We’ve all been there; schlepping a bag of avocados from the supermarket, thinking of all the delicious guacamole and sandwiches we’ll be making with them. Then BAM — three days later and all five avocados are soft and you have a day to eat them all before they go bad.
There are a few ways to make a bag of avocados last more than a week. In fact, the two avocados in the photo above were from the same bag. The one on the left is ready to eat, while the one on the right still has a few more days to go before it can be eaten.
Here’s how to do it:
Finding a Ripe Avocado
Look for a dark exterior as opposed to green (see photo above). You can also (gently!) press down on the stem. If it gives a bit, then it’s ripe. If it’s too hard or too mushy then it’s not ready or starting to rot.
Many online sources suggest flicking off the stem to see if it reveals a pretty green patch, but doing that to a dozen avocados, just to find one or two ripe ones is kind of a jerk move. Without the stem, the blotch will turn dark from air exposure and no one else will be able to tell if it’s ready. Also, resist the urge to squeeze avocados as you can bruise them, and subsequently make other shoppers believe that they’ve got a ripe avocado when they’re actually grasping at a fruit that you tampered with.
Ripening of Avocados
Online help forums tell me to take half of a hard avocado and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds (gross) or force it to soften by mashing it with a mallet. This might help with the texture, but the taste won’t be great compared to an actual ripe avocado.
Another popular tip is to put the whole avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana because those fruits release ethylene gas; an odorless gas that causes other fruit to ripen. In my experience, it doesn’t make that much of a difference from leaving them on the kitchen counter at room temperature for two or three days.
But one thing that really helps is heat. Steve Gonzalez, owner and chef of Latin restaurant Valdez in Toronto, says that when he’s in a pinch he’ll put avocados on his roof top patio. Arturo Anhalt of Toronto’s Milagro Cantinas also says that 30°C is a good temperature to accelerate ripening times. At one of his restaurants, he’ll actually put unripe avocados in the basement’s engine room.
But in the end, if want to eat an avocado as soon as you leave the supermarket, just buy one that’s already mature (sometimes there will be a “ripe” sticker right on the avocado).
Slowing Down the Ripening Process
When you come home with groceries, take out the number of avocados you plan on eating in the next two days or so and put the rest in the fridge where they can last an extra week. The cold will slow down the ripening process, but you’ll have to take them out a few days prior so they can ripen again at room temperature. Ripe avocados will last an additional day or two in the fridge.
The Other Open Half
As you know, avocados should be eaten as soon as they’re cut open because the air will start turning the flesh into a mushy brown-like a banana. But since most people eat just one half of an avocado at a time, Anhalt says to tightly wrap the remaining avocado half in plastic wrap, ensuring minimal air comes into contact with the exposed area. He also suggests that if you’re storing guacamole; make sure the plastic film sticks directly onto the guacamole itself.
Be warned that freezing avocados will negatively affect the taste and texture. Both Anhalt and Gonzalez don’t recommend freezing avocados, though Gonzalez says the only time he’ll freeze them is if he’s making ice cream or a mousse.
But if you must, mash the avocado into a pulp, mix in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and store in a freezer bag. Flatten the bag out to get rid of any excess air and keep in the freezer for up to three months.
The Bare-Minimum Guacamole Recipe
Every chef and home cook will swear that their guacamole recipe is the best. We’ll leave that argument to them. In the meantime, here’s a super bare-minimum recipe that will kick things off. Experiment by adding other ingredients like chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, chilies, hot sauce, and even pineapple chunks. I like a chunky guacamole, but if you want a smoother, mousse-like consistency, use a blender or food processor.
2 ripe avocados, roughly cubed
1 Tablespoon white onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime*
Salt, to taste
In a bowl, combine avocados, onion, garlic, and lime juice. Using a large serving spoon, mash everything together until you achieve a desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.
*Some would call this blasphemous but you can substitute in lemon juice if you don’t have a lime. Since lemons are more acidic, add a bit of the juice at a time and taste it so that your guacamole doesn’t turn to lemonade.
Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.