We’ve all done it: cut into an avocado a little too soon to make guacamole or any of the other myriad preparations that showcase the lush, buttery fruit. I always kick myself when it happens, because I have to live with either the unripe fruit's overly dense texture and watery flesh or the aggravation of wasting food and money.
But it turns out there’s no need to gripe or waste. After speaking with avocado experts and running some in-house tests, we learned that avocados can continue to ripen after they’ve been cut. In fact, as long as you store the cut fruit properly and give it a few extra days, it will be just as creamy and rich as if you had opened it at peak ripeness.
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Yes, a Cut Avocado Can Continue to Ripen
According to Dr. David Obenbland, a plant physiologist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, avocados will ripen whether they are whole or cut.
“The metabolic process that makes an avocado ripe continues in both cases,” he said.
Much of that process is enzymatic activity that softens the avocado’s flesh. Paul Adams, our senior science research editor, explained that enzymes in the fruit, such as pectin methylesterase, modify the pectin in the cell walls, loosening up the cellular structure and making the avocado more tender.
How to Store a Cut Avocado
It’s imperative to wrap the individual halves in plastic wrap.
The tight seal prevents the flesh from drying out and developing oxidative browning, and we found it to be more effective than sandwiching the cut halves back together around the pit and wrapping them as one unit, which led to much more discoloration.
Lemon juice can often help stave off oxidative browning of produce, but in this case, the tight seal was enough. (If the cut surface does dry out at all or develop any browning, simply shave it away before using.)
We also prefer to store the cut avocados at room temperature, which significantly speeds ripening, versus storing them in the refrigerator. Note: Plant scientists, including those from the USDA and University of Florida Professor of Food Microbiology and Safety Dr. Michelle D. Danyluk, recommend refrigerating all fresh cut fruits and vegetables—including those wrapped with plastic wrap—within an hour or two of cutting them (depending on the ambient temperature) to prevent the potential growth of harmful bacteria.
How Long Does It Take for a Cut Avocado to Ripen?
The answer depends on how ripe the avocados are when you buy them and where you store them.
We halved several unripe (firm and bright green) avocados and tested storing the cut halves at room temperature and in the refrigerator. We also stored some whole unripe avocados at room temperature to see if they ripened at the same pace.
The room-temperature fruits, both whole and halved, ripened considerably faster than the refrigerated avocados.
- At room temperature: Up to 4 days
- In the refrigerator: A week or longer
Encouragingly, the quality of the cut avocados did not diminish as they ripened, and they were just as evenly creamy as the intact fruits by the end of testing.
How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe
Don’t judge avocado ripeness strictly by its color. While the popular Hass variety starts out green and gets progressively more purple-black as it ripens, color alone isn’t an accurate indicator of ripeness.
We use two tricks for determining avocado ripeness:
- The Squeeze Test: Place the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze. It should yield slightly to the pressure.
- 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.