How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe

Never buy a disappointing avocado again. Here's how to tell if the avocado you're looking to buy is too hard, too soft, or just right for slicing, dicing, or mashing.

Ripe Avocado
Ripe Avocado | Photo by Meredith.

How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe

It can be tricky to tell at a glance what's going on underneath the thick, nubby skin of an avocado. Outer color isn't always a clue: Some avocado varieties get darker as they ripen and some don't. Here's how to be a smart avocado shopper so you get the creamy ripe avocado of your dreams.

1. Hold It

Cradle the avocado in the palm of your hand and squeeze it very gently. If it yields to light pressure, it's ripe. Not surprisingly, this is also how to tell if an avocado is too ripe. If it feels squishy, it's getting overripe but it might be just right for mashing into guacamole. If there are uneven squishy spots or obvious damage to the skin, it's probably bruised and brown inside. That is not the avocado you're looking for.

2. Check the Nub

Avocado with and without the Stem Nub
Avocado with and without the Stem Nub | Photo by Vanessa Greaves.

When an avocado is picked, the stem is trimmed down, leaving a small nub that looks like a tiny brown button. If the nub won't come off, the avocado needs a few more days to ripen. But if you can easily remove the nub with your fingernail, you'll see a small indentation underneath that gives you a view into the inside of the avocado. Here's how to "read" what's under the nub:

  • If the color you're seeing is very pale, the avocado isn't quite ripe enough to use right away.
  • If it's light to medium green, the avocado is ripe. You should still use the gentle squeeze test and look for soft spots and bruising just to make sure.
  • If it's brown under the nub, the avocado is most likely past its prime.
  • If the nub is missing, the top bit of the avocado has been exposed to air and it's going to ripen much faster than the rest of the avocado. In fact, by the time the rest of the avocado is ripe, chances are the top part that's been exposed to air will be brown and rotten.

Having said that, removing the nubs on a pile of avocados just because you heard about this neat trick can actually ruin a batch of avocados because you've effectively broken the seal and let in the air. You don't want that on your karma scorecard, do you? It's much better to back to tip #1 and do the squeeze test instead.

3. Read the Label

Some avocados on the market today come with a handy label that says "Fresh Now." Unfortunately, that only applies for a day or two, since avocados continue to ripen after they're picked. I recommend you go back to tip #1 and do the gentle squeeze test and look for soft spots and blemishes.

Note: If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you might find avocados that come with a label that shows the color difference between an unripe, almost ripe, and fully ripe Haas avocado. When the skin color of the avocado matches the ripe color on the label, it's ready for you. But until that magic label hits the U.S., we'll still have to rely on the squeeze test.

Check out our collection of Avocado Recipes.

More Avocado Advice

  • * Get tips for the right way toslice, dice, ripen, or store avocados.
  • * Go beyond theguacamoleand findsurprising ways to eat avocados.
  • * Did you know you canfreeze avocado? Find out how.
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