How To Soften An Avocado

No tricks, just the truth.

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.

How To Soften An Avocado

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 Golden 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 any ethylene-emitting fruit on hand, you can also place unripe avocados on their own in a paper bag, the ripening process might just be a little slower. You can also place the avocados on a countertop or window sill in direct sunlight to speed up ripening.

How To Soften An Avocado After It Has Been Cut

It happens to the best of us. You slice into an avocado only to realize it's underripe. Don't worry, you can still soften it. And in three easy steps, no less.

Step 1: Keep the pit in place, and rub down the halves with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.

Step 2: Sandwich the halves back together as tightly as possible, and wrap the entire avocado tightly in plastic wrap.

Step 3: Pop the avocado in the fridge to soften over the next couple days. Check daily for ripeness by giving the fruit a gentle squeeze. (It's also worth noting that it's entirely safe to eat an unripe avocado, it just won't taste as delicious or be as creamy.)

Can You Soften An Avocado In The Microwave Or Oven?

While there are plenty of "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 star of the show (in guacamole, for example) it just won't taste right.

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The Quickest Way To Soften An Avocado

If you don't have time to wait and MUST eat guacamole now, the other option is to puree the avocado with 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.

How To Tell If An Avocado Is Ripe

There are several stages of avocado ripeness, so before you toss the paper bag and slice into the fruit, learn what to look for in a perfectly ripe avocado according to the California Avocado Commission.

Stage 1 : Hard

Rock-hard, often with bright green skin, these avocados have no give when squeezed and aren't ready for consumption.

Stage 2: Pre-Conditioned

Avocados at this stage will still be quite firm, but will be ready to eat in roughly three days (if held at room temperature).

Stage 3: Breaking

These avocados will have a slight give when squeezed. They should be ready to eat within two days, if stored at room temperature.

Stage 4: Firm Ripe

Avocados at this level of ripeness will yield to gentle pressure, making them great for slicing. They will be fully ripe within a day if left at room temperature.

Stage 5: Ripe

These avocados will easily yield when squeezed and are ready to eat. Ripe avocados are perfect for all uses, and will remain at this stage for two to three days at room temperature. For longer-term storage you can pop fully ripe avocados in the fridge to avoid spoilage, or freeze them for future use.

Pro Tip

Aside from squeezing the avocados to test for ripeness, there's another trick for determining if they are ready to eat: Flick off the small stem at the top of the avocado. If it lifts away easily and the flesh underneath looks green, it's ripe or nearly ripe. If the stem resists coming off, and the flesh underneath is a yellow-green color, it's likely underripe. If the stem pops off very easily and the flesh underneath is brown, then the fruit is likely overripe, and might contain brown splotches.

RELATED: We Tried the Avocado Storage Hack That Claims to Keep Ripe Avocados Fresh for Days

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