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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)


I just stumbled on your site, I love it, great photos too!
We share the same passion, traveling in search for good food.
I am from Lebanon and living in Asheville NC. I never had Avocado in savory dishes until I moved to the states, we use to eat them back home like you eat cantaloupe, open them up and sprinkle them with sugar and scoop with a spoon. I recently made avocado gelato, super good and creamy. I will keep your site on my favorites.

July 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy Phillips
Didn't you know, when babies start on solids they are often given a chunky monkey. Mashed avocado and banana, qhite popular with the 6-18 month olds.
August 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
As an Asian American, I've always known about eating avocados with sugar or condense milk, but it wasn't until I was in my 20's in college that I discovered avocado shakes at Vietnamese restaurants. They actually taste pretty good. Today after many times of thinking about making a shake from it, I finally did it with minimal success. I used the two main ingredients; 1 avocado and poured some condense milk from a can into a blender with ice and orange juice. While the taste was ok, I think the tartness of the orange juice clashed with the sweetness of the condense milk. I make fruit shakes often and normally just use o.j. and ice plus fruit, but with avocados I'm going to have to try milk next time. Maybe water will do. Well, off to experiment some more. Btw, the previous poster's comment about mixing banana with avocado sounds good, maybe I'll try it as a shake.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdavidkichi
Very interesting, I will have to give it a try.
August 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJane
I came know about your favorite food (secret life).Any way thank you,I am going to try this now.
August 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbangherbal
Amazing! I'll try it for sure, thanks!
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNinnie
Hi Melissa!

This is my second adventure that started from your blog! (The first one was about the sweet potatoes, which helped me impress many a guest!)

I've never heard of sweetened avocado, but I've always felt somehow, that the culinary uses I'm familiar with are not exploiting the full potential of this amazing fruit.

So, I made the shake following your recipe, only we don't have the Haas avocados now, I used smooth-skinned ones. And I can tell you - both I and my husband loved it! But we prefer it without ice, actually, eaten with a spoon (it turns out pretty thick with a cup of milk, so it's hard to drink without a straw, but instead of diluting it we treated it like a light mousse). We rally loved the richness, the creaminess, the flavor – all brought by avocado!

The next time I tried it with some orange essence, but I liked the pure avocado taste better – the addition of a foreign flavor distracted me from it. Still, now that I've read the comments, I want to try it with whisky, and, perhaps, honey. Besides, there is yogurt, milk-less puree with lime, and… I just might make up something of my own!

So thank you!

You opened a whole world to me! Now I have a constant craving for an avocado shake, and a so many opportunities to improvise! And what I love most about it, it's so easy to make with an immersion blender – just pull out an avocado, and 5 minutes and ONE dirty blender head later you have a bowl of rich luxurious dessert!
September 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterYulia
Creamy Avocado Milkshake !!!!Beautyful ...I like this Photo.
September 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermkswetha
My father's Barzilian so the only way we'd ever eat avocados was in a milkshake. In fact, up untill 2 years ago, I thought avocados were naturally sweet!
October 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I love these! I get them at my local Vietnamese Pho place.

Everyone at the table says, "ewww." when I order it and then I give them a taste and they say, "hmmm, that's alright."

January 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnabelle

Sounds yummy! I've been putting them in smoothies- it definitely gives a rich, creamy texture. Delicious. I'll have to try this.

January 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

If you like this, then you should definitely try an avocado margarita some time.. and don't forget to toss in some fresh cilantro! It sounded bizarre, but when I moved to Austin, a friend swore up and down that it was the most amazing drink she'd ever had. Knowing how much I loved avocados, she insisted I at least try one - now they're one of /my/ favorite drinks, and so easy to make at home! Needless to say, I'm always game for a new avocado drink now, so I'll definitely be trying this one :} Thanks for the heads up!


February 1, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterm.k.

There used to be a restaurant on Zanzibar called Two Tables. It was called that because the "restaurant" was two tables on the balcony of someone's apartment. You couldn't order dishes; they just brought stuff out. It was pretty good. For drinks they served a fruit smoothie that was made of all kinds of fruit (orange, pineapple, mango, etc), including avocado, that was whooshed up in a blender. It was probably only 10% avocado or less, but the avocado gave it a rich creaminess and distinctive taste. It was great.

February 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Haworth

I was born in Indonesia but was raised in America... Recently we vacationed back to Indonesia to visit relatives and friends, and that's when I discovered the joy of avocado shakes! At home, my mom taught us how to make a very simple avocado desert: in a bowl of cold milk, smash an avocado and add sugar. Mix. It's better than cereal :)

Anywho... I was searching for a recipe that could compare the the avocado shakes I had in Indonesia. This one does! Thanks!! ^^

July 24, 2007 | Unregistered Commentergenie

Both of my parents are Brazilian, so I've grown up with avocado milkshakes. I was actually reading your article on it aloud to my mom, and she had a small triumphant smile on her face. I liked how you mentioned that people tend to be close-minded when it comes to certain foods, because it's absolutely true. At first, if my brother or I offer avocado milkshakes to our friends, they're beyond skeptical, but when they actually pull through their nervousness of seeing avocados in anything other than guacamole and sandwiches, they tend to like it. I don't see how anyone wouldn't. Of course, it would surprise most people to see something commonly served with alongside chips and salsa to be sweet, and in a milkshake. But I absolutely love avocado milkshakes. It's uncommon in America, but for those who stumble upon the glory of it, they're very lucky. And this is coming from a 15-year-old. It's a drink that hopefully I'll learn from my mom, then pass on through generations to come. Losing knowledge of this drink would be a disappointment and a loss.

August 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterErik

My mom is Filipino and she used prepare for me mashed avocado over ice with evaporated milk and sugar. SOOOO good!

August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

I posted the same recipe on my blog - it was given to me by a Filipino friend! I added a note on my post, about your idea of adding the orange extract - with a link back to you - sounds like a yummy idea!

You can check out some of my international recipes on my world blog if you'd like.

-Mama Lisa

December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMama Lisa

The first time I had an avocado milkshake was in a little sidewalk cafe in Saigon, Vietnam. I'd been dreaming of it ever since. I slurped down several of the drinks at about 50 cents each which helped cool me down since it was about 110% humidity and 110 degrees! Years later, in a Vietnamese restaurant in Cherry Hill, NJ, I found that they had avocado milkshakes on the menu. I asked them for the recipe, and the ingredients exactly matched the one here. Last weekend, avocados were on sale, so I bought 5, wrote down this recipe, and I've been downing an avocado milkshake every night since then! Thanks for bringing back great memories.

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMoonSplash

My experience was quite the opposite: growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, my absolute favorite drink was the avocado 'smoothie' (made with sweetened condensed milk and a dash of strong coffee). Then we moved to southern California when I was a teenager where I first encountered guacamole and thought, "Yuck! Avocado with onions, chillies and tomatoes? Eww!". But soon I was a convert to great Mexican food, but the high cost of this fruit in California meant that we didn't eat/drink avocados that often (it takes many avocados to make enough smoothies for our whole family :)

Now I've moved back to my home country where avocados are cheap and plenty and I've been enjoying them in various desserts/iced drinks with abandon! :)

Great website, love your photos and writing!

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTessa in Jakarta

I tried an avocado milkshake a few years ago when I went out to a vietnamese restaurant for pho with a friend. It is quite possibly one of my favorite things in the world. So delicious, but it is so hard to find places that actually make them! Thank you for the recipe!

March 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentererly

I've never tasted an Avacado shake. Your picture looks Awesome. Will definitely try this. Thanks for the recipe.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGourmet

I have also tried this. But I prefer to cold coffee.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNayan@Vemma

We had avocado pudding in Brazil many years ago. They would put avocados in fresh fruit drinks to thicken them up. In the interior of the country there was not a lot of ice cream or sherbet. Avocados would make a fresh fruit drink thick like a milkshake without the ice cream.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

I find that avocado help to relieve my allergy symptoms. I am looking for more natural ways to control my sneezing I was wondering if anyone else has found osme fruits to help relieve their sniffles? I also am looking for a Flonase over the counter. product? I heard its natural has anyone read up on it before at "kiwi drug"? thanks

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

My boyfriend and I tried this recipe this summer! I LOVE avocado so I was excited to try something so different with it! The result was very yummy! And so easy to make! People always look at me funny when I tell them how good it was... but believe me if you like avocado, you've got to try this! =]

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM Marshall

I haven't ever seen an avocado smoothie-- but this looks amazing! i am so excited to try it, because it has to be uber healthy for you. Yum.
Kitchen Scales

July 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

I still struggle with things like Zucchini cake and Carrot cake- to me they just belong in the savory world. Your avocado shake seems to have won me over though. I bet dulce de leche in place of the condensed milk would make a nice variation. Like your blog. :)

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDani

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