Fisher where she described a fellow restaurant regular who would have an avocado with powdered sugar and lemon for dessert every night. I've never tried it, but that was the fist time I imagined what you describe in your post... Now I'll HAVE to try it! I've been tracking foodie blogs for ThisNext.com and have really enjoyed your recipes and stories--especially that last one on chaat! Looking forward to more...thesis permitting, of course!
June 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterYasmin
Intriguing - I'm going to have to try this tonight...as I have 3 of them that should be eaten soon...! I wonder if I could trick the other half into trying it...he doesn't like "new" food sometimes, so important not to tell him what's in it!!
June 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCat
Who knew!? I'd love to try this!

June 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPaz
Here in Manila, Philippines avocados are abundant. Ever since I was a kid I love avocado shake just like the one you make but without the condense milk. I love drinking it with a layer of powdered milk just stirred not totally disolve you could still see the powdered milk yummy! I love avocado ice cream as well..unfortunately as we got older mom got more health consious mom stayed away from avocados coz of the high fat content. so every time i eat avocado is like a comfort food for me :)
June 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSimplePleasure
Beautiful as usual and another "creative" idea. Strange how we can't imagine somethings until the appear on our plates. or in our glass as the case maybe.
June 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTanna
Hi Melissa, I am Brazilian and in my country avocado is treated as a fruit in that we have it in shakes, sweet creamy desserts. When I moved to Europe in 1990 I had my first encounter with avocado in savory dishes. And like you, but in a backward kind of way, I was initally a bit reluctant to try it. I don't know what type of avocados they have in Bali but the variety we have back home is different from the ones found in Europe, small and with quite firm flesh.In Brazil the avocados are big, and the pulp is quite mushy in comparison.
June 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentervalentina
avocados are sold here right now as well...
I've got 2 to use as fast as I can. I'll make an avocado shake as a dessert! the main dish btw is my mexican avocado sandwich (which is basically de-constructed guacamole). nice idea!
June 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMalka Lev Adom
When I was growing up, my mom, who is Filipina, would mash up avocados with milk and sugar, then freeze it to make avocado "ice cream." It was the best! I've always thought it completely weird that people eat avocados with salt and pepper, or even *gasp* balsamic vinegar.
June 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrainydayfriend
I've never tasted an Avacado shake. Your picture looks so good. Will definitely try this.
June 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKrithika
Wow, with the first real sunny summer weekend approaching, this shake is on the list. Now to figure out a way to get some booze into it!

Thanks again Melissa, the recipes and photos never cease to amaze!
June 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
Growing up, my favorite dessert was an avocado pie that my mom would make on special occasions. I'm not sure where the recipe came from but she called it "jagger pie" and as kids we liked to tell our friends that it was "frog pie." I've been making it for years now but I still have a hard time convincing people to try it if I tell them about the main ingredient. But the courageous are never disappointed! It's a wonderful dessert! Thanks for sharing yours!
June 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterelskermeg
I just improvised a shake with half of a perfect Hass avocado, skipped the sweetened condensed milk... used ice, honey, nearly a cup of milk, a wee splash of vanilla.

To the avocado shake, I say: Where have you been all my life?

To the Filipinos, Brazilians, etc. I say: Brilliant. Thank you.

To Melissa, I say: You rock. Your blog's been like a wave of smelling salts under the nose of my culinary creativity...
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
I actually grew up on these. When I was little, my parents did not have enough money to buy us sweet things to eat. They weren't very good at cooking either.. so avocado was the creamiest thing my mother could find that could make some sort of sweet.. hence avocado milkshakes! This is one of the only habits I retained from being so poor so long ago, I still make them all the time.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterapple
I have found, that eating avocado with sushi, especially with unagi (broiled eel and unagi sauce - a sweet teriyaki type of sauce drizzled over the sushi) has a kind of banana taste. It is quite delicious with sushi, especially as a main ingredient, but now that summer is here, I am only too happy to give this food a new spin in my blender as a milk shake. Thanks for the recipe...I will be visiting often.
June 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJauhara al Kafirah
its kind of funny , i am from india and we used to eat avacado pulp beaten well with sugure... and we used to call it butter fruit ... so was utterly surprised at the savory ussage in US .. perceptions ...
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermeera
just what I need, another way to consume avocados en masse!!!

seriously, it looks incredible...great pic, too!

June 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth
I fell in love with avocado shakes in Bali, in a little grungy cafe that served nothing but freshly made fruit juices. I must have drunk my weight in avocado, pineapple and banana juices that summer. Thanks for triggering that memory for me!
June 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarisa
I make an avocado cream dessert sometimes: I take ripe avocados, castered sugar, lime juice and white rhum. I mix it and put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two and serve it with fresh strawberries (for color). We love it (and always manage not to be diet-conscious at the time we eat it... wonder why...).
J'adore votre blog!!! Bravo!
June 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOrdha
Hello Melissa ...

Hope you're having an absolutely Irie time in Jamaica - lucky you! Just wanted to say that I love your blog - your photos, recipes and your wonderful stories - so very inspiring - thank you!

I used to live on and off in Indonesia and fell in love with their avocado and chocolate syrup shakes (it was no wonder I would always gain weight while living there!).

It was great to find your avocado shake recipe - thanks for sharing it with us ... cheers!
June 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLynn
I just tried this recipe--it was FABULOUS! Thanks so much for sharing it.
July 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHolly
Hi there, I'm glad someone has made noise of avocado desserts! My parents are Indonesian and since I was a little girl mum has got me into the avocado drink sensation. She started me off on avocado with hot chocolate, but now I'm on par with her with the avocado and coffee. When I tell my friends how good this drink is they look at me like I've lost my marbles. But it is sooo soo good!!!
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
You've made me very curious. Several *ahem* moons ago, when I was in high school, my friend, whose father was from Peru, would complain that her father often made her make him a dessert with coffee, sugar and avocado. We both thought it disgusting and weird and she certainly never sneaked a taste...I now wonder how he knew of this, if by his own travels, or if there was a Peruvian version.
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Cynthia - You've made me curious about the presence of sweet avocado preparations in Peru now. I was there several years ago but can't for the life of me remember whether I encountered them in this form or not. I don't see why there shouldn't be, though, since they do it elsewhere in South America. I think I need to investigate this further...
July 12, 2006 | Registered Commentermelissa

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