Nowadays, we employ avocados mainly as the creamy base for guacamole, as chunky wedges that sit atop tacos and tostadas, and as artfully fanned slices that adorn combination plates. But back in the seventies and eighties, the buttery green fruit appeared on many home and restaurant tables as the main course or appetizer: stuffed avocado. Lucky for us, the retro delicacy is making a comeback. 

The dish features fruit that’s been cut in half lengthwise, pitted, then served open-faced or reassembled. The cavity left in the flesh is filled with a sweet or savory mixture; half a century ago, that would have been potato chip–topped tuna salad or crushed pineapple with French dressing. Now it’s more likely to be chilled shrimp salad or barbacoa. 

The stuffed avocado probably originated in home kitchens. In Texas, one of the first documented mentions occurred in 1932, when the Marshall Morning News (now the News Messenger) suggested a stuffed avocado and grapefruit salad for a dinner party menu. Mexico City–born Pati Jinich, a former Dallas resident and the James Beard Award–winning host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS, remembers the stuffed avocado being a dish that would elevate special celebrations, especially in her grandmother’s era. “Stuffing the avocado [was] like putting down a tablecloth,” she says. 

Eventually it became popular on restaurant menus, upper-crust and otherwise. But tastes evolved. As with other culinary fads, such as ambrosia and fondue, the stuffed avocado retreated to the realm of the quirky foods of yesteryear.

Until now. If the seventies and eighties were the golden age of stuffed avocados, we’re now entering the silver age, with excellent examples to be found at places such as La Fiesta Restaurant and Cantina, in Waco. “You didn’t see them anywhere,” says Lynsey Castillo, a third-generation co-owner of the sixty-year-old joint. “Now everyone does stuffed avocados.” In La Fiesta’s version, the fruit is skinned, halved, and packed with chicken, brisket, or ground beef as well as cheddar and Monterey Jack. Then it’s reassembled, breaded, fried, and dressed with a salsa suiza. Castillo estimates she sells as many as 250 a week.

At LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue, in Austin, co-owner and pitmaster Evan LeRoy fills his avocados with a heap of smoked beef-cheek barbacoa then tops the meat with onions, cilantro, queso fresco, and jalapeño salsa. LeRoy says his “barbacado” is a good way to use beef trimmings. 

And now with its reentry into the Texas restaurant scene, the stuffed avocado will regularly grace our tables once again.  

Food styling: Maite Aizpurua

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Stuff of Legend.” Subscribe today.