Smoky Avocado and Cumin Dressing

Smoky Avocado and Cumin Dressing

Needless to say, your responses to my last post were terrific. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

A few nights ago, M and I decided on a Mexican themed dinner. He actually did most of the work (with delicious results), but I played sous-chef, which really meant taking charge of our salad. Having fallen short on dressings for a few weeks, I was determined to make something special. I used my old favorite, avocado cumin dressing, as inspiration for this smoky avocado and cumin dressing, which I now prefer to my original. It’s salty, smoky, and subtle (a rare quality for things that have been made with liquid smoke), and I can see it working nicely on many types of salads.

The base is a simple avocado, acid, and cumin blend, and liquid smoke is definitely the key ingredient here. I’ve written about liquid smoke recently, with my “up in smoke” hummus, but it’s essentially a flavoring that’s made from passing smoke through water. It creates the “smokiness” that some diners associate with bacon or other pig parts without any animal products at all, and so it’s very useful in things like tempeh bacon, vegan split pea soup, and even a big pot of chili.

Or, you can be creative, and flavor your salad with the stuff.

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Smoky Avocado and Cumin Dressing (vegan, mostly raw, soy free and GF)

Yields 1 1/4 cups

1 small avocado
1 tbsp cumin powder
Juice of 2 limes
Few shakes liquid smoke (it’s strong, so stop and taste after a few drops)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

1) Blend all ingredients together in a blender or processor till smooth.

2) Add olive oil in a thin stream (with machine running) till dressing is creamy.

Suggested serving:

1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 shredded carrot
5 large leaves romaine, cut into a chiffonade
1/2 small jicama, sliced into mathsticks
1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds

Pour dressing over this salad, and toss.

Smoky Avocado and Cumin Dressing

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This is a versatile and easy summer salad, and there’s no reason whatsoever why you should feel compelled to serve it with Mexican fare. It’ll pair with any summery entrée well.

Speaking of dressings, the kind people at Zukay recently sent me samples of their new beet Kvass drinks to try, along with two of their salad dressings (sweet onion and cucumber mint). The beet drinks, while absolutely healthful, were a little too strong for me: I’m used to juices and drinks that are on the sweeter side, and these drinks aren’t sweetened at all. They have a fermented taste that overwhelmed me a bit. I’d definitely drink them if I were on a low-sugar diet, but right now I’m actually brainstorming on ways I might use them in a soup or salad dressing, rather than as a beverage.

In the meantime, I was excited about the two dressings, which are flavored perfectly—even the onion dressing tastes great to me, and we know how I feel about raw onion!

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The problem with both dressings, for me, was that they’re fat free. This is great if you’re on a low-fat diet, but to be totally frank, I like some fat in my salad dressing. It makes greens taste richer and often brings out flavor; it also helps the absorption of any fat soluble vitamins that might be in your food.

To satisfy my need for a little fat, I added some tahini and an extra tablespoon or two of tamari to the cucumber mint dressing last night. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did.

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And in fact, what resulted was so totally tasty that I’m actually thinking I’ll have to make my own version from scratch: cucumber mint tahini dressing. We’ll put it at the top of my salad dressing agenda.

With that, I have a long day of class to get to. Before I go, please share: what are your favorite kinds of salad dressings? Do you find that a little fat goes a long way for you in terms of flavor and satiety, as it does for me?


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Categories: Dressings

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  1. A beautiful combination of ingredients! I should eat more lentils,
    this salad would be a great way to add them to my diet.

  2. Liquid smoke is a very questionable product at best. If you are a person who is concerned about healthy eating I would certainly recommend you do your homework before using this product.

  3. I’m actually going to add a dissenting voice to the salad dressing fat discussion. Almost every salad I make gets balsamic vinegar as dressing. No fat, just vinegar. Often there’s fat in my salads, in the form of nuts, avocado, or even ground flax, but as someone who doesn’t use oil, I guess I’ve just learned to love my vinegar! I do like your idea of adding tahini to the dressing though, since I do use healthy, non-oil fats. I’ve also put ground flax in dressings as a binding agent (I used it in your butternut squash salad dressing. By the way, I also replaced the maple syrup in that one with frozen blueberries when I was out of maple syrup, and it was delicious.). But for me, fat is not something that salad dressings need to have.

  4. I totally paid retail for the beet drink! Ouch. And yeah I felt the same way.. But I turned it into borscht today! Lots of horseradish and some fresh beets, a few chunks of new potatoes and it redeemed itself.

  5. I love the Zukay dressings, and I also customize the Zukay to my liking. The label suggests adding oil (fat) to make a vinaigrette. Can’t wait to try the smoky avocado dressing!

  6. Gena, just curious about your thoughts on liquid smoke… I understand it is produced simply by the process of smoke passing through water. Does that mean there are carcinogens in it? I’m a firm believer in eating only “whole foods,” and what nature provides… and I’m not sure yet how I feel about liquid smoke. Would love your thoughts! p.s. I LOVE FAT. I’m eating more fats (raw and unprocessed of course!) than ever before, and I can confidently say I look and feel better than I ever have before. Go fat! 🙂

  7. Thanks for the recipe. I am in agreement that a little fat in a recipe isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t make a diet any less healthy either. I will be trying this recipe post-haste. -Kristie

  8. Let’s hear it for delicious delicious fatty-fat-fat! I must admit that there are certain very popular blogs out there that make me deeply sad inside for the fact they cut fats out of almost all their recipes (even if giving disclaimers at the bottom for where one ‘could’ add fat) – I love the nourishing, truly healthful approach you take, Gena!

  9. Yum– salad looks so fresh and amazing. I’ve never used liquid smoke before, but I really need to get my hands on some. I’m really obsessed with smoked paprika, so i’m sure i’d love liquid smoke 🙂

  10. I’m obsessed with creamy vegan salad dressings, and am always looking for more good ones to add to my collection. My current favorites are the lemon tahini dressing from Anis Raw Food Asia, and the Cashew Balsamic, Caesar Chavez and Green Goddess dressings from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new book Appetite for Reduction (I was initially turned off by this book because of the “low fat” thing-nothing makes me crankier faster than something fat-free), but this book has tons of great recipes (that I tend to add nuts and avocado to!).

  11. You are a genius! I pretty much think I could add liquid smoke to dirty dishwater and make a fairly decent salad dressing, though I’m not going to try anytime soon…

  12. Oddly enough, I can’t stand dressing on my salad. Really, I don’t like using oil in much of my food- I’m just not a huge fan!

    Don’t get me wrong though, I love my fat. Usually on my salads I just add a different source of healthy fats: an avocado, nuts, or seeds.

  13. Oh this sounds great. I always forget how good cumin is.
    My typical salad dressing is just balsamic vinegar, pepper, and nooch, so I suppose it’s technically fat free but I don’t shy away from fat-free dressings on purpose; it’s just easier.

  14. I have tried a lot of fat free dressings, but keep coming back to oil based ones. Every salad gets a splash of flax oil, plus lemon or lime as a base. I kind of envy people who are content with blended fruit or vegetable dressings.

  15. Hey Gena!
    That salad looks so so good. You are so creative! I think that a little fat in a dressing goes a long way, fat free ones tend to taste a little `flat“ I feel. I also love how the fat can help the dressing to really stick to the salad,instead of pooling at the bottom of the bowl. I like avocado in my dressings the most.

  16. yessssss! i actually have all the ingredients for this one! i usually use a simple olive oil, salt & lemon juice dressing but i think i may have to swap out for some variety on this one. interesting about the liquid smoke (i have some but never used it in this way before).

  17. That dressing sounds delightful. I’m wondering if you could accomplish similar things with chipotle (I love chipotle and avocado).

    Lately, I’ve been reducing the amount of fat in my diet and welcoming fruit back. Not entirely with my ND’s approval (some cognitive dissonance here–I just posted about it, would love your thoughts if you have a moment). But that said, I seem to be feeling better in every way since drastically reducing how much fat I eat, but some fat in a salad dressing definitely makes sense for Vit A and K absorption in particular. I love an avocado-based creamy dressing, but I’ve also been loving a dressing based on sundried tomatoes and corn, with a little coconut kefir cream.

  18. I received one Zukay dressing…the onion. And a couple bottles of beet juice. The beet juice leaked red all over the packaging and the onion dressing leaked, too. So I had a red, sticky, beety mess spiked with onion flavoring. Oh, the joys 🙂

    I will be honest, I am not an onion fan so that one wasnt really a hit with me or the family but hey, you gotta try things.

    And yes, FAT is key. If a dressing doesn’t have fat, it just doesn’t really do the same job for me.

    I am loving the looks of your avo dressing with cumin…mmmm, good! I used to cook with cumin all the time, ginger too. Need to bring cumin back!


  19. Holy moly! Cumin and avocado! A match made in heaven, cannot wait to try. I was just thinking about this today. “Fat free salad dressings”. When I eat a salad, it is generally my whole meal, so bring on the beneficial fat! It satiates, it nourishes, it contributes to the wellbeing of my organism, it lifts my yummy leaves to a level of decadance previously unreached in their nakd form, and dang- it’s yummy! My favourite I-feel-lazy oil based is just good ole EVOO+ACV+salt. Simply perfect. I absolutely love avocado blended with a whole orange, and a itty bitty bit of acidity from a lemon, plus salt. I cannot wait to try cumin with it! x

  20. The Zukay’s kvass was totally too strong for me too. I did use one of them to make pickles. It should really be marketed as more of a vinegar than a drink. I have yet to meet anyone who liked the drink.

    I remember reading or talking to someone from Zukays and their saying that the lack of fat in the dressing was just so it could sit on the shelf better and not separate, not in a mindset that fat-free is better. So I always add my own fat to their dressings. I almost think they are intended to do that.

    This reminds me I need some more liquid smoke. That stuff is good! My pups love it.

  21. That salad looks unbelievable! Like right out of a magazine! Yum anx it has so many of my favorites in it! 😉

  22. mmmm….this looks and sounds delicious. My favorite dressing to make for my everyday lunch salads is sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and pepper. It is perfect for my fresh summer salads. I am going to try this avocado amazingness. Thanks for sharing.

  23. I feel the same way, a little fat is absolutely necessary to bring out the flavor. I like to make a ginger miso dressing with tahini, balsamic vinegar, tamari, miso paste and grated ginger.

  24. Fabulous flavor combinations. I’m loving cumin in light dishes right now, somehow provides an element of depth to summer dishes, yes? Can’t wait to try it!

  25. THIS IS CRAZY!!!!!!! I literally came to your blog to do a search for a slaw. I am prepping for a big dinner at my house this friday night and I have already assembled your sweet potato enchiladas with tomatillo sauce (with a few of my own tweeks!) and I was just thinking, I need to serve a slaw. A Mexcian slaw. So I came here and I was going to do a search for “slaw.” You can figure out the rest of this story. CRAZY CAKES!!!!!!!!!! I’m freaking out.

  26. I couldn’t agree with you more about fat in salad dressings. Fat undoubtedly helps meld flavors together, and like you said, also aids in the absorption of certain nutrients. A nice dose of healthy fat never hurt anybody! And thank you for the smoky avocado and cumin salad dressing recipe. I make Mexican-themed dinners quite often, so I can’t wait to give it a try. Surprisingly, I’ve never worked with liquid smoke before! It’s an ingredient that has always intrigued me. I think I have to go buy some now! I love smoky flavors.

  27. This sounds great! I bet it would even be good without the liquid smoke and maybe with a bit of fresh cilantro. Love the idea of a cabbage slaw using an avocado based, creamy dressing rather than a mayo based dressing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂