Do You Really Need to Wash Avocados?

It turns out, you do need to wash avocados—unless you want to risk coming into contact with potentially harmful bacteria.

When it comes to washing produce, I always assumed the rules were pretty straightforward. If you don’t eat the peel, don’t wash it. I never bother rinsing my bananas or oranges—so why bother to wash avocados? Well, after reading a study released by the FDA—not to mention produce recalls that regularly occur these days—I might have to rethink that logic.

Why Should You Wash Avocados?

In December 2018, the FDA released a four-year report that studied over 1,500 avocados for bacteria. There was good news and bad news: Less than 1% of avocados tested positive for salmonella, but around 18% tested positive for listeria. That means that almost one-fifth of the fruit contained the harmful bacteria on their skin.

But I don’t eat the skin, you protest! Well, if you’ve been cutting into your ‘cado without washing it first, your knife could be transferring listeria from the skin to the flesh with a single slice (especially if you use the same knife to scoop). That’s plenty of reason to convince me to always wash avocados before I eat them.

To be clear, small amounts of listeria aren’t likely to cause severe illnesses in healthy adults. They’re more harmful to people with weakened immune systems, such as children and pregnant women, who might be at risk for listeriosis. Listeriosis usually reveals itself in symptoms like headaches and a stiff neck, but it’s fairly rare to actually contract. Still, people at-risk should take special care to avoid it.

To be safe, let’s just add avocados to the list of “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that should always be washed before eating. If anything, it’s another helpful cleaning hack for keeping bacteria out of the kitchen.

How Do You Wash Avocados?

First, determine if the avocado is ripe (feel it but don’t squeeze!). To wash an avocado, simply rinse it under water and scrub with your hands or a produce brush, if you have one. Next, pat dry with a cloth before slicing with a clean knife. Then you’ll be ready to make any of these amazing avocado recipes!

How to Remove an Avocado Pit

There are actually a few ways to cut an avocado. While many slice it in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh, there’s a better and safer way. First, cut into a ripe avocado stem to stern until you hit the seed, then repeat to cut the avocado into quarters. Twist to separate the flesh from the pit. Then just pull the skin back like a banana peel and done! You can slice, cube or mash your avocado as you wish.

Alternatively, cut the avocado in half, then place your index and middle finger on either side of the avocado pit. With your thumb on the back of the avocado half, press like you’re pushing an elevator button. Wham! The pit tumbles out like an Olympic gymnast. You can also use a butter knife to pop the pit out of the avocado from the back.

How to Keep Leftover Avocados Fresh

Once you start slicing and dicing that avocado, you’ve got a relatively short window to incorporate it into your recipe before it begins to discolor. Chances are you won’t get sick from eating that slightly speckled piece, but when it comes to presenting a pretty plate, most people tend to frown on brown.

The easiest option to keep an avocado from turning brown: Simply apply plastic wrap against the flesh of a cut avocado. Leave the pit in or take it out. If you do remove it, make sure to lightly press the plastic wrap along the well where the pit was to ensure a tight seal.

You can also brush a little lemon or lime juice across the flesh of a sliced avocado, or roughly chop up a red onion, place it in an airtight container, and lay your avocado half on top. The best part about this last trick: You’re halfway to guacamole!

Try These Extra-Healthy Avocado Recipes
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Emma B. Kumer
Emma interned for Taste of Home in 2017 and then continued freelancing there during college. Post college, she worked with Reader’s Digest as a digital visual assistant full time before becoming a motion designer at The Washington Post. There, she continues honing her craft of digital storytelling on social media platforms. She’s also been a tutorial writer for Adobe and a freelance music video animator. Outside of work, Emma loves running marathons, attending concerts and creative writing.