Real talk: Guacamole is only as good as the avocados you start with, so you want to make sure you pick good ones. Ripe, but not too ripe. (Unless you intentionally choose ones that aren’t ripe yet, but more on that in a second). Guac is ALL ABOUT the avocados—that’s why it’s so good!—but those mysterious alligator pears aren’t always easy to judge by their green, bumpy covers. Here’s how to tell if you’re buying one that’s ripe for using right away, or one that will be at its peak in a day or two.
How do you know if an avocado is ripe? You can identify ripe avocados by looking at two things: their texture, and their color.
- How does the avocado feel? Ripe avocados have just a little give when you squeeze them in your hand (gently; you don’t want to bruise them). There should be some resistance to the pressure you apply. Unripe avocados are hard and very difficult to squeeze, while overripe ones will have a lot of “give” to them, and or no resistance to any pressure, as avocados continue softening as they ripen.
- How does it look under the hood? Another way to tell if one is ripe is to peel back the small stem, or “steam button,” at one end of the fruit (and yes, it’s a fruit). If the flesh you see underneath is a true avocado green (but in a good way, not in an outdated-fridge way), you’re good to go! But if it’s a paler green with a white-ish hue, it’s not ripe yet. And if the flesh is mushy or soft and getting a bit brown, you’ve missed the window on that one.
What does a ripe avocado look like on the outside? Hard to say. Different types of avocados will have different appearances at various stages of ripeness, so judging an avocado by its color isn’t the most reliable method. Judging by feel and interior color is the best. Take a look:
The avocado on the left is just turning ripe. The avocado on the right is overripe and even has some dark spots in the fruit on the inside.
How far in advance can you buy them? If you want to make guacamole tonight, buy avocados that are already ripe. Ripe avocados can turn overripe quickly, so make sure you consume them within 1-2 days. But if you’re shopping in advance and want to make guacamole a few days from now, choose ones that aren’t ripe yet. This buys you some time, but you’ll still want to keep an eye on them once you’re home; generally unripe avocados won’t be good to eat beyond 4-5 days.
How can you make an avocado ripen faster? A tried-and-true trick is to put your unripe avocados in a brown paper bag for a few days (along with a banana or apple, if you have one). The bag helps trap natural gasses that fruits give off, and they’ll ripen faster when kept together without too much ventilation.
How should you store avocados? Uncut, unripe avocados can be stored a few ways. If you want to let them ripen at their natural pace, just leave them out at room temperature until you’re ready to use them. If you’d like to prolong the life of an uncut, unripe avocado a little bit, you can slow down the ripening process by storing them in the refrigerator. However, like other fruits, time in the fridge can negatively affect the texture of an avocado. So you can do it, but I can’t promise that you’ll like it.
How do you keep cut avocados from turning brown? When cut avocados turn brown, it’s because the exposed fruit is oxidizing. This can happen in as little as a few minutes. To prevent browning, squeeze fresh lemon or lime slices onto the exposed surface of a cut avocado right away, and store them cut-side-down in a sealed container in the refrigerator. The acid in the juice will help keep the flesh from browning. Or use our other strategy—always eat the whole avocado.
Should you always buy an extra avocado? Our guacamole recipes call for three avocados each; this will give you about 1.5 cups of mashed avocado depending on the size of the fruit you get. Some people swear by always buying one extra avocado; this way, if one isn’t as ripe as you want or gets bruised, you have one to spare.
What nutrients are in avocados? According to the USDA, one avocado offers 13 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, no cholesterol and 1/3 your daily value of vitamin C. They also contain over 20 grams of unsaturated fat, those good fats that can help you feel full longer, and contribute to healthy skin and nails.