Why Bobby Flay Refuses To Put Tomatoes In Guacamole

Bobby Flay has expressed some strong opinions over the years, but perhaps none is as controversial as his stance that tomatoes have no place in classic guacamole.

In an Instagram video shared before Super Bowl LVIII, the celebrated chef and Food Network television star insisted that the best guacamole contains only five ingredients: avocado, cilantro, chili pepper (serrano or jalapeño varieties preferred), lime, and red onion. Notably absent was tomato, although the New York City native admitted a general fondness for plum tomatoes. Flay also mentioned that one of his best friends — opera diva Isabel Leonard — likes tomato in her guacamole, but was quick to note that he finds the fruit mealy in terms of taste, and believes it obscures the dip's essential flavors.

Yes, salt and pepper are acceptable for seasoning, as Flay has acknowledged in the past. The chef doesn't even mind a bit of canola oil. But tomato, he argues, is not appropriate and does not belong in guacamole. This judgment, predictably, sparked some pushback on social media, including from those who argue that both tomato and garlic are essential guacamole ingredients. One commenter, meanwhile, suggested tomatillo as an alternative to tomato, a perspective that, like Flay's, diverges from the ancient origins of guacamole and its traditional components.

Many celebrity chefs disagree with Bobby Flay

Yes, when the ancient Aztecs first made guacamole in the 14th century, tomatoes were a signature ingredient, alongside avocados, salt, and chilies. So, Bobby Flay's stance on tomatoes is at odds with the traditional Mexican recipe, where guacamole originated.

Perhaps that's why many celebrity chefs include tomatoes in their guacamole recipes. For instance, Gordon Ramsay prefers plum tomatoes, one of the best varieties for sauces. Chef Aarón Sánchez opts for Roma tomatoes, but agrees that the fruit is essential. Jamie Oliver, a cherry tomato advocate, and Ina Garten, who recommends using an entire medium-sized tomato, also include the ingredient in their guac recipes. Martha Stewart, notably, is among a small group of celebrity tastemakers who agree with Flay that tomatoes should not be included.

In Flay's defense, his beliefs have never wavered on this matter. Several years ago, when he shared a brunch-based guacamole recipe for the Food Network, tomatoes were nowhere to be found. The ingredients were the same as he shared for the Super Bowl LVIII, with Hass avocado (the most popular variety in the U.S.) noted as the preferred base, which Flay likes chunky rather than pureed. He also added that tortilla chips were his preferred snack option for dipping.

Why Flay believes in a 5-ingredient guacamole

When you've hosted or served as a judge on as many Food Network shows as Bobby Flay, not every opinion receives universal acclaim. However, there's reasoning behind Flay's takes, from his favorite barbecue sauce to his preference for a five-ingredient guacamole over a six-ingredient one.

Flay's recipe is informed by 30 years of experience cooking in restaurant kitchens, much of it with Mexican cuisine. One of Flay's first major New York City restaurants, Mesa Grill, specialized in Tex-Mex flavors. An offshoot, Mesa City, was known for its signature guacamole (also known as avocado relish).

In his much-discussed Instagram video, the chef shared his thoughts on what makes great guacamole, and why he includes only a handful of ingredients. Avocado is the base of the popular dip, and according to Flay, the role of the other ingredients is to enhance its flavor. Red onion provides a crunchy texture, while lime adds an acidic backbone. The peppers contribute spiciness, and cilantro adds brightness. Tradition might argue against the omission of tomato, but based on Flay's track record, his guacamole is definitely worth a taste test.