James Beard

Author and Educator

One of James Beard’s close friends was cookbook author Elena Zelayeta, whose Mexican and Mexican-American cookbooks were popular in the 1950’s and 60’s. She introduced him to this tasty cocktail appetizer. In Spanish, avocado butter is called mantequilla de pobre—poor man’s butter. It was used as a spread or added to dishes to give the soft texture and rich flavor of butter in pre-Hispanic days when there were no cattle, and therefore no butter.


  • 2 pounds lean pork
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice, lemon juice, or wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Cut the pork into small pieces, between ½” and ¾” each, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let them stand an hour or so. Place the pork on a fine mesh rack over a baking pan, to allow the fat to run off, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the little pits of pork are crisp and brown.

While the pork is cooking, make the avocado butter.

Mash the avocadoes and add the tomatoes, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. If you’re not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap. Make sure that the plastic clings to the top of the avocado butter so that it doesn’t discolor.

Use the avocado butter as a dip for the carnitas, and serve with toothpicks.


8 servings