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There’s little more frustrating to me than discovering the avocados I’d been planning to use for a recipe are so hard they could break a chef’s knife. It’s always disappointing to paw through my fruit bowl for an avocado that isn’t too hard, only to find that not a single one is ready to be sliced up, diced or mashed, thwarting my plans.
In moments of irritation (or serious cravings for homemade guac), I’ve tried all kinds of avocado ripening hacks to take the fruit from hard and inedible to creamy and usable in a matter of minutes. But there’s always a problem with quick ripening tricks: More often than not, my avocados wind up with a gross mess and terrible taste.
So, how can you achieve the perfect bright green ripeness from your avocados without waiting a week? Can you really ripen avocados quickly? Here’s the tried-and-true method that’ll speed up the ripening process without totally messing up an avocado’s texture and taste – and a few methods you should absolutely avoid.
Put your avocados near gas-producing produce
If you let your avocados sit out in your fruit bowl or on your kitchen countertop, they’ll ripen on their own over time. And odds are, if you keep an eye on them, you’ll be able to use them right when they reach their prime. Avocados typically take 4 to 5 days to ripen.
But if you need to speed up this natural process, there are two easy ways to do so: The brown bag method or the sunlight method.
The brown bag method
The brown bag method is as simple as it sounds. You can help your avocados ripen faster by placing them inside a brown paper bag – along with one or two gas-producing other fruits.
Certain fruits naturally produce ethylene gas as they ripen. That gas can trigger the ripening process in other fruits and veggies, causing them to ripen faster than they would otherwise. If you’ve ever placed fruits and veggies around a bunch of bananas, you’ve probably noticed that all of your produce ripened pretty quickly. And that’s all thanks to the bananas’ natural gases.
So, if you place still-hard avocados around ethylene gas producers, you can take the ripening process from almost a week to a day or two.
Apples, kiwis and bananas are some of the best ethylene-producing fruits you can use. Apples, specifically the red or golden delicious varieties, are some of the most effective according to California Avocados. These particular apples tend to produce even more ethylene than other varieties.
And when you place unripe avocados into a brown paper bag along with kiwis, apples or bananas, you’ll speed up the process even more. The brown bag traps the ethylene that’s produced, locking it in so the avocados take full advantage of it.
In some instances, this trick works so well that your avocados can ripen overnight. If you’re working with particularly unripe avocados, however, you’ll likely achieve the right consistency in 1 to 2 days.
The sunlight method
Don’t have any extra-gaseous fruit on hand? Then you can try to ripen avocados via the same method they use when they’re growing on trees: sunlight.
According to the avocado experts at Avocados from Mexico, you can easily ripen avocados by doing nothing more than sitting them in some sunlight. The warmer temperature created by direct sunlight helps speed up the natural ripening process. All you have to do is move your avocados to a sunny windowsill, a well-lit area of your kitchen or anywhere else that gets a good amount of sunlight each day.
A bowl of rice can work too
There is one more quick-ripening method that avocado producers like Avocados from Mexico recommend, though it’s one I haven’t personally tried. Instead of putting your hard avocados into a paper bag, smother them in a bowl of uncooked rice.
Like the brown bag method, uncooked rice can trap ethylene gas and essentially fuel the avocados’ own ripening process with that gas. Like the other fruits mentioned above, avocados are pretty strong ethylene producers. So, if you bury your avocados so they’re fully submerged in a bowl of rice, the gas they emit will be used to fast track their ripening.
The rice method does take a few days to get your avocados to just the right ripeness, so it isn’t the fastest option. But it is one that’s handy if you’ve used up all of your other ethylene-producing produce.
Never, ever heat up your unripe avocados
If you’re totally impatient, it’s tempting to want to try avocado ripening tricks that promise to deliver a creamy, perfectly ripe piece of fruit in minutes rather than overnight. But don’t fall for these hacks – they get the job done, but they seriously suck.
There are two common tricks that promise to ripen avocados ASAP: Nuking them in the microwave and baking them in the oven. The microwave method has you cut your avocados in half, remove the pits, cover them in plastic wrap and heat them on high for 2 minutes. If you’re trying the oven method, you don’t need any prep; just wrap the avocados in foil and bake them at 200 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Technically, both the microwave and oven methods work. Heat can turn a hard avocado into a soft one. But neither method actually ripens avocados. These hacks just make the avocados soft, leaving you with the flavor profile of an unripe avocado despite their softer feel. And you’re going to sacrifice the buttery texture and nutty flavor that makes avocados so delicious if you use these approaches.
I’ve tried both the microwave trick and the oven-baked method, and I cannot fully describe just how gross they made my avocados. They don’t taste anything like a perfectly ripe one; instead, they’re bitter, mealy and slightly stringy.
Don’t put yourself through the experience of eating weirdly warm, awful-tasting avocados. Instead, try a paper bag, a bowl of ethylene-producing fruit or even a bowl of uncooked rice before you start putting unripe fruit in the microwave.
But what if I need to ripen an avocado ASAP?
I get it. Sometimes, you’re desperately in need of a ripe avocado that’s soft enough to work with, even if it isn’t ideal. But unless you want to throw flavor and texture out the window, it’s better to wait overnight – or even a day or two – until you’ve tried letting your avocados ripen naturally (or with a little ethylene assistance).
If you really, really need a ripe avocado, your best bet is to head to your local grocery store. There, you can pick out avocados that meet your needs. Or, if you don’t need fresh avocados for whatever you’re making, you can find frozen avocado chunks in the frozen foods section. Like other frozen fruits and veggies, a bag of frozen avocado works perfectly for smoothies, casseroles and other dishes.
Don’t have any ripe avocados ready to use? Try making “mockamole” instead with our three veggie dip recipes. You don’t need any avocados, but you’ll still get a totally delicious guac. Or, break out of an avocado rut and try a totally different dip. Our Muhammara Dip is made creamy and a little sweet with roasted red peppers, while our Harissa Tahini Dip is perfect for a spicier, bolder kick.