Who can resist the creamy, buttery texture and delicate flavor of a ripe avocado? We're big fans of this popular ingredient, whether it's smashed in classic guacamole, dressed in a bright salad, or added as a crucial garnish to favorites such as tortilla soup or fish tacos. Knowing exactly how to identify a ripe avocado and how to safely prepare it is essential for every cook. Read on for our expert tips on how to buy, ripen, store, and cut avocados.

What You'll Learn

shopping

Buy Hass for most recipes

Small, rough-skinned Hass avocados account for 95 percent of the American market. Their rich flavor and buttery texture are essential for guacamole.

“Skinny” avocados are fine for salads

Large, bright green Florida avocados are sometimes referred to as “skinny” avocados because their fat by weight can be half that of Hass. Their milder, sweeter flavor is fine in salads, but they’re too watery for dips and sauces.

Don’t judge a Hass (only) by its color

While Hass avocados start out green and get progressively more purple-black as they ripen, color alone isn’t an accurate indicator of ripeness.

Use the squeeze test

The most accurate test for ripeness is to place the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze: It should yield slightly to the pressure.

Double-check with the stem test

Flick off the small stem at the narrow end of the fruit. An easy-to-remove stem with green underneath indicates ripe fruit; if the stem is hard to flick off, the avocado needs to ripen further.

When the fruit is past its prime

Avocados that feel soft like a tomato when gently squeezed and/or don’t fill out their skin are overripe; these specimens will also show brown underneath the stem when you flick it off. Another sign: skin with dents or mold.

Ripening and Storage

Faster (but less even) ripening

Storing avocados in a paper bag at room temperature will speed up ripening by trapping ethylene, the gas that triggers ripening in many fruits and vegetables. But it may also result in uneven ripening, as the ethylene produced by the avocado won’t distribute uniformly throughout the flesh. We didn’t find that placing avocados in a paper bag with other fruits (we tried Golden Delicious apples, which produce a large amount of ethylene) made much difference: These avocados didn’t ripen noticeably faster than those enclosed in a bag on their own. (And if you're curious if you can ripen avocados in a low oven, don't bother.)

Slower (but more even) ripening

If you have time, allow your avocados to ripen in the refrigerator. Though it will take longer, the chilling slows down the production of ethylene gas and, therefore, the ripening process, giving the gas time to distribute evenly throughout the fruit. Store avocados near the front of the refrigerator, on the middle to bottom shelves, where the temperature is more moderate.

Always refrigerate ripe avocados

Unless you plan to eat them immediately, keep ripe avocados refrigerated, which can extend their shelf life by days. In most cases, we do not recommend freezing avocados.

Preventing browning in cut avocados

Avocado flesh turns brown when cut. Oiling the flesh and placing the avocado cut side down on a plate or wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap (refrigerated in either case) can lessen browning. But these two methods work best.

Store in lemon water

We found that storing the avocado cut side down in water that had been acidified with a few squeezes of lemon juice kept it green for two days (although it also turned the flesh a little tart and soft).

Vacuum-seal

Vacuum sealing preserved the color for a week (it works for guacamole, too).

How to Prep an Avocado in 3 Steps: Pit, Crosshatch, Scoop

Because the buttery flesh of ripe avocados bruises easily, cutting neat, even pieces requires delicate handling.

1. Strike pit with chef’s knife. Twist blade to remove pit. Use wooden spoon to knock pit off blade.

2. Secure avocado half with dish towel and use paring knife to make ½-inch crosshatch slices into flesh without cutting into skin.

3. Insert spoon between skin and flesh to separate them. Gently scoop out avocado cubes.