how to ripen an avocado
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Need to ripen an avocado? Settle in and wait, because tips, tricks, and hacks don’t really work in this case.

July 31 is National Avocado Day, which means you probably need some 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.

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If you need a ripe avocado for tonight’s (or tomorrow’s) dinner, you better find a soft avocado at the store. There’s no other way. Unless you want to resort to store-bought guacamole, which is perhaps not as generally terrible as it once was, but will never be quite the same.

Related Reading: How Does Packaged Guac Stay Green? | As Avocado Prices Rise, So Does the Use of Fake Guacamole

You say you’re desperate, and you demand to know the secret—the trick that surely must exist—on how to ripen avocados fast? Truly sorry, The 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.

And the jury’s still out on the avocado sock.

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So here’s what you need to know. (Let’s assume we’re talking about a Haas avocado, the most common variety.)

How to Ripen an Avocado

1. 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. Also, pop off the little nubbin attached to the stem end and look for a pale green color; if you see that and the stem stub detaches easily, it’s good to go. If you want the avocado for slices, slightly firm-ripe is fine. For guacamole, you want it ripe-ripe (but never mushy).

2. If you can’t find a properly ripe avocado, you’ll need to wait. Yes, you’ll have to postpone making the the recipe that requires it for at least a couple days. Sorry. You can speed up the ripening process, though. Don’t lose hope.

3. Place the unripe avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Better if the fruit friend you select for your avocado is already ripe, itself.

4. Close or fold up the bag so that no air can get out. Ideally, 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.

5. Check on your avocado the next day. If it’s not ripe enough, give it another day or two, checking every day.

6. Never refrigerate your avocado until it’s already ripe. If it’s perfect and you want to stop it from ripening any further, then you can stash it in the fridge. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice on any exposed parts of the flesh to prevent browning, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in a sealed container. Eat it within a couple days.

And beware! Cutting avocados has proven to be more dangerous than it seems. Slice the right way (and prevent a Meryl) with this informative video.

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What to Do with Ripe Avocados

When your avocados are good to go, try these party-style avocado recipes.

Avocado Pico de Gallo Salsa

Chowhound

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.

Mini Black Bean Cakes with Carnitas and Avocado

Chowhound

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.

Fried Avocado Tacos

Chowhound

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.

Avocado Crèma

Chowhound

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.

Classic Guacamole

Chowhound

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.

Herbed Avocado Spread

Chowhound

If you’ve overdosed on gauc try this herbed spread for a little mix em’ up. Chives and Italian spices give it “hmmm what is in this?” vibes and it’s perfect on sandwiches, eggs, or a piece of grilled fish. Get our Herbed Avocado Spread recipe.

Dark Chocolate and Avocado Mousse

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Coconut Cream

Jeanine Donofrio

Yep, you can even turn your ripe avocado into dessert; this lush, dark chocolate vegan mousse from the “Love and Lemons” cookbook gets plenty of creamy, fluffy texture from the avo and a bit of almond milk, with a billow of coconut whipped cream on top, and fresh berries if you’ve got ’em. Get the Dark Chocolate and Avocado Mousse recipe.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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