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How to Ripen an Avocado

Making great guacamole at home requires some advance planning, or luck. That’s because the secret ingredient in guacamole is time. You need avocados at the just the right not-too-firm, not-too-soft stage of ripeness. Timing is everything. And sometimes (let’s be honest—most of the time), the ones for sale at the grocery store are rock hard. Which makes sense if you’re planning to eat the guacamole (or use the avocado in another recipe) several days in the future. But if you’re not, you need another course of action.

While there are plenty of avocado “hacks” on the Internet that claim to soften an avocado quickly (like baking it in the oven, or microwaving it), unfortunately, they don’t really work. Heating up the fruit does soften it, but it doesn’t help develop the rich and creamy flavor and texture of a ripe avocado. If you’re using the avocado in a salad, or as a garnish for a dish, this might be okay. But if the avocado is the start of the show (in guacamole, for example) it just won’t taste right.

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According to the California Avocado Commission, the best way to soften unripe avocados is to place them inside a brown paper bag along with an apple and close the bag tightly. The apple will release ethylene gas (the commission recommends using a Red or Yellow Delicious apple because those varieties emit the most ethylene), which speeds up the ripening process. Leave the bag at room temperature and the avocado will soften in a day or so, depending on how unripe it is. Keep the bag tightly closed so the gas doesn’t escape. This method might not be the fastest way to soften an avocado, but it’s the best way, and easy, too.

If you don’t have time to wait and MUST eat guacamole now, the other option is to puree the avocado and a little sour cream in a food processor until smooth. You won’t have the chunky texture of regular guacamole, but you will have a creamy avocado dip. Just be sure to add plenty of lime juice and salt.