How many of us have left an avocado to ripen on the kitchen counter, only to find out that we’ve overdone it and it’s now a bitter mushy fruit? There is little doubt that avocado is a powerhouse of nutrients. But to get its delicious butteriness, you have to hit the right window of avocado ripeness. Too early and it won’t be palatable. Too late and it would be too mushy and mealy. So how do you ripen an avocado? Here’s a handy guide for you to follow.
How to Ripen an Avocado?
Avocados, like bananas, are ripened after they are harvested. Which means that most of us buy an avocado when it is bright green and unripe. Hence, we have the challenge of spotting our avocado when it is just the right stage of ripeness. To know when it is good to eat, here’s a step by step guide:
Step 1: Know how ripe it is
You have to first determine where your avocado falls on the ripeness scale. It would give you a good idea about how long it would take to reach its maturity. Keep in mind that this time table is just a guide. You need to keep checking the ripeness of your avocado at regular intervals. Press the avocado gently with your palm to check how soft and ripe it is. It will be roughly in any of these stages:
- Firm: Bright green in color, it will be firm and not yield to gentle pressure. It will take 4 to 5 days to ripen.
- Breaking: It will feel softer, but still won’t quite yield to pressure. This is an almost ripe stage which will take a day or two to ripen properly. It’s usually a dark green color, though it can vary. So, it’s better to not go by color alone.
- Ripe: Ready-to-eat ripe avocados are dark in color. Again, the color can vary. So, use the pressure test. The ripe avocado will yield to gentle pressure, but not feel mushy.
- Overripe: The overripe avocado will feel mushy in places. The inside will have patches of dark yellow or brownish flesh. It is quite unpalatable and unsafe to eat.
Step 2: The countertop rest
The easiest and most fuss-free way to ripen an avocado is to just leave it on the counter for 3-5 days, depending on its ripeness. Far too many people tend to rely on the fruit’s color to judge its ripeness. But as we’ve explained above, this is risky because colors can vary. A ripe avocado is not always a uniform dark color. You may just overshoot the ripeness window and end up with an unpalatable mushy fruit. Use the pressure test to keep checking your avocado twice a day, so that you know just when it ripens.
Step 3: Brown bag it
If you want to hurry up the ripening process, put the avocado in a brown bag, preferably with a banana or an apple. The ethene or ethylene gas from the ripe fruits (banana or apple) causes the breakdown of the avocado’s cell walls, causing it to ripen quickly. Avoid using a plastic bag for this process. 
How to Quickly Ripen an Avocado?
The brown bag is the quickest way to ripen an avocado. However, what if you want it ripened in a few minutes? Our recommendation would be to go out and buy a ripe avocado! If that’s not possible and you already have the fruit (albeit, unripe), there are a couple of hacks you can follow. First a disclaimer, none of these methods fully ripen the avocado. The flesh may soften, but the buttery creaminess that is an avocado’s USP is sorely lacking. Keep in mind that these methods would work on a ‘breaking’ avocado and not a very firm fruit.
Both of these methods use heat to trigger the ripening process. It uses avocado’s own ethylene gas to quicken its ripening.
In an oven: It’s a three-step process where you heat the avocado to help ripen it quickly.
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap the avocado in an aluminum foil and place in a shallow baking dish.
- ‘Bake’ the avocado for 10 minutes. Check if it has softened. If not, repeat the process until it softens.
In a microwave: We use the same heat method to hasten the ripening. Since the microwave heats faster, in theory, this is the quickest way to ripen an avocado. However, in reality, what you get is very far from the ripe green, creamy avocado we all love. So, use this method only if you absolutely have to.
- Prick the skin with a fork at a few places to vent the heat.
- Place it on a microwave-safe dish.
- On a low setting, microwave the fruit for 30 seconds.
- Check for ripeness. If it’s still firm, repeat the previous step till you get a softened fruit.
How to Store a Ripe Avocado?
Once your avocado has ripened, you must store it properly immediately. According to the California Avocado Commission, a marketing and trade association for avocado producers, ripe avocados must be stored in a refrigerator. Cut avocado will brown very quickly if kept outside. This is because of the enzymes in the fruit. The trick to keep it looking that lovely lime-green color is to sprinkle it with a little lime juice or lemon juice. If you don’t have either, a bit vinegar will do in a pinch. Wrap up the cut fruit tightly in a plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It will stay for a couple of days. 
Can You Eat an Unripe Avocado?
Absolutely, an unripe avocado is perfectly safe to eat. We wouldn’t recommend eating the rock hard ones though. It would be too firm and unpalatable. The fruit in its ‘breaking’ stage, when it is just a little short of ripening, can be eaten. Although, it won’t have the soft velvety texture of a ripe avocado.
What To Do With an Unripe Avocado?
Did you cut your avocado too soon? Fear not, there are many ways to enjoy the avocado, and remember, it’s still full of goodness. There are two ways to go if you’ve cut your avocado too soon. Option A involves letting it ripen, which will take a few days. Option B involves consuming the unripe fruit. If you are going for option A, then follow our instructions for storing the avocado and let it ripen in the fridge.
Option B means you get to eat it immediately. Unripe avocado flesh is quite firm. The trick is to cook it to soften the flesh. You can wrap it up in bacon and bake it in the oven or use it as a little bowl to bake an egg. We have a Stir Fry With Avocado & Egg Recipe for an easy and delicious weeknight supper.