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This beautiful fruit has stumped me many times. There I was, reaching into the display of avocado at the grocery store, thinking of tons of avocado recipes that I wanted to try, and I stood willing the avocado to speak to me because I didn’t have a clue. How does one tell if an avocado is ripe? Could I rely on color alone to select the right one?
I decided to close the door on the “what if’s” and began to investigate. I wanted to make guacamole. But if I didn’t have the right avocado, how long would I have to wait?
I discovered there are ways to help home cooks like me test an avocado’s ripeness. Just as I thought, I couldn’t rely on color.
How to Find out If an Avocado Is Ripe
Avocados’ color can vary once they pass into the medium-ripe stage, but color is a great place to start. The darker the color, the more ripe the fruit. Unripe avocado will usually be bright green. So unless you don’t want to use them for a few days, avoid them at the store and look to the ones changing to a purple hue.
Do the touch test to find out how ripe an avocado is. Hold it in the palm of your hand and gently apply pressure. If the flesh of the fruit does not yield to the gentle but firm touch, then the avocado is not ripe.
When to Slice, Dice or Smash
A super firm avocado–read: not ripe–will be difficult to slice and dice. If you want the avocado to keep its shape so you can toss it into something like our Skinny Cobb Salad, it should be medium ripe—the flesh should be softer but should not quite yield to the full pressure of your hand. For guacamole, the fruit should give with just a little pressure. But give it a once-over to make sure there aren’t any indented bruised spots.
How to Ripen an Avocado at Home
If, like me, you’ve bought not-quite-ripe fruit, then it’s good to know that most recipes call for medium-ripe avocados. For the really firm, bright-green variety, you will need four to five days of ripening time at room temperature. Medium-ripe fruit can be gobbled up or left to ripen for one to two days. If you prefer softer flesh, a ready-to-eat avocado can be refrigerated for a day or two before serving.
Test Kitchen tip: Can’t wait for days? Speed up the ripening process by placing the avocado in a brown paper bag along with an apple and a banana. A little magic happens when they all get together.