How to Pick the Perfect Avocado
Plus, tips on to ripen one that's not quite ready and saving leftovers for later use.
Smooth and creamy (yet sliceable!), avocados can be enjoyed in everything from morning smoothies to citrusy salads to decadent desserts. However you use them, know that this wholesome superfood is dense in nutrients like vitamins K and C, folate, and potassium, has zero cholesterol, and is high in healthy fats and fiber which keep you fuller for longer. As easy as avocados are to eat, shopping for the perfect guacamole candidate isn't always a cinch. You may already know how to pick a good one from touch alone, but as we are all trying our best to prevent the spread of germs, picking through the whole avocado display isn't the most neighborly thing to do right now.
Thankfully, there are visual cues to keep in mind when selecting avocados—specifically the Haas variety, which is the most common at the supermarket. Haas avocados give a better idea of what is going on beneath that tough alligator-like skin than other varieties do. Using this guide, try to choose your avocados by color first, then you can give them a feel once you've narrowed it down to a few. Whatever you do, don't mess with the avocado's stem until after you've brought it home. The "stem trick" is where you can tell whether an avocado is perfect or overripe by pulling off the nubby stem, but this comes at a big cost: De-stemming lets air into the fruit, which leads to oxidation, accelerated ripening, and ultimately contributes to food waste.
An underripe Haas avocado will range from bright to mid green in color and have a relatively smooth peel. It will feel very firm and not give at all when gently pressed. If you don't need to use the avocado for another three to five days, then buy avocados like this and set them on your counter and wait it out.
Just About Ripe
Avocados that are just about ripe will vary a little in color but are usually a dark green with flecks of black here and there. The skin will have a slightly bumpier texture than the previous category, and it will feel softer in your hand than an underripe avocado but it still won't give to gentle pressure. Choose these if you plan to eat them within a day or two.
A ready-to-eat avocado will range from very dark green to dark brown to eggplant purple, and the skin will be the bumpiest texture yet. It will yield to gentle pressure but shouldn't feel mushy or leave any indentations. If you find an avocado with these indicators, it's go-time: Plan to eat it the same day.
An overripe avocado will be very dark and may show signs of wear and tear like deep indentations and black bruising. The peel will be bumpy, and it will feel a little mushy when gentle pressure is applied. Avoid these unless they are on super sale and you have a smoothie habit to appease.
Slowing Down or Speeding up Ripening
With avocados now often being sold in bags, it's very likely you'll find yourself in a situation where you bought more avocados than you can handle. If you catch this dilemma early, buy yourself an extra day or two by storing them in the fridge. Are they quite ripe? They'll still be good in something smashed or puréed, like in dips and soups. When prepping, spoon out any brown or stringy pieces.
On the flip side, you can accelerate the timeline of underripe avocados by harnessing the power of ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that causes certain fruits to ripen. Place your avocados in a brown paper bag along with another ethylene-producing fruit like a banana or apple. The additional fruit doubles down on gas production, and the bag traps it. With this method you will be able to turn an avocado that feels like a hockey puck into a sliceable treat in a day or two.
How to Save Half an Avocado
If you only end up using half of an avocado for your morning avocado toast, a good way to store the other half is to lightly coat the surface with cooking spray before wrapping it with plastic wrap. The oil forms an extra-protective layer over the fruit, which slows down browning caused by air exposure. You can also freeze avocados—but be warned, the texture will not be good for anything other than smoothies.
Whether you want to use it up in a myriad of ways or simply eat one out of hand with a squirt of lime and some salt, this kitchen chameleon will fill you up and never let you down.