When using avocados, go beyond guacamole.

In every day-part and across all segments, offerings of fresh California avocados on menus and in innovative new applications are growing at an unprecedented rate. According to the 2012 Avocado Menu Trak report, avocado was mentioned on nearly a third (32.9 percent) of 2012 menus, an increase of 48.2 percent since 2005.

Add guacamole to the equation, and the mentions rose to 39 percent (up 35.4 percent over 2005).

While the most common uses of fresh California avocado remain sandwiches (32.5 percent) and green salads (25.9 percent), operators also take advantage of their versatility in appetizers, entrées, and ethnic specialties. For example, this year’s limited time offers range from regionally inspired tacos to premium salads to robust omelets.

The Baked Alaska California-Style created by William Douglas Hildreth was a winning dessert in a California Avocado Commission competition.

According to the California Avocado Commission, creative baking applications include California Avocado Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds, or try a unique dessert like White Chocolate California Avocado Mousse.

Avocados can serve as a creative twist on a classic dessert recipe. William Douglas Hildreth, chef at Camp Spofford in Keene, NH, created a winning dessert recipe for Baked Alaska California-Style in a California Avocado Commission foodservice chef competition.

Avocados have taken a prominent role on menus across all segments. For example, at La Condesa in St. Helena, CA, executive chef Chris Mortensen transforms a humble Latino snack into an “haute homey” California Avocado Torta.

 The Mediterranean Grilled Veggie Wrap with California Avocado Spread provides a savory option for cafes looking to incorporate avocado into menus.

Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls serves up “stealth health” at The Big 4 and Nob Hill Spa in San Francisco with a savory Mediterranean Grilled Veggie Wrap with California Avocado Spread.

Bakers can substitute avocado for many traditional baking ingredients, such as butter or shortening. Simply replace these ingredients with an equal amount of avocado (replace one cup of butter with one cup of mashed avocado) in any muffin, quick bread and even some brownie and cookie recipes.

By substituting avocado, the nutritional value of the baked good can be increased with the fruit’s contribution of nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, along with "good fats” (poly- and monounsaturated fats). Additionally, the overall calories in a recipe may be reduced by substituting avocado for certain ingredients. Two tablespoons of avocado contain 50 calories.

In addition to their creamy texture and mild flavor, California avocados have high water content, so they can also make treats softer, chewier and less likely to crumble. Also, some baked goods will take on a beautiful light green tint from the avocado.

Tangy citrus and rich, smooth avocado are popular partners on contemporary menus.  Although the two fruits originated in different hemispheres, generations of culinarians have recognized their complementary characteristics, pairing them in flavorful and appealing appetizers, salads, sauces, entrées, beverages and desserts.