By Kimberly Holland

You can indeed speed up the ripening of that avocado you just bought, but quality and results vary.

Most home cooks know the agony that is an unripe avocado. You can't use it for your tacos or tangy salad dressing. It isn't soft enough to smash on toast or slice for soup. You may not even be able to cut it into pieces for a smoothie or spread. Of course, you probably also know the heartbreak of mushy, mealy fruit that went from perfect to rotten in the blink of an eye. It's a wild ride, the avocado, but you can regain some control.

Left to their own devices, avocados typically ripen in four to five days. A true timeline often depends on how the fruit was handled and how long it's been sitting at your neighborhood store. From time to time, you might be lucky enough to score an avocado that's ready to use the next day, but more often than not, the fruit you pick up is entirely too firm.

The good news is you can take steps, albeit marginally helpful ones, to actually speed up how quickly your avocados go from rock-hard, unripe fruit to creamy, buttery ones. Here, we share avocado-ripening methods that work and a bit about the ones that don't.

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How to Ripen an Avocado Faster

Method #1: The Brown Paper Bag

When an avocado is plucked from the tree, it's wholly unripe. It needs to be hard, however, for the long transport to the grocery distributor, the store, and then eventually to your house. Once an avocado gets to the store, it's stored at room temperature, which begins the slow ripening process. (Cold air stalls this progression.)

A ripening avocado releases ethylene, a plant hormone that helps trigger the fruit's own maturation. If you place the fruit inside a brown paper bag while it ripens, the sack captures some of that gas and helps cycle it back into the avocado, which speeds up the ripening process. With this method, the avocado should be suitable in about two days.

Method #2: Brown Bag + Fruit

If a bit of trapped ethylene is good for hastening the avocado-ripening process, additional gas from other ripening fruits might be even more beneficial. Slip an apple, banana, or kiwifruit inside the brown paper bag with the avocado you're trying to speed ripen. The extra gas-producing food may shave some time off that maturation process.

Method #3: Bury an Avocado in Flour

A brown paper bag works to capture the avocado's ethylene and hold it to create a miniature oven of sorts. The avocado absorbs the gas, which speeds up the ripening process.

Burying the avocado in flour actually holds the gas even closer, which could make ripening occur even more quickly. It does work—the avocado will be ready in about two days—if you can spare the several cups of flour it'll take to fully submerge a medium to large avocado.

The Avocado-Ripening Methods That Are a Bust

Some avocado hack-tivists suggest you can microwave an avocado for 30 to 60 seconds and produce a perfectly ripe fruit. Others think the low and slow oven method—wrapped in foil and heated for 10 to 20 minutes at 200°F—is all you need for the perfect ‘cado.

But both the oven and microwave are not efficient ways to ripen the fruit. Period. Both sources blast, at one speed or another, the fruit with heat, and while that will certainly make the avocado feel more tender, it's not actually ripening it. The flavor and texture will remain decidedly unripe. You'll just have a slightly squishy avocado for a few minutes, or as long as it remains warm.

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