Avocados are best ripened at home so you can use them just as they become soft. It can be risky to buy ones that you think are already ready at the store for two reasons.
Firstly, you don’t know how long it has been soft for. From my experience, there’s a fair chance it will be overripe and starting to go off in the middle.
Secondly, if a loose avocado has been sitting on the supermarket shelf for long enough to turn ripe it may have had a lot of fingers pressing into it and bruising the pulp.
A better way is to get your avocados at least two, preferably three days before you need your first one and follow the method below to ripen them quickly and naturally. You can even buy many avocados at once and stagger the rate at which they become ready to use.
Ripening Avocados Fast
The fastest way to ripen avocados is to place them in a large paper bag with another fruit that gives of ethylene gas and scrunch up the top to close them in there. Apples and bananas are well know for this but other ethylene producing fruit include apricots, nectarines, plums, passionfruit, pears, mangoes, cantaloupe and papaya (though you’d need a large bag for these last ones – wrapping them in newspaper is another option).
Keep in mind though that this will increase the speed at which the other fruit ripens as well. This might be useful for green bananas, hard pears or stonefruit, but you have to keep an eye on them. Quickly checking on them morning and night seems often enough.
I’ve found it best to keep avocados and other unripe fruit in the paper bag for just the first night after I get them. By the next morning the ripening process has been speeded up and you really don’t want too much ethylene gas exposure for your fruit. Leave some kinds of fruit in the paper bag for more than a day and they can go off very quickly.
Using the paper bag method, avocados can go from unripe to ready in two days, though sometimes it takes three. If you’re not in such a rush, use the next method to ripen them more naturally in three to five days.
How to Ripen Avocados Naturally
The easiest and most natural way to get your avocados soft enough to eat is to keep them in a bowl in proximity to other fruit. The best place for me seems to be a bowl just below a windowsill but not in direct sunlight. You can actually buy quite a few of them and stagger the rate at which they become ready in the following way.
If you want to try and ripen an avocado in two days then use the bag method above. For the next you’d like to use, place it right on top of any ethylene producing fruit (a bunch of bananas is a good spot). For the third one, put it beside the fruit bowl rather than in it. And for any others, keep them in a seperate bowl away from other fruit until you are ready to move them closer.
It sounds complicated but it’s really just moving the avocados closer to the other fruit in the order you want them to ripen.
Results aren’t always consistent. Some avocados are just determined to soften before others. But generally mine become ready to use at a staggered rate over several days, even though I usually buy four or five together.
Don’t ever refrigerate avocados before they are ready or they will take forever to ripen and may well go bad as they do.
How to Tell When an Avocado is Ready to Eat
Hass avocados turn darker when they are ready which can be a helpful indicator but other varieties remain the same deep green color.
I think the best way to test if an avocado is ripe is to gently press the fatter base with the flat part of your thumb. It should give but not feel too soft. Similar to pressing the tip of your nose.
The top of the fruit near the stem seems to often soften ahead of the rest. If you only test up the top you may find the rest to still be a bit rubbery (and no one likes rubbery avocados).
If you do cut into an unripe fruit by mistake you could try pouring a little lemon juice over the exposed pulp, put it back together and keeping it in a sealed plastic container in the fridge with an apple.
This doesn’t always work though and a better option might be to use it in a recipe where the texture doesn’t matter so much, like this avocado and kale smoothie.
Sometimes you may want to only use half and keep the rest for the next day. To do this without it going too brown, drizzle some citrus juice over the exposed pulp, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate.
Another option is to cover it with the empty skin from the other half, pull a rubber band around it and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. Keep in mind that avocados taste best brought back to room temperature before eating though.
Those are the best ways I know to ripen avocados both fast and naturally. One final caution to mention. I’ve read recommendations to microwave avocados to ripen them. Anyone who is interested in health can probably tell this is not a good idea.
Quickly heating the fatty acids in the fruit with microwaves can change their structure. Perhaps this is why people report that not only does this not work, it also makes them taste terrible.
Just by thinking a few days ahead and placing them near other fruit you can ripen avocados fast as well as naturally, for a regular supply of this great tasting and uniquely healthy superfood.