The typical grocery-store scenario: We make a beeline to the avocado bin and start squeezing with abandon in search of the perfectly ripe fruit…that we inevitably don’t find. The avocado gods are cruel. But we just found out that our technique is all wrong. Here’s how to tell if an avocado is ripe, so you can enjoy one as-is—or in your favorite guacamole recipe, or atop toast—ASAP.
How to tell if an avocado is ripe:
There are as many fabled tricks to finding the ideal avocado as the earth is round…but they’re not all as foolproof as they seem. You’ll have to rely on your senses, namely sight and touch.
Underripe avocados will look green and smooth, and they’ll feel rock-hard to the touch. But when an avocado is ripe (or almost ripe), the skin will turn dark green to almost black and have a bumpy texture. And when you give it a gently squeeze, it should yield to gentle, firm pressure (but not feel mushy).
Our favorite trick for picking a ripe avo comes from chef and avocado-whisperer Rick Bayless, who says the bottom of the fruit is the sweet spot for determining ripeness. Avocados ripen from the stem-end down, so when you squeeze on the top or check under the stem, the fruit might be only partially ripe. If it’s ripe at the more bulbous end, it’s ripe throughout.
Should you refrigerate avocados?
If your avocado is ripe and ready to go, store it in the fridge until you want to eat it. We all know how fast an avo can turn from boulder-like to total mush, but storing it in the fridge can prolong its shelf life.
If that avocado isn’t quite ready, it’s best kept on the counter to ripen for three to four days. (But check it daily.) Storing it in the fridge when it’s not ready can actually keep it from ever getting ripe—and that’s a sad tale to tell.
How to ripen an avocado fast:
If you’re trying to make guac, like, tonight, there are a few tricks to speeding up the ripening process. One way is to wrap it in foil and stick it in the oven at 200°F, and while it will certainly soften the fruit, it will still taste underripe (you know, kind of grassy).
Our preferred method is to place the avocado in a brown paper bag along with a ripe banana, roll it shut and check on it every day until its soft. The banana releases a gas called ethylene, which triggers the ripening process. (If you don’t have a bag or a banana, you can also set the avocado in a sunny spot and it will ripen in a few days.)
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some guacamole to make.