For most shoppers, green-skinned avocados won’t be quite ready yet—though there are some smooth-skinned varieties that stay green even when ripe. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you spot a dark brown or black avocado that’s wrinked, or one that feels squishy, you can bet that it will be brown and oxidized when you slice it open—probably overripe. Avoid squishy avocados.

When picking out your perfect avocado, keep when and how you plan to use it in mind. If you’re going to slice the avocado—or won’t be using it for a few days—pick a firmer one (but stay away from the rock-hard avocados that can take up to a week to fully ripen). If you’re going to mash or purée the avocado, or plan to use it that night, pick a softer one.

What if my avocados aren’t ripe enough?

So what if you picked a fresh avocado that you thought was perfect, but it’s still not ripe by the time you want to use it? If it’s go-time and your avocado isn’t ready, we’re sorry. There’s nothing you can do (well, almost nothing—more on that in a minute). You’ll have to use an underripe avocado or no avocado at all.

If it’s 12 or more hours before you want to use the avocado, there’s hope.

Here’s how to ripen avocados quickly

You know that thing about putting underripe fruit in a brown paper bag to make it ripen faster? Well, it actually works: Throw an unripe avocado into a paper bag with a ripe banana, fold down the opening, and leave it at room temperature on your countertop for a day or two to accelerate the avocado ripening process. 

Here’s the science: When some fruits ripen, they give off ethylene gas, a plant hormone (which also gives a musty, sweet odor that smells like ripe fruit). This natural gas is a byproduct of ripening, but it also speeds up the ripening time for surrounding fruits. By increasing the confined avocado’s exposure to the gas, it will ripen more quickly. No bananas? An apple works, too. And if you don’t have a paper bag, you can invert a heavy bowl over the fruit. Just don’t wrap it up in a plastic bag, which could trap too much moisture and encourage mold.

Can I microwave my avocados?

Have you seen a video hack claiming that ripening avocados is as easy as microwaving them? We’ll admit it (sort of) works, but the method does have drawbacks. Microwaving doesn’t actually produce a ripe avocado, it produces a cooked one. The flesh will be softer, but not as creamy as it would be if left to ripen naturally (or by using the paper bag trick). The nutty flavor, too, won’t be as developed as it could be. We wouldn’t use this method for sliced avocado, but if your plan is to mash, it works in a pinch.

Here’s what to do if you need guacamole and you need it now: Cut your avocados in half (this is to prevent the possibility of an exploding avocado), carefully remove the pit. Wrap each avocado half in plastic wrap, and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, taking a peek at each interval to check on the texture. Chill the avocado halves until cool, and then mash and season heavily with lime, garlic, and salt.

Should avocados be refrigerated once they’re ripe?

Found a bunch of avos at optimal ripeness? Lucky you! If you don’t plan to use them within a day, store them in the fridge, whole, ideally in an airtight container or crisper drawer, which will prevent them from drying out. Need to store cut avocados? Rub the cut surface with a little lime or lemon juice to prevent browning, then stash them in an airtight container (or wrapped tightly in plastic) in the fridge. 

Either way, it’s a race against time: Cut avocados will only last a day or two in the fridge before turning mushy or developing unappealing brown spots; and whole ripe avocados won’t last much longer than that. Enjoy them ASAP!

What can I do with my ripe avocados?

There’s a whole world of avocado recipes out there. Slice and garnish a homey, comforting bowl of chili. Top a summery turkey burger. Add to sweet and savory salads with lots of citrus. Use as a secret, dairy-free binder in homemade vegan fudge. Get creative with your avocado toast toppings. Add to your family-style taco night spread. Make a huge batch of our best-ever guacamole. Just remember one thing: No, you definitely don’t need an avocado slicer.

Gorgeous gorgeous girls love guac

BA’s Best Guacamole

This easy guacamole recipe is best made in a Mexican mortar and pestle called a molcajete, but a bowl and a fork works fine. Just don’t rush to get it on the table. It takes a while for the avocado to absorb all the flavors you add to it. 

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