Unique among fruits, the fresh, creamy flavour of avocado makes it a popular addition to dips and salads, and the star ingredient of vegetarian brunch menus everywhere. Delicious and healthy, it is a good source of healthy fats, protein and fibre, as well as several important nutrients, including potassium and folic acid.
The only real problem with avocados is knowing when to eat them. We’ve all brought an over-firm avocado from the store and left it out on the counter to ripen, only to return a couple of days later and find it mushy and unappealing. Find out how to avoid this problem with proper storage, how to spot a bad avocado, and if there’s any way to rescue the mushy ones.
How to store avocado
The way to keep avocados at their best is to store them properly, and the best storage method depends on the type of avocado you have.
Whole, ripe avocados
If your avocado is uncut and ready to eat, place it in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process, and eat it within 2 to 3 days.
Whole, unripe avocados
If the avocado is not quite ripe, you can leave it out on the counter and it should ripen over the next 4 to 5 days, although this depends on how firm it was when you bought it. Check every day for ripeness, and when it feels ripe, either transfer it to the fridge or eat it. If you’re not planning on eating it in the next day or two, you may want to refrigerate it while it is still a little firm.
Cut, ripe avocados
Once you have cut into the avocado, the soft flesh is at risk of oxidation, which turns it an unpleasant brown colour. Protect the cut surface by rubbing with either olive oil or a cut lemon or lime, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Cut, unripe avocados
If you cut into your avocado and find that it’s still too firm to eat, protect the cut surfaces with lemon, lime or olive oil, as above, then fit the two halves back together and wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. Once cut, the avocado will ripen more quickly, so put it in the fridge rather than leaving out on the counter to ripen.
How to tell if an avocado has gone bad
Whether you want to check your own avocados at home, or to avoid buying bad avocados from the store, it’s always good to know how to spot a bad avocado. These are the top five signs that your avocado has gone from yum to yuck.
It feels soft and mushy
Giving an avocado a gentle squeeze is always a reliable test of ripeness. A perfectly ripe fruit should give very slightly but not leave a mark. If you can see a dent where you squeezed, this avocado is past its best. A slight indent may indicate that it is overripe but still edible, but big dents, or feeling the fruit crush inside the skin means it won’t be good to eat. Likewise, if the skin is dented or deflated-looking before you pick it up, it has most likely gone bad.
The skin has gone black
Hass avocados, the most popular variety worldwide, have skin that changes colour as they ripen, from an underripe green to a dark greenish-brown when ripe. A very dark, almost black skin may mean that the avocado has gone bad, so if you notice this, use the squeeze test to check.
The flesh is dark and stringy
Healthy avocado flesh should be pale green. As it begins to overripen, it may develop brown patches or streaks, black spots, or a stringy, fibrous texture. A few dark spots may be bruises and can be cut away if the rest looks fine, but dark, fibrous flesh, particularly if it feels soft and mushy, is likely past its best.
It smells or tastes odd
If your avocado smells or tastes wrong, don’t eat it. This may be a sign that harmful bacteria are present, or that the fruit has turned rancid, both of which can make you sick.
This one is a no-brainer. Mouldy avocados are well past their best, and should be discarded.
Is overripe avocado safe?
Despite all our best intentions, we don’t always remember to check our avocados for ripeness every day, and some will inevitably go past their best. While you should never eat a rotten avocado, there is a certain point where it becomes a little too mushy for slicing, but is still basically ok to eat. These avocados will dent a little when squeezed, and may have slightly darker flesh with a few brown spots that can be cut away. Avoid anything with very streaky, fibrous flesh, a bad smell or taste, or mould growing on it.
While overripe avocados are not great for slicing, they’re actually easier to mash or purée than ripe avocados, which comes in handy if you’re trying to make dips and spreads. If you have a few avocados that are just a little past their best, try making them into one of these delicious recipes.
A creamy avocado spread on sourdough toast is the ultimate healthy and delicious brunch. Slightly overripe avocados are perfect for making spreads, as their slightly mushy texture makes them easy to mix with the other ingredients. Our avocado spread recipe mixes avocado with boiled egg and cream cheese for a satisfying brunch that’s ready in minutes.
This classic avocado dip is a must for Super Bowl and Cinquo de Mayo parties. It's the perfect topping for tortilla chips and tacos, and adds a welcome zing to everything from burritos to jacket potatoes and fish dishes. If you like your guac chunky, you’ll love our chunky guacamole recipe, and for a smoother, silkier dip, try our smooth guacamole recipe.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
It may seem like an odd dessert ingredient, but creamy avocado is the perfect way to replace dairy with healthy plant fats. Its mild flavour will be hidden by the chocolate, and it’s also a great way to use up your overripe avocados. In fact, overripe avocados are easier to blend, and if they’ve discoloured slightly you won’t be able to see it.
We love this silky smooth chocolate avocado pudding from All Recipes. It takes just 10 minutes to make (plus 30 minutes to chill in the fridge) and is suitable for vegans, too.
Chocolate Caramel Avocado Brownies
You can even use avocado as a replacement for dairy in your baking, and here again the softer texture of overripe avocados can come in handy, while the other ingredients will hide any discolouration. These chocolate caramel avocado brownies from The Iron You use the creaminess of avocado to create the softest, squishiest brownies we’ve ever seen.
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