You feel like tacos tonight. And your dinner won't be complete without some creamy avocado — in either beautifully green sliced moons or mashed into guacamole. Problem: When you zero-in on the avocados at your supermarket, they're green and rock-hard. By the time your avocado ripens, you'll have resorted to a taco shop to satisfy your craving. It could take up to six days for that avocado to turn soft and creamy inside. Six. Days. Oh, the agony.
Avocados ripen after they have been harvested, not while on the tree, according to the Hass Avocado Board. As your fruit sits on the counter, it releases the plant hormone ethylene, a type of gas that triggers the ripening process.
If you need a ripe avocado for tonight's dinner, you better find a soft avocado at the store. There's no other way. Don't resort to store-bought guacamole, even if you forgot to plan ahead and need it for the weekend's Super Bowl party. You want the secret on how to ripen avocados fast? Trouble is, the fastest you'll get a rock-hard avocado to turn soft is in a full day… or two. So don't be fooled by claims you find online that you can ripen an avocado in 10 minutes, says the California Avocado Commission, either in the microwave or by wrapping the avocado in aluminum foil and baking it at 200 F. Your fruit may get softer, but it won't have the buttery, nutty taste and creamy texture you know and love.
Here's what you need to know. (Let's assume we're talking about a Haas avocado, the most common variety.)
- Select your avocado. How do you know when an avocado is ready to eat without cutting it open and tasting it? You can tell when the skin turns from green to black (if it's a Haas avocado) and when you squeeze it in your palm, it gives a little — but not too much. If you want the avocado for slices, slightly firm-ripe is fine. For guacamole, you want it ripe-ripe.
- If you can't find a properly ripe avocado, you'll need to wait a couple days to make the recipe that requires it. Sorry.
- You can speed up the ripening process, though. Don't lose hope. Place an unripe avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana.
- Close or fold up the bag so that no air can get out, and check on your avocado for one to three days until it's ripe and ready. Even better, place the bag in sunlight. This method works faster than simply leaving your avocado on the counter because the other fruits also emit ethylene gas, and when they're all inside the sealed paper bag, the gas is trapped inside and works double-time on the avocado.
- Never refrigerate your avocado until it's already ripe and you want to delay it from ripening further. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice on any exposed parts of the flesh to prevent browning, and wrap in plastic wrap or in a sealed container. Eat it within a couple days.
Beware! Cutting avocados has proven to be more dangerous than it seems. Slice the right way (and prevent a Meryl) with this informative video.
Try these party-style avocado recipes.
1. Avocado Pico de Gallo Salsa
Inject cubes of creaminess to your freshly diced tomatoes, onions, and chiles for a salsa that earns its chip like no other. With this version, you won't need a separate guacamole dip. It's an all-in-one munchie, perfect for parties and watching football. Get our Avocado Pico de Gallo Salsa recipe.
2. Mini Black Bean Cakes with Carnitas and Avocado
Set aside at least three hours to make these mouthwatering bean morsels piled with pulled pork and mashed avocado brightened with lime. You can make some of the components ahead of time if that helps. The combination of these elements is stellar, making your efforts for a memorable appetizer worthwhile. Get our Mini Black Bean Cakes recipe.
3. Fried Avocado Tacos
Deep-fried wedges of avocado are the star, instead of the garnish, in these tacos. In this case, you want your avocado relatively firm. Pickled red cabbage and a soothing yogurt-cilantro sauce round out the flavor and texture profile within the tortilla. Get our Fried Avocado Tacos recipe.
4. Avocado Crema
Instead of guacamole, try a smoother, even creamier variety for topping your tacos, enchiladas, and nachos. This kind uses sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Get our Avocado Crèma recipe.
How could we list avocado recipes without including the most obvious one? We couldn't. This recipe goes a little beyond the most basic, with scallions, cilantro, and Roma tomato in it. Make this dip right before your event. It shouldn't take much longer than 15 minutes, and it yields six cups — enough for a small crowd. Get our Guacamole recipe.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.