Is That Avocado Ripe Enough to Eat?

Ripe and Unripe Avocado

Ripe and Unripe Avocados

Reader Ilana sent me an interesting question: How do you tell if an avocado is ripe? Well, sometimes it’s difficult because avocados ripen unevenly. The lower wide part, surrounding the seed, ripens faster than the thickest part of the avocado’s neck.

I’ve had avocados get brown and spoil before ripening. I presume it has something to do with the way they were grown or stored. Usually an avocado ripens on the counter within a week. To make it ripen faster, put it in a paper bag in a drawer and check it every day.

The avocado on the left is ready to eat. You can tell because the skin is starting to get brown and wrinkled. The unripe one is textured, like all avocados to varying degrees, but not wrinkled or shrunken.

When you press the skin of a ripe avocado it will give. It’s similar to a pear: Hard means unripe, soft but firm is ripe, and mushy is over-ripe. But unlike  pears, the very soft brown spots on avocados are bitter and inedible. You can’t miss the spots when you open the fruit. Cut off the brown and eat the rest.

When I opened the ripe one this is what I saw:

Ripe Avocado

Ripe Avocado

The slight brown streaks tell me that the avocado is slightly overripe and would have been perfect the day before. But that’s how it is with all fruit: It’s tastier the day or two after the peak of ripeness than it is the day before. We can’t always get to fruit on the right day, so it’s best not to be too fastidious about eating perfect fruit.

The flesh of over-ripe (but still edible) avocados is all yellow, very soft, and might have bitter mushy brown spots. That brown spot on the lower right is where the stem was attached.

If you cut through the skin of an avocado and meet resistance, it’s not ripe. Remove the knife, leave the fruit for a day or two, and remove the original cut edge.

With a ripe avocado, the skin pulls off the flesh easily. The thin skin of the variety pictured above may tear but the thicker-skinned varieties will not. Even if the skin is thick you can feel the degree of ripeness, although the color change may not be as obvious.

After it’s ripe, store it in the refrigerator. Use it for avocado salad or cube it into a vegetable salad. Stuff it with chumus, spread it on bread or eat it at is. That’s what I did with this one.

To cube an avocado can cut it in half, remove the seed, and cross-hatch it with a knife just through to the skin. Then slide the knife between the flesh and the skin to remove the cubes. Or slice the fruit in wedges including the skin, then  peel off the skin by hand. Use a spoon to scoop out flesh that sticks to the skin. Also use a spoon if you’re going to mash it or eat it plain.

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  1. You forgot to add the golden rule: NEVER add mayo to avocado. it is a truly evil thing to do to such a wonderful fruit.

  2. Leah, good point! Now that is one thing I remember teaching my mother, who had never made it before. I am going to reply to your email now.

  3. If you try to remove the stem (?) from the avocado and it gives you resistance, it is definitely not ready. If it pushes off very easily, it is probably fairly ripe.

  4. To ripen quicker: you mention putting in a paper bag; I always heard putting it in a paper bag along with a banana.

  5. Thanks for the tip. Will have to do a controlled experiment with and without the banana!

  6. All ripening fruit gives off some chemical that causes fruit nearby to ripen. I’d heard using an apple, don’t know if a banana is more or less of a ripen-agent 🙂 you’ll need several test bags and a control. hehe

  7. No problem, Yonit, we’re a big family.

  8. The avocados here are still driving me a little batty–I find the top ripens before the bottom. And I don’t like the taste as much as the Haas in N. America.
    But the kids are happy, which is all that counts; avocado is one of my daughter’s four basic food groups.

  9. Keep trying. We’re just getting to the height of the season.

  10. Leah Schapira says

    I always ripen avocados with a green apple. Seems to do the trick.

    • Leah, thanks for the tip.
      Heather, I do leave in the seed. Thanks for pointing that out. With some foods, like peppers and melons, it’s best to remove seeds as soon as you open them.

  11. I’ve read about a nice tip: If you cut the avocado to store it, save the seed and store it with the cut up avocado as it will prevent some of the brown coloration caused by oxidation. Also lemon juice prevents some of this.