Are you wondering how to ripen avocados so you can use them right away? I mean, who doesn’t love avocados? They’re soft, creamy, smooth, and silky – as delectable and irresistible as butter. They weren’t called “the butter fruit” for nothing.
Avocados are indispensable for guacamole, avocado toast, and are just as enjoyable on salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. They’re also a nutritional powerhouse – carrying loads of protein, good fats, fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
What’s not to love about them?
Nothing – until you slice into one and find the flesh a little too tough, bitter, and unpalatable.
Can You Eat Unripe Avocado?
Yes you can eat unripe avocado – but it won’t be particularly tasty. It’ll be harder to scoop out the flesh and it won’t have that lovely creamy texture.
Unripe, rock-solid avocados are the last thing you’d want to have when you’re thinking of making guacamole the following day. Or even two. Green, firm avocados take so long to ripen and wouldn’t be of any use at all if you want that dip or salad in just a couple of days.
If the avocados you’ve purchased don’t seem as if they’re going to be ready anytime soon, take heart. There are a few things you can do to hasten their ripening process.
Choosing Your Avocados
Supermarkets usually sell avocados in varying degrees of readiness. These fruits, which are scientifically classified as berries, don’t ripen on trees. They’re harvested green and hard and are only allowed to soften and sweeten whilst in storage.
So, at most shops, they’re either ready to eat on display, or are just waiting to be ripened at home by shoppers after purchase.
Which begs the question – when exactly do you want your avocados ready?
- If you plan to serve them the day you purchase them, choose the soft, ripe ones.
- If you’re going to use them only after a couple of days, go for ones that are in their “breaking” stage – firm, yet just beginning to slightly soften.
- If you’re not planning to use them until after a few days, get ones that are very green, under-ripe, and firm.
So choose carefully what you need.
For quality, look for those without dark blemishes, bruises, or soft spots. Also, make sure that the stem end isn’t beginning to show any decay. Avoid the very soft, squishy ones, too – they’re likely overripe, brown and mushy inside.
But, if the only kind you find available are rock-solid ones, that’s totally fine. You can bring some home and ripen them yourself.
How to Ripen Avocados the Natural Way
1. Place them on your kitchen counter. The easiest way to ripen avocados is to leave them on your kitchen counter for several days and let them ripen on their own, naturally.
Brownish purple avocados take 2 to 3 days to ripen, while evergreen varieties take longer at 4 to 6 days.
2. Warm them. Place the unripe avocados on a sunny window sill, or in a warm spot in the kitchen. The heat will hasten the ripening process.
3. Place them next to other fruits.
Leave your avocados in a fruit bowl or basket along with other ripe or ripening fruits. Fruits contain ethylene, a naturally occurring plant hormone released in the form of a gas. It causes mature fruit to ripen, softening their flesh and producing a sweeter taste.
Placed alongside each other, they further speed up each other’s maturation process.
Related: How to ripen bananas
4. Wrap them in newspapers. Trap that ethylene emitted by your avocados by wrapping each fruit in a newspaper, paper towel, or any cheap, recycled paper. Let them sit on your kitchen counter, or in sunlight for a day or two. The paper concentrates the gas inside so that it stays close to the fruit, enhancing ripeness.
5. Place them in a breathable bag with a ripened fruit. Apples, bananas, and kiwis are known to produce high levels of ethylene, so enclosing your avocados in a paper or cloth bag with any of these fruits will ripen them fast. Again, the bag will trap the ethylene produced all those fruits combined. Note that the more apples or bananas you put in the bag with the avocados, the faster they’ll ripen.
6. Place them inside a brown bag with flour. Pour some flour down the bottom of a brown bag, about an inch thick, then place your avocados inside. The flour will absorb all moisture, preventing any chance of moulds that can cause mould. Close the bag and let it sit at room temperature for 1 to 3 days, checking every day for progress.
7. Bury them in rice. Uncooked rice is a dry, natural staple food that can both absorb moisture and trap the ethylene of your avocados. Place the unripe fruits in a large bowl and cover with rice. Make sure they’re completely covered. Check back every day.
How to Hack the Ripening Process
8. Bake them in the oven. Now, this is a bit of a cheat, but if all of a sudden you’ve decided to use your avocados sooner than planned, and they’re still far from ripening, here’s what you can do.
- Wrap the fruits individually in tin foil.
- Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 90 degrees Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes until your desired softness is achieved.
- Unwrap and cool them on your kitchen counter, about 30-45 minutes, or in the refrigerator.
- If they aren’t soft enough, bake for another 10 minutes, then another, and another – checking every 5 minutes – until your desired softness.
This method works because, like the paper bag principle, the ethylene is being trapped and warmed in its own ethylene gas.
If you use this method though, be wary of the fact that the quality of the fruit may be compromised. It will soften, yes, but it won’t ripen. Nor will you get that smooth, silky texture and sweet, nutty flavour you expect. Do this only as a last resort, when you’re caught in a bind.
Others would suggest cooking the avocados in a microwave. But, like the oven method, it merely softens the fruit by cooking it, not ripening it. And the result is a mushy, stinky mess. Honestly. Not only are the taste and texture compromised, but so is the smell. I really wouldn’t recommend it.
How to Ripen Avocados After They’ve Been Cut
So, going back to our original problem – if you’ve sliced open an avocado and found it isn’t ripe yet, don’t worry – all is not lost. It can still be salvaged.
Simply place the two halves back together as neatly as you can, pit included, and secure with either cling film, or rubber bands. Make sure there are no gaps or breaches along the sides for bugs or dust to come in.
Then, place the avocado in the fruit bowl as you normally would, or on the kitchen counter, to ripen naturally. Check every 12 hours for progress.
Don’t worry if you find dark spots on the flesh along the cut sides. Those are just signs of oxidation. You can easily slice those parts off then discard them. Or, if you’d like to prevent oxidation from taking place altogether, rub some lime or lemon juice on the exposed parts of the flesh before wrapping the halves together in cling film.
How To Tell If An Avocado Is Ripe
The best way to tell if an avocado is ripe is to gently squeeze it in the palm of your hand and feel for a sign of softness and give. Do not poke or squeeze with your fingertips as you run the risk of bruising the flesh.
Ready-to-eat avocado will be firm yet will easily yield when pressed gently.
If your avocados came with their stems still intact, try flicking them off. If they come off easily, and the colour underneath is greenish or yellowish-brown, the fruits are ready. If the stems won’t budge, you may have to wait a couple of days.
How To Store Ripe Avocados
If you have more ripe avocados than you can eat, store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Uncut avocados will remain good inside the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Sliced, mashed or pureed avocados freeze well for up to 4 or 5 months and will still be good when added to dips, soups, sandwich spreads, or served as baby food.
To store cut avocados, sprinkle with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar to prevent oxidation. Wrap the slices tightly in a plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container, then refrigerate.
Mashed avocados can be placed inside freezer bags – pressing out as much air as possible – while pureed avocados can be poured into ice cube trays.