Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh Cheese and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This salad's combination of textures, tastes and colors makes a culinary triumph.

By Rick Bayless

From the Mexican mind-set, both buttery avocado and tropical mango derive beautiful benefit from chili, salt and lime. All three form a foundation for this avocado-mango salad’s dressing, along with sautéed garlic’s savory aroma and honey’s mellowness. Add the crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds, the tenderness of Boston lettuce and the savory saltiness of crisp bacon and fresh Mexican cheese, and you have a compelling salad.

It’s the least substantial of my main course salads — perfect for hot-weather appetites. Also, feel free to scale down the size of the portions so you can use this delicia as the first course for a special dinner. Or serve the large portions with grilled chicken breasts for a more substantial meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hulled, untoasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fresh hot green chili to taste (I like 1 large serrano or small jalapeño), stemmed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Salt
  • 1 large head Boston/butterhead lettuce (or an equivalent amount of Bibb lettuce), leaves separated
  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • A generous 3/4 cup coarsely crumbled Mexican queso fresco or mild blue cheese (Gorgonzola is great)

    How to make it 

  • 1

    Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes, until crispy. Pour the pumpkin seeds into a small skillet and set over medium heat. When the first one pops, stir constantly until all have popped from flat to round, about 5 minutes. Scoop about 1/3 of them into a blender jar and add the lime juice. Pour the remainder into a small dish.

  • 2

    Return the skillet to medium heat and measure in the oil. Add the garlic and optional chili. Cook, stirring regularly, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Scrape the oil and garlic into the blender or food processor. Add the honey and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. Taste and season with more salt if you think necessary. (Remember: it should be highly seasoned.)

  • 3

    Divide the lettuce between 4 dinner plates. Pit and peel the avocado, then cut it into slices. Peel the mango, then cut the flesh from the pit. Slice to match the avocado pieces. Arrange the avocado and mango in the center of the lettuce. Drizzle everything with the dressing, then sprinkle with the cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. Crumble the bacon and strew it over the top, and the salad is ready. Serves 4.

A Few Simple Riffs

  • For an over-the-top Crab-Avocado-Mango Salad, sprinkle a generous portion of crab over the avocado and mango before drizzling with dressing.
  • Bacon can be replaced with flaked hot-smoked salmon, eel, trout or other fish. Leave out the bacon to make the salad vegetarian, or replace it with pan-grilled onion slices.
  • The pumpkin seeds can be replaced with pine nuts (they toast — and burn — much faster than the pumpkin seeds).
  • The luscious texture of mango works well with avocado, but so would ripe peach or nectarine.
  • The green chili could be replaced by hot ground red chili (like arbol) — sprinkle it over the salad rather than blending it with the dressing.
  • Crumbled goat cheese is a good stand-in for Mexican queso fresco.

For more pumpkin recipes from Rick Bayless, check out:
Chilled Peanuts and Pumpkin Seeds
Smoky Braised Mexican Pumpkin
Chicken in Pueblan Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce