How Long Do Avocados Last and How to Tell if One Is Bad?

Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of avocado. Learn how long avocados last, how to store them, and how to tell if one is spoiled.

Bought a bunch of avocados and wondering how long avocados are good for?

Or maybe yours don’t look particularly healthy, and you want to know what spoilage signs you should look out for.

Avocados are tricky to deal with. They have a short shelf life, and it’s often not apparent if an avocado is ripe or not. Plus, there are at least a few avocado cultivars available on the market, with slightly different characteristics.

So if you need a primer on avocados, you’re in the right place. What you’ll find below is a summary of what I know about avocados that I hope you find useful.

For starters, let’s talk about cultivars.

Ripe Hass Avocados
Image used under Creative Commons from slgckgc

Table of Contents

Differences Between Avocado Cultivars

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 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 specimen. This guide is here so that you don’t have to do the same to your avocados.

Halved avocado
(credit: Glen Carrie)

How To Tell If Avocado Is Ripe?

The sign that’s common to all types of avocados is that it yields under 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.

When 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 (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.

Hass avocado halved
Image used under Creative Commons from UnknownNet Photography

How to Store Avocados

Storing avocados is very similar to storing bananas or plums (here’s how long plums last).

As long as your avocado is unripe, 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 specimen won’t reach its peak flavor profile. Keeping it in at room temperature is actually kind of a big deal.

If you want to ripen the avocado faster, put it in a paper brown bag and close it. To speed things up, add a kiwi or an apple to that bag too.

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.

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.

Note

Avocado oil has been getting more and more popular lately. If you’ve bought a bottle and are wondering “does avocado oil go bad?”, the linked article is what you’re looking for.

Do Avocados Need to Be Refrigerated?

Unless the avocado you buy in the grocery store is already ripe, meaning it yields under gentle pressure, you shouldn’t refrigerate it. That’s because if you refrigerate an underripe avocado, the fruit won’t ripen properly, and its flavor won’t fully develop.

For ripe avocados, refrigeration is optional, but if you don’t refrigerate them, they will become overripe within 1 to 2 days of ripening. On the other hand, if you place your ripe avocados in the fridge, they’ll retain quality for 3 to 5 days, which is more than two times longer.

How Long Do Avocados Last?

 PantryFridge
Unripe avocado2 – 7 days 
Ripe avocado 1 – 2 days3 – 5 days
Cut or mashed avocado 3 – 4 days

An unripe avocado needs about 2 to 5 days to be ready to eat. 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.

Cut or mashed avocado retains freshness for up to 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

If you don’t spray the flesh with something acidic like lemon juice, it will turn brown quite fast. That browned flesh isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t look appealing in avocado toast or guacamole.

Related: How long does guacamole last?

Green avocados
(credit: Nur Afni Setiyaningrum)

How to Tell if Avocado Is Bad?

Discard an avocado if:

  • It’s super soft to the touch or feels mushy. The fruit is overripe if a gentle squeeze leaves an indentation on the skin. The same is true if you find it soft in a gross kind of way.
  • It has 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, but I think they ruin the whole experience of eating an avocado. If you find those inside, it’s okay to discard the fruit for quality purposes.
  • Most of the flesh is brown or black. Brown or black flesh is damaged, and it’s best not to eat it, but unless it’s the majority of the fruit, you can cut it out. There’s one exception here: avocado flesh browns quickly after exposure to air, so if your avocado half were in the fridge for a day or so, it would be brown, and that’s okay.
  • It’s moldy. If you notice any white or gray fuzz on the exterior or, what’s more probable, on the flesh after storing the fruit for a couple of days in the fridge, it’s time for it to go.
  • It smells rancid or sour. Either likely means rancidity, and eating such an avocado isn’t a good idea.
  • The flavor is off. If the taste reminds you of some chemicals, or the fruit simply tastes terrible, it has to go.

If anything else that doesn’t seem quite right pops up on your radar, err on the side of caution and toss the avocado. Better safe than sorry.

Brown Flesh

Fresh avocado flesh should be green-yellow.

Brown spots might be caused by various 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.

They aren’t harmful, and you can remove them by cutting them out. But if most of the flesh is already brown, throw the fruit out.

The only exception here is cut avocado. Avocado flesh turns brown quite quickly after being exposed to air, and that’s normal. You can prevent that by spraying the exposed area with lime juice or lemon juice.

Avocado Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this short guide on avocados. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:

  • When is an avocado ripe? To check an avocado for ripeness, squeeze it gently with your palms. If that yields slightly under gentle pressure, it should be ready to eat. If it’s still firm and has no give, it needs more time at room temperature to ripen properly.
  • How long do avocados last? Avocados need 2 to 5 days on the counter to ripen. Once ripe, they last for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge. For cut and mashed avocados, these keep for up to 3 to 4 days if sealed tight and refrigerated.
  • How to tell if an avocado is bad? Most common spoilage signs for avocados include the fruit being super soft or mushy, the flesh being stringy or mostly brown or black, and any signs of mold. You should also toss the fruit if it smells rancid or sour, or if the flavor is off.