A perfectly ripe avocado is a thing of beauty. Vivid green, ultra creamy, and rich, the fruit has so many appealing uses. Whether you’re whipping up some guacamole or planning to top your toast or sandwich, you’re going to need a ripe avocado.
Avocados are a climacteric fruit like bananas, meaning they finish ripening after they’ve been picked. That’s why you’ll often find them rock-hard at the grocery store and they tend to take a number of days to soften up.
Getting the timing right so that you have ripe avocado ready to go on your timeline can be tricky. We’ll explore how to tell when an avocado has reached its peak and different methods for speeding up the ripening time.
How Do You Know When an Avocado Is Ripe?
There are a few different methods for determining an avocado’s ripeness: skin color and texture, the stem, and the fruit’s firmness.
Skin color and texture: This method works best for Hass avocados, a popular variety in grocery stores. Their skin turns from green to dark and bumpy as it ripens.
However, there are a number of different varieties of avocados. While they’re often simply labeled as “avocados” at the grocery store, the specific variety offered will depend on the time of year and availability. While some darken as they ripen, some do not and many have smooth skin, regardless of ripeness.
Stem: One method for judging ripeness that works for all varieties of avocados is examining the stubby stem. If you have a ripe avocado, you will be able to easily remove the stem and peek underneath. The exposed flesh should be bright green or yellow. If the stem is difficult to remove, the avocado is not yet ripe.
Firmness: One of the best known and most reliable methods for checking an avocado’s ripeness is to give it a squeeze. Gently grip the fruit and place your thumb at the top near the stem. Gently press. The avocado should give under pressure, indicating the interior is ripe.
If the avocado is hard, then it is not yet ripe. If the avocado is easy to squeeze and your thumb leaves behind an indentation, then it is over-ripe. An over-ripe avocado tends to have watery flesh and more brown spots than a ripe avocado.
How Long Does It Take an Avocado to Ripen?
Depending on how ripe the avocado is when you purchase it at the store and how you store it, an avocado can take anywhere from a day to a week to ripen. Occasionally you’ll find ripe avocados at the store that are ready to be used right away, but that is a rare treat.
Methods to Speed Up Ripening
There are a few different methods for speeding up the ripening process. Check your avocados daily to ensure you use them at their peak and they don’t become over-ripe.
Method 1: Sunny Windowsill
One of the most reliable and practical methods is to set your avocado on a windowsill or other sunny area of the kitchen. The warmth will speed up the ripening process in a very natural way, yielding an avocado with excellent flavor and texture. Depending on how unripe your avocado is to begin with, this method will ripen an avocado in 2 to 5 days.
One bonus of this method is you can quickly and easily check the ripeness of the avocado throughout the process without having to retrieve it from a bag.
Method 2: Brown Paper Bag
Avocados release ethylene as they ripen. By placing them in a closed brown paper bag, you are trapping the ethylene which concentrates its effects and helps speed up ripening. This is especially effective if you set the paper bag on a sunny windowsill.
This method will typically yield a ripe avocado in 2 to 4 days. At times, avocados ripened this way are not quite as flavorful and creamy as an avocado left to ripen on its own, but the difference is usually minimal.
Method 3: With an Apple or Banana
Apples and bananas also release ethylene, so tossing one into a brown paper bag with your avocado means you’ll end up with even more of the ripeness-inducing gas.
While there doesn’t seem to be a significant time difference in simply using a brown paper bag and adding an apple or banana (about 2 to 4 days until ripe), it can’t hurt to toss one in if you have an especially hard avocado on your hands.
Not Recommended: Oven or Microwave
You may have seen an avocado hack going around that claims you can ripen an avocado in mere minutes with the help of your oven or microwave. If this seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. While the avocado will eventually soften, it doesn’t ripen. It will not have the creamy texture and rich, nutty flavor you’re looking for.
How to Store Ripe Avocados
If you’re not ready to use your avocado once it has reached peak ripeness, move it from the counter to the fridge. The cold environment helps temporarily hold it at its peak. Stored whole, ripe avocados will keep for 2 or 3 days in the crisper drawer.