How to Ripen Avocados + How to Tell if an Avocado is Ripe
As a California local and avocado grower, avocados might just be the most MVP ingredient in my kitchen and garden. Quite often I get asked how to ripen avocados and how to tell if they are ripe. Here’s everything you need to know.
Did you know that there is evidence that humans started eating avocados around 10,000 years ago in Central America? Avocados have long been a delicious food that you can spread on toast, whip up into guacamole, or even add to baked goods and smoothies. But there is one downside to avocados: it’s very difficult to tell when they are ripe.
Even worse, if your avocado isn’t ripe, you won’t be able to use it in your food which could be monstrously inconvenient. So, what is the answer to the question, “How to tell if an avocado is ripe?”
There’s nothing better than cutting open a perfectly ripe avocado with bright green, soft, and unblemished flesh. To start off this article, let’s take a look at the various ways you can tell if an avocado is ready to eat. If it’s not ripe, you will also discover ways to ripen it faster.
How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe
You’ve undoubtedly experienced the struggle of trying to choose the best avocados for your next dish. You feel for the best avocados at the market, examining their firmness, until you finally decide to buy a couple and head home. You expect that the avocados will be perfectly ripe in a day or two.
But once that time passes and you cut open the avocado, you face a brown and mushy mess that is in no way ideal for your guacamole, or for anything else for that matter. While it might be easy to believe that you are, in some way, cursed and unable to ever get your hands on perfectly ripe avocados, there are actually some tips you can follow to make your life easier.
Finally, you should test out the firmness when you choose an avocado. This is the most obvious way people tend to choose an avocado, but you shouldn’t rely on firmness alone. Haas avocado skin is quite dense and can make you believe that an avocado is firmer than it is.
You might think that a soft and pliable avocado is a ripe avocado, but these avocados are almost always mushy and overripe. There should not be air pockets between the skin and flesh of the fruit.
An avocado that is too firm is likely not ripe, so try choosing one that has a slight bounce under your fingertips, much like a peach.
How firm or soft you like your avocados is a matter of preference. While a super soft avocado might be fine for baby food, guacamole, or avocado toast, you’ll want one on the firm side for things like Spring Rolls and Sushi.
2. The Cap Test
When it comes to the question, “When is an avocado ripe?” you need to pay attention to the smallest details of the avocado. Most notably, you should take a look at the so-called cap on the avocado. This cap is where the avocado was plucked from the stem.
All that remains of it is a small, grayish nub on one end of the avocado. Looking at the cap straight-on will not tell you much which is why you need to instead peel the cap off of the avocado completely. Underneath the cap, there will be a small indentation left in the avocado.
While this indentation might not look like much, it is your solution to “when is an avocado ready to eat?” Try to see if the indentation is green or yellow in color. If so, that means the avocado is perfectly ripe. If the indentation is brown or has brown specks, it may be overripe.
If the cap does not come off easily or at all, the avocado is not ripe yet.
While firmness and taking the cap off of the avocado are some of the best ways to tell if an avocado is ripe or not, it is not the only way. There are a few more discreet ways you can try, especially if you’re at the grocery store and don’t want to be picking away all the avocado caps in the produce section.
An easy (but not always failproof) way to check the ripeness of an avocado is to examine its color, if you’re looking at Haas. Many people tend to think that avocados should be green as green can be, but this is not always the case. There are actually some very important variations in the color of an avocado’s skin.
For Haas avocados, the most common type you’ll find in the grocery store, if your avocado is bright green, it won’t be ready to eat for quite a while. So, if you see bright green avocados in the store, don’t bother buying them unless you don’t plan on using any avocados for a while. Instead, if you want to buy an avocado that will be ready to use in a few days if not that very day, then you should look for avocados that are darker in color.
Dark green is a great color for avocados, but black is even better. Haas avocados with dark green or black skins will be nearly ripe or ripe, so you will be able to use them in your cooking as soon as possible. However, you should be careful when choosing black avocados because there is a chance that they could be overripe.
Other varieties of avocado such as Bacon and Reed, may have skin that remains green even when ripe.
How to Pick Avocados
On the tree: Once your avocados have reached their maximum size and are no longer growing larger you can start to pick them. Don’t worry if they are rock hard – avocados ripen off the tree.
The time of year will vary depending on the variety. I like to pick them from our tree just above the “cap” where there is a natural joint. Unlike other fruit, avocados last a long time on the tree, so you can harvest them over the course of a few months.
In the grocery store: If you need an avocado the day you’re shopping, try grocery stores you know always have ripe avocados. In Southern California, that’s Gelson’s rather than my usual Trader Joe’s.
Examine the avocados there using the methods above in the “how to tell if an avocado is ripe” section, gently pressing to find fruit that gives just slightly.
If you are shopping for general use, grabbing a bag of underripe avocados is fine! You might even want to try ones treated with Apeel technology to make them twice as long when ripe! I recommend choosing California Avocados rather than those grown in Mexico whenever possible.
How Long Does it Take an Avocado to Ripen?
Haas avocados, like the ones I grow and are most common in grocery stores, ripen off the tree. It takes a couple of weeks to go from just-picked rock hard to ready to eat.
When you buy them in the store you won’t know exactly when they were picked, but presumably not that day. If they are rock hard you can expect them to take at least 5 days. If they have some give when gently pressed, they will be ready in a day or two.
How Long Do Avocados Last?
Once ready to eat, avocados stored in the fridge will last up to 5 days. Don’t forget, if you end up with too many ripe avocados, you can add them to smoothies or freeze them.
How to Ripen Avocados
Now that you know how to tell if an avocado is ripe or not, it’s time to learn how to ripen avocados. There are a few ways to do this and some are drastically better (or worse) than others.
1. Room Temperature
Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to ripen an avocado faster is also the easiest way: leave it on your kitchen counter in a warm area.
While it might be a little disappointing if you planned on having guacamole, time is the only thing that can make an avocado ripe. By leaving it on the counter, the avocado will continue to break down since it is no longer receiving nutrients from the plant it was originally attached to. By checking on the avocado every day you can use the techniques discussed previously to see how ripe it is.
2. Brown Paper Bag
You may be able to speed up the ripening process by putting the avocado in a paper bag. Some believe that by trapping an avocado in a paper bag, the gases that the avocado releases will also be trapped and help the avocado to ripen at a faster rate. For the same reason, some believe that adding another piece of produce like a banana to the same bag will help the avocado ripen even faster.
Depending on how ripe (or not ripe) your avocado was when you bought it, it may need to sit on your counter for a day or even a week. There are also some other ways to ripen avocados, but leaving them on the counter remains your best bet.
How to Ripen Avocados Quickly in the Microwave
Some people swear by putting an avocado in the microwave to ripen it. You would do this by cutting the avocado in half and wrapping each half in cling wrap. Then, heat the avocados for short periods of time, no longer than 30 seconds each.
Then, dunk the warm avocados in a bowl of ice water. By this time, the avocado should be softened. However, this is more likely to cook the avocado than ripen it.
For that reason, you might want to avoid this technique. After all, a cooked yet unripe avocado is not likely going to taste very good or have the right texture for your recipes.
How to Soften in the Oven
Another common technique is wrapping a whole avocado in foil and then putting it in the oven at a low temperature.
Let the avocado heat up for a few minutes, then take it out. However, much like the microwave method, you are not ripening the avocado but rather cooking it. If you are really desperate, you can try the microwave or oven hacks. The time it takes to soften will vary depending on how ripe the avocado is to begin with.
If you want a ripe avocado, have patience and leave it on the counter for however long it might need.
How to Store Ripe Avocados
If you were wondering how to tell if an avocado is ripe, you should now know all the best techniques. From popping the cap off of the avocado to examining its firmness, there are plenty of ways to check an avocado’s ripeness and ways to get it to ripen faster.
Once your avocados are ripe, here’s how to store them for maximum longevity.
- Once an avocado is ripe, store it in the fridge in the produce drawer and it will slow down the aging process by a few days.
- Store cut avocados submerged in a dish of water and change the water daily.
- If you find yourself with more avocados than you can use, you can freeze them for smoothies. Here’s How to Freeze Avocados
- Learn How to Cut and Peel Avocados Perfectly.
- 1 avocado
Brown Bag (Recommended)
- Place underripe avocados in a brown paper bag or in a bowl on the kitchen counter.
- Check on your avocados daily for signs of ripeness, which may take anywhere from one day to a week depending on how ripe the fruit was to begin with.
Microwave (Not Recommended)
- Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Wrap the halves separately in plastic wrap. Microwave in 30-second intervals until softened.
- To stop the cooking, submerge the wrapped halves in ice water until cooled.
Oven (Not Recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 200° F. Wrap one whole avocado in foil and bake until softened, checking every 10 minutes. You can cool the avocado down quickly and stop the cooking by submerging it in ice water.
How to Tell if an Avocado is Ripe
Like shopping for perfectly ripe peach, gently press avocados with your thumb. If it does not give at all, it is not ready. If it gives slightly it is probably ready, and if it is very soft of the flesh has pulled away from the skin creating pockets, it's overripe and probably brown inside.
Haas avocados, the most common type in grocery stores, are very dark green to black when ripe. See the rest of our tips in the main article.
Storing Ripe Avocados
Once the avocados are ripe, store them in the refrigerator to put the brakes on the ripening process. They should be good for up to 3-5 days!
You can also freeze avocados using this guide.
Store ripe, cut avocados in a dish of water cut-side-down for up to 24 hours.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1/2 avocado
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 161Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 7gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.