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How to Pick a Good Avocado + 3 Myths Dispelled

Discover how to pick a good avocado, how to recognize when it is ripe and how to store it to preserve the rich, creamy taste. 

how to pick a good avocado title with cut avocado pictured

At their peak ripeness, flavorful avocados taste rich, creamy and slightly nutty.

I used to be intimidated by avocados in the store.  Like really intimidated.  I love avocados, especially in guacamole, but I didn’t know how to pick a good avocado.

When I picked up a hard avocado, I didn’t know it wasn’t ripe.  I just thought certain varieties were hard.  Hey, no one ever told me.

If I bought a hard avocado, I immediately stored it in the refrigerator when I got home.  It never got any softer. My misconception that some avocados were just hard was re-enforced.

Sometimes I really wanted guacamole.  So I peeled that rock hard avocado.  I cut it into pieces (because it wouldn’t mash) and microwaved it.  Sometimes I tried to blend it in a blender.  It was always a disaster, based on both taste and texture.

On my culinary journey I researched avocados and I learned things I wish I had known years ago.

I discovered some common myths about avocados and ripeness.  As soon as I figured out what I had been doing wrong, I’ve been able to choose and eat the best avocados of my life.

 How to Pick a Good Avocado Variety

avocado cut in half

Avocados are always available in grocery stores.  They are harvested year-round in tropical and Mediterranean climates.

California avocados produce about 90% of avocados in the United States and they are the best ones in your supermarket.  They grow year round, but are harvested from spring to fall.¹

The Hass avocado is the most popular avocado and is known for its creamy texture and buttery flavor.

Hass avocados have a thick bumpy skin.  This thick skin helps protect the avocado during the harvesting and shipping process.  The skin changes from green to a dark purplish black as the avocado ripens.

Hass avocados are pear shaped and have a large round seed inside.  After cutting open the avocado, remove the seed.   Use Hass avocados for any recipe that calls for mashed avocado, such as guacamole.

Fuerte avocados have a similar flavor to Hass and are good to use in recipes that call for mashed avocados.  However, Fuete avocados have a thinner skin which makes it easier for the fruit to be damaged or bruised before it reaches you.

3 avocados in different ripeness stages

How to Pick a Good Avocado to Buy

Avocados are a fruit, in the berry category.  They mature as they grow on the tree, but they never soften on the tree.  They begin to ripen and soften after they are picked.

Buy large, heavy avocados so you get a better flesh to pit ratio.  The best way to pick a good avocado is to buy it when it is green and unripe.   Then when it ripens, you can enjoy it at its peak freshness.

But if you plan to eat an avocado the same day you buy it, make sure it is ripe, based on your squeeze test, illustrated below.

Avoid purchasing avocados that have dark spots, blemishes, loose skin or appear moldy or decayed at the stem.  Do not choose avocados that feel soft and mushy.  They are past their prime and are ready for the compost bin.

How to Tell if an Avocado is Ripe

Hass avocado

To tell if an avocado is ripe and ready to eat, hold it in the palm of your hand.  Gently squeeze the center of the avocado with your palm, not your fingers.  If it is ripe, it will give under the gentle pressure of your hand, but will still feel firm.

avocado stem

DO NOT remove the stem cap where the stem used to be in order to check ripeness.   This bad advice is all over the Internet.  The stem cap and skin protect the fruit from the oxygen in the air.  The avocado oxidizes (turns brown) when the stem cap is removed and oxygen in the air touches the flesh.

In addition, you cannot tell if an avocado is ripe based on the color under the stem cap.  You can find green flesh under the stem cap of an unripe avocado.  And a ripe avocado that has had the stem cap removed previously may have brown flesh due to the oxidation.  This browning has nothing to do with the ripeness of the avocado.

How to Ripen an Avocado

avocado in bowl in microwave

Never eat an unripe avocado.  It will taste unripe.  There is no way to instantly ripen it.  Microwaving, baking or putting the avocado in the sun WILL NOT ripen it, (contrary to false myths you may have read).

These methods may soften the avocado, but it will still be unripe.  It will taste unripe and you won’t be happy with the results.

You can speed up the ripening process by placing the avocado in a brown paper bag.  Add a banana, apple or kiwi fruit to the bag with the avocado.  The ethylene gas from the fruits cuts the avocado ripening time down by a day.

How to Store an Avocado

3 avocados stored on the counter

Store unripe avocados on the counter top to ripen.  When they are ripe, use within one to two days.

avocados in bowl in refrigerator

For best results, never store avocados in the refrigerator.  They will not ripen in the refrigerator.  Storing uncut avocados in the refrigerator diminishes the rich flavor of the fruit.

Only refrigerate an avocado:  1) if it completely ripe and you are not ready to use it yet or 2) after it has been cut.  In these cases, refrigeration will extend the avocado life for 1 to 2 days.

How to Pick a Good Avocado Recap

How to Choose an Avocado:

  • Choose an avocado that is free from bumps, bruises, soft/mushy flesh, decay at stem.
  • Choose a large, heavy avocado for a better flesh to pit ratio.
  • Store avocados on the counter top to ripen.
  • Only eat ripe avocados.  A ripe avocado will have a slight give when you squeeze it in the palm of your hand, but will still hold its shape.

What to Avoid:

  • Avoid removing the stem cap to check for ripeness.  Use the squeeze test instead.
  • Avoid storing avocado in the refrigerator to ripen.
  • Avoid microwaving or baking unripe avocados.

And there you have it — The Tasty Tip of the day!  Enjoy your avocados.

How do you eat your avocados? Comment below and let me know.