Have you ever cut into an avocado only to realise it’s completely underripe? Or squeezed the one you’ve just bought to discover that it’s rock hard? Find out how to ripen avocados in a natural way.
A perfectly ripe avocado is a rare thing to find. Avocados don’t ripen on the tree; they need to be picked to ripen, so you usually need to think ahead and nurture one into being soft but not spoilt.
Unfortunately, without a time machine, you can’t instantly ripen an avocado – but that doesn’t mean an underripe one has to go in the compost bin. Here's how you can speed up the ripening process so you can use the fruit (and yes, avocados are fruit) in all sorts of avocado recipes.
How to ripen whole avocados
Avocados are stimulated into ripening by the hormone ethylene, which is produced naturally by the fruit itself – and, to varying degrees, by all other fruit. Avocados (along with apples, bananas and many others) are climacteric fruit, which means they continue to ripen after they're picked. Non-climacteric fruit, such as grapes, cherries and strawberries, don't ripen once they've been picked.
The best way to harness nature's methods of ripening is to put your avocado in a paper or cloth (not plastic) bag with a banana, which gives off high levels of ethylene, and leave for two to three days to ripen (really rock hard ones will take up to four or five days to ripen) – the bag will concentrate the gas. If you put an avocado in a bag on its own, it will ripen in the same way but may take a couple of days longer. Once your avocado is ripe, it will last for about two days on the counter or up to four or five days in the fridge before deteriorating.
Can I use an apple?
Apples are another fruit that give off high levels of ethylene – so yes, you can. However, newer varieties that have been bred to give off less ethylene (and therefore last longer) are not as effective as other varieties.
What won’t work
Anything else. There's no quick fix – you can't ripen avocados in the microwave or oven. Nothing will ripen an avocado at home except ethylene.
Why does an avocado sometimes have brown stripes in it?
This is called vascular leaching and is nothing to do with how you've treated it. It's generally caused by imperfect storage and temperature conditions.
How to ripen already-cut avocados
If you've cut into an avocado only to realise it's rock solid, there are three things you can do to save it:
- Wrap and keep it. This is the least quick of the fixes, but it might be the simplest. Just put the halves back together as neatly as you can, including the pit (if you've already removed the pit, just pop it back in), and leave the avocado to ripen. Don’t worry if the flesh starts to blacken a little on the cut sides – that's just where it’s oxidised. You can cut these parts away before you use it.
- Blend it. Add any other ripe avocados you're using, or mix in some thawed frozen peas – you'll need to blend it all well so you don’t end up with any hard lumps. Peel and remove the pit as normal, then chop your avocado into small pieces and whizz up in a bullet blender, ideally with a splash of liquid like lime juice.
- Bake it. This is perhaps a bit of a cheat, but cooking an avocado will soften it up a bit. Try it griddled and baked or grilled and stuffed.
Get some recipe inspiration:
Wholewheat spaghetti & avocado sauce
Sticky citrus chicken with griddled avocado & beet salad
Warm stuffed avocados
Topped with tomatoes, olives and capers, this dish makes a great alternative to salad.
Movie night nachos with chorizo & creamy guacamole
Peas add a good natural sweetness to this chilli-topping classic. It makes a handy vegan side dish, too.
Check out more avocado recipes and guides...
Have you got any tips for ripening avocados? Leave a comment below...