Like all other fruits, avocados do go bad. Unlike most other fruits, they are somewhat tricky to deal with. They have a short shelf life, and often it’s not super obvious if the avocado is ripe or not. Plus there are at least a few avocado cultivars available on the market, with slightly different characteristics when it comes to ripeness.
So it’s perfectly normal if you feel a bit confused about storage, shelf life, and going bad of avocados. I know I am, and I read quite a lot about this fruit already. In this article, I do my best to summarize my knowledge about avocados in the mentioned topics. If you could use some additional info too, that article is for you.
Image used under Creative Commons from slgckgc
Before we can talk about storage, I wanted to touch upon the topic of avocado cultivars. Generally, the Hass avocado is the most popular one in the world. So if you have a bunch of avocados at home, they’re likely Hass avocados. You can easily spot one as they rock that brown-ish or black-ish, pebbled skin. If your avocado is green and has a smooth skin, it’s one of the other cultivars.
Knowing the difference is important because a ripe Hass avocado looks different than a ripe “green” avocado. And waiting for a green avocado to look like a ripe Hass avocado pretty much means waiting until the avocado goes bad. While you might be well aware of the difference, I wanted to point it out anyway. That’s because at first, I wasn’t aware there are different “types” of avocado available. And just as you might imagine, I waited for a green avocado to start turning black as a sign of ripeness. Long story short, I had to discard that fruit. This guide is here so you don’t have to do the same to your avocados.
How to Store Avocados
Storing avocados is very similar to storing bananas. Before it’s ripe, you should store it in a dry place at room temperature or slightly below. The pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen will do the job. Storing unripe avocados in the fridge is not a good idea, as the fruit likely won’t be able to ripen, will stay super firm and the flavor won’t reach its peak flavor profile. Thus keeping it in at room temperature is actually kind of a big deal.
Once the avocado is ripe, the fridge is the place to store it. If you leave it at room temperature, it will start softening and the flesh browning within a day or two. So you should either eat it or refrigerate it once it’s ripe.
Now let’s talk about how to tell if an avocado is ripe or not. Truth be told, it’s somewhat tricky and I still sometimes get it wrong. The sign that’s common to all types of avocados is that it yields to gentle pressure of your palms. There should be some give, but it shouldn’t feel soft. For Hass avocados, the skin should be purple-brown, not green. Other varieties of avocados stay green, so the color isn’t that helpful.
If you’re shopping for avocados, choose the firm ones if you need the fruit in a few days, or ones that have some give if you need them right away. Avoid soft avocados as the flesh will likely have some brown spots. From my personal experience, I also avoid buying avocados that have their stem, or cap at the top, peeled back. Almost all, if not all of the avocados that lacked the stem turned out mostly brown inside. But that might be just my luck.
For cut, diced, sliced, and mashed avocados, place the fruits in an airtight container. Add a sprinkle of lime or lemon juice and toss the fruit bits well. The lemon juice will inhibit cellular breakdown that causes avocados to oxidize and turn brown.
Image used under Creative Commons from UnknownNet Photography
How Long Do Avocados Last
An unripe avocado lasts about 3 days to a week at room temperature until ripens. Once it has matured, it can last another 3 to 5 days at peak quality in the fridge. After that, the fruit will become overripe, and there will be brown spots that grow over time.
When it comes to cut avocados, they retain freshness for about 3 to 4 days. If you don’t add any acid to the flesh, it will turn brown quite fast. Please note that the brown flesh isn’t bad by any means, but it definitely doesn’t look good in a guacamole.
|Unripe avocado||2 – 7 days|
|Ripe avocado||3 – 5 days|
|Cut avocado||2 – 4 days|
Please note that the dates above are only rough estimates.
How to Tell If Avocados Have Gone Bad
Generally, fresh avocado flesh should be green-yellow in color. Brown flesh is damaged in some way, and it’s suggested not to eat it. Those brown spots might be caused by a variety of reasons including prolonged exposure to cold before the ripening process, bruising in transit, or oxidation if the stem was removed, and air got to the inside of the fruit. Brown spots aren’t harmful, and you can remove them by cutting them out. However, if most of the flesh is already brown, just throw the fruit out.
Sometimes the avocado has some strings or thick fibers inside. These are most often in fruit from younger trees or due to improper storage conditions. The fibers aren’t unsafe to eat by any means, but in my personal opinion, they ruin the whole experience of eating avocado. So if you find the fibers inside, I think it’s okay to discard the fruit for quality purposes.
Last but not least, if you find any typical signs of spoilage, like mold, bad smell, or anything else that seems suspicious, toss the fruit out.