Creamy avocado dressing: a recipe inspired by Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

Green hills, a blue sky streaked with clouds and mirrored water. One of my favourite destinations in the highlands of Guatemala is the town of Santiago Atitlán on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Home to the Tz’utujil Maya people and surrounded by the volcanoes San Pedro, San Lucas Toliman and Atitlan, it’s one of 12 pueblos named for the apostles.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is dotted with villages named after the 12 apostles

The town was also the site of one of the most pivotal events in Guatemala’s history. On December 2, 1990 the Guatemalan army opened fire on protesting villagers, killing 15 people and wounding 21 others. Although it was just one act in a long period of violence, it prompted such international outrage  it helped usher in an era of peace.

Today, the Parque del Paz or Peace Park with its silent graves, graceful trees and  murals, is a reminder of the casualties of Guatemala’s brutal civil war and the courage of those who spoke out against persecution. A memorial plaque recognizes the “Martires de la Paz” those who gave their lives. It’s a place of sadness, hope and beauty.

Mural in Peace Park of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

Mural in Peace Park of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

Near the park, it’s possible to stand at the edge of the volcanic slope and look out across the Lake Atitlan. You can see Maya women washing their laundry in the lake as they have for centuries. A modern new structure, built to encourage the women to do their washing in communal washbasins is all but abandoned.

Women washing laundry  in Santiago Atitlan

Women washing laundry in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

The outdoor street market is a top spot to scout out local foods such as avocados, watermelon and patin,  a tiny sardine-like fish in a tomato chile salsa that comes wrapped in maxán leaf.

Vendor in the Santiago Atitlan market with patin wrapped in hoja de maxán

Vendor in the Santiago Atitlan market with patin wrapped in hoja de maxán

During a recent market visit. I picked up a particularly large avocado and was surprised at its leathery skin and how light it felt.

“It has a tough cascara on the outside but will be soft in the inside,” said my ranchero husband, who’s an expert on anything if it comes from a farm in Guatemala and can be eaten.

Avocados in the market in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala

Avocados in the market in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez

The vendor cracked the avocado open with her hands to show us the fruit’s interior. It was creamy, bright green and looked ready to be whipped into something delicious. Once she’d sacrificed one avocado to the god of commerce, we had no option but to buy a big bag.  When over the next few days when we couldn’t eat them fast enough, I decided to whip them into a salad dressing.

Creamy avocado salad dressing with A Taste for Travel

Creamy avocado salad dressing

5.0 from 4 reviews
Creamy Avocado Dressing
Recipe type: salad dressing
Prep time: 
Total time: 
This delectable salad dressing tastes like guacamole but gets a bit of kick from using cider vinegar instead of lime. It makes a luscious topping for a simple summer salad of Boston lettuce or over sliced grilled chicken. It’s also a great way to get rid of too- ripe avocados.
Ingredients
  • 3 very ripe avocados
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk or plain 2% yogurt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, puree the avocado, onion, mayonnaise, garlic, and buttermilk until smooth.
  2. Add vinegar, olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper and blend until incorporated.
  3. Chill and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  4. It will stay fresh for 3-5 days.
 

Travel Planner  

A 5-stop tour of Santiago Atitlan with an English-speaking guide via tuk-tuk includes the mirador, the peace park, a visit with the moneja (the Maya woman who was allegedly the model for the image on the Guatemalan centavo) and the church costs 100 Quetzal ( around 12 USD). A visit to the shrine of Maximon, the cigar-smoking Maya deity, costs extra.

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Showing 28 comments
  • Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    Reply

    We’re blessed with avocados growing on the trees around us here on the east coast of Australia so I’m always grateful for new avocado recipes!
    Another one I tried recently was avocado/cacoa mousse which seemed like an odd combination for a dessert, but which was delicious!! 🙂

  • santafetraveler
    Reply

    Santiago Atitlán looks like a beautiful place. I love avocados and my mouth watered looking at that big bag. Bet is was really reasonably priced, too. We used to make avocado dressing when we lived in Florida and they were always around and perfectly ripe. Brought back memories.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply

    Looks like such an unspoiled place that you visited. The dressing looks delectable!

  • Corinne
    Reply

    I will definitely have to try this dressing. It looks yummy. I need to go to Guatemala still.

  • Nancy D. Brown
    Reply

    I love the picture of the women washing their laundry in the lake and no one wanting to use the modern structure.

    Clicked over here for your avocado dressing recipe. Sounds delicious.

  • Colleen Friesen
    Reply

    What a beautiful post Michele…so much pain and so much beauty…

    And thanks too, for solving my dinner quandry for tonight!
    I love avocadoes and this dressing looks divine.

    I’m off to the market 🙂

  • Patti
    Reply

    Whenever I get the perfect avocado it just makes me happy happy happy. I love Hass avocados, there is just something about them; give me some salt and pepper and a fork and I’m in heaven. And as much as I love avocados, I’ve never made a dressing with them so I guess it’s about time to start!

  • noel
    Reply

    That dressing looks nice and easy, something I would love to try making…i love visiting markets like this and tasting local foods.

  • Lesley Peterson
    Reply

    Glorious photos! I’d love to visit Guatemala someday. Oh to have so many fresh avocadoes at hand. The dressing sounds delicious.

  • Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
    Reply

    Beautiful and amazing views of this place that you captured so well. I’m curious now if the women want to continue washing clothes and not change or if the new area doesn’t have the cleanest facilities for them to want a change.

    • Michele Peterson
      Reply

      Hi Neva…thanks for stopping by! From what I heard the women prefer to wade right into the cool lake waters and wash their clothes on a rock rather than do their laundry beneath a hygienic (but sterile) washing facility. I don’t blame them….the water looked very inviting. I noticed abandoned washing facilities in other villages and heard the same reason so I suspect it may have some truth to it.

  • esperanza
    Reply

    Such a beautiful country and so much sorrow which I hope is just a sad memory. The recipe for avocado dressing sounds delicious and I wish I could buy a big bag of them as pictured. Will have to make do with the local produce but I’m sure it will taste lovely

  • Anda@ Travel Notes & Beyond
    Reply

    What a gorgeous picture of Lake Atitlan! Your recipe sounds very tasty. I love avocado, so I think I’ll try it for my next party.

  • Michelle
    Reply

    Guatemala looks so heavenly and I’m so happy to find a recipe that me ( a vegetarian) can eat that looks so mouth watering! Thank you for the directions on how to make this dressing!

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    Reply

    What a yummy souvenir!

  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    Reply

    We visited Santiago Atitlan and three other villages located on Lago Atitlan for a few days last year and I have to agree with you that it’s one of our favorite destinations as well. The colorful dress of the people who live there, the beauty of the weavings that the women’s co-ops make and the stunning scenery are hard to describe. Great job with the photos!

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    Reply

    That looks like a great recipe! Will definitely try it.

  • Lori Bosworth
    Reply

    I have to bring a summer salad to the annual family barbecue so I think I’ll make your avocado dressing for that occasion! Amazing that the women are still washing their clothes in the lake. It must be quite clean!

  • Agness
    Reply

    It looks delicious and very easy to make. I love avocado and I have it regularly in my smoothies :).

  • Kristin Henning
    Reply

    Thanks for the recipe, and gorgeous photos.

  • Susan
    Reply

    You had me at “avocado”….

  • Suzanne Fluhr
    Reply

    I’ve read about ongoing violence (probably criminal, not political) still going on in Guatemala. Is that mostly confined to Guatemala City? The Lake Atitlan area looks serene and peaceful. I assume you felt comfortable there. We lived in Mexico for a year and the colors, smells and sounds of the markets is one of my memories. Here in the northeastern US, the type of avocados you describe are difficult to come by. (Lovely photos, BTW).

    • Michele Peterson
      Reply

      Hi Suzanne..Lake Atitlan (and in particular Panajachel where I stayed) is a very safe place to visit. The only reports I’ve heard are of robberies on a few of the remote treks. Hiring a qualified and accredited guide is a wise idea. I have some tips on Travel Safety Tips for Guatemala

  • sarah
    Reply

    Your photos are beautiful and bring back memories of our recent stay at Lake Atitlan. We only had 3 weeks in Guatemala but we absolutely loved it and can’t wait to go back. I never got even a whiff of the crime that is reported to be so prevalent…not to say it isn’t there but it certainly isn’t as in your face as some report. I will definitely be trying that recipe!

  • Suzanne Jones
    Reply

    She was a savvy vendor! There’s nowhere like a local market for picking up a real feel for a place. The dressing looks delicious…

  • alison @GreenWithRenvy
    Reply

    Nothing better than a good recipe inspired by a wonderful travel experience. Can’t wait to try this as a dip with all the great vegetables appearing at the farmers market this time of year. Looks delicious!

  • Heather
    Reply

    This looks scrumptious – trying it out tonight!

  • Emily Kydd
    Reply

    Great photos, Atitlan is gorgeous! Loved it when I was there, and mmmm the foooooood!!!!

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