Why Do Avocados Ripen So Fast? How To Slow It Down


The notoriously temperamental avocado certainly keeps us on our toes – blink and you will miss the window to perfectly ripe and creamy deliciousness. Not ready. Not ready. Still not ready. Getting there. Eat me now! Too late. I did some research to find out what’s going on.

So why do avocados ripen so fast?

Avocados only begin to ripen once picked and have a short window before over-ripening. Warmth, the presence of other ripe fruit, and bruising which triggers enzymes beneath the avocado’s skin will accelerate the ripening. Better storage and handling will extend its shelf life.

The pain and disappointment of slicing into an avocado, only to discover it’s brown and mushy is real. What will slow down the ripening process? What is the best way to store my avocados?

If you need to use them up quickly then check out my post 17 ways to use up ripe avocados.

If you are an avocado fanatic like me, then keep reading to discover why this unique fruit ripens so quickly, and 8 ways to slow it down.

Why Do Avocados Ripen So Fast?

1. Duration Of The Farm-To-Table Process

Avocados ripen rapidly, generally within a week or two of being picked. It will take a considerable amount of time until the avocados reach your home, leaving you with only a matter of days until they reach peak ripeness.

2. Ethylene Gas From Other Ripe Fruit

Avocados produce a plant hormone known as ethylene gas, which triggers the ripening process. If the avocados are stored close to other ethylene-emitting fruit (e.g. apples, bananas, and tomatoes) the build-up of the gas will accelerate ripening.

3. Avocados Are Temperature Sensitive

Unripe avocados should not be stored in the refrigerator, as very low temperatures will cause the flesh to ripen quickly and unevenly. Higher temperatures will also speed up softening and browning. Room temperature is the best environment for avocados to ripen. Sometimes they can go rotten before they even ripen if they aren’t stored well.

4. Bruising Accelerates Ripening

As the avocados begin to soften, they become more susceptible to bruising, which will accelerate ripening. Bruising damages the cell wall, allowing oxygen to enter. This causes polyphenol oxidase (an enzyme underneath the avocado’s skin) to trigger browning.

Bruising can result from mechanical injury during harvest and transportation, impact from dropping the avocado, or when consumers in the store press on the avocado with their fingers.

8 Ways To Slow Down The Ripening Of Avocados

Any serious avocado lover would agree that eating this creamy superfood regularly is an expensive habit – not to mention missing that peak ripe window!

To ensure your precious avocado ends up on your toast and not the trash, here are a few simple tricks:

1. Pick Only The Avocados You Need

From the tree

If you are fortunate enough to have a mature avocado tree, the best place to store the fruit is on the tree! Avocados only begin to ripen once picked, so remove a few at a time rather than all at once. 

From the store

The same goes with purchasing avocados from the store or market. Planning ahead is key. Purchase only what’s necessary, so you don’t end up with a bunch of disappointing overripe avocados.

2. Inspect The Avocados Before Purchasing

Always examine the avocado so that you can determine the best level of ripeness for your needs. Hold the avocado in your palm and squeeze very gently:

Overripe – Avoid These

  • Loose skin, bruises or indentations
  • Very soft or mushy to the touch
  • Signs of decay or discoloration

Ripe And Ready – Eat Within A Day Or 2

  • Darker in color compared to the rest
  • Yields to firm gentle pressure
  • Soft but not mushy to the touch
  • Bumpy texture

Firm Not Ripe – Ready In 4-5 Days

  • Bright green in color
  • Firm to the touch

3. Store In The Refrigerator

Ripe, uncut avocados can be stored and preserved in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. While they will continue to ripen, they will do so at a slower rate than if they were left at room temperature. The cooler climate and airflow will prevent the build-up of ethylene gas.

Everyone’s had an avocado that just doesn’t ripen. It might be because you refrigerated it too early before it was ripe – check my article on why some avocados never ripen.

4. Add Lemon Or Lime Juice And Seal In Clingwrap

When you cut an avocado, the cell walls are damaged and oxidation (browning) will occur. The flesh is exposed to oxygen, which will speed up the browning process. This can be prevented by adding an acidic agent such as lemon or lime juice before sealing the avocado in clingwrap.

  1. Rub or squeeze lemon/lime juice on the exposed flesh of the avocado. Citric acid will slow down ripening because it inhibits the enzymes that cause browning.
  2. Prevent oxidation (exposure to oxygen) by tightly covering the exposed surface area with clear plastic wrap.
  3. Store in the refrigerator and use within 1-2 days.

5. Brush Sliced Avocado With Oil

Brush a thin layer of olive or vegetable oil over the surface of a cut avocado. This will create a barrier that will protect the flesh from oxygen exposure. Cover the avocado tightly in cling wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

6. Store The Avocado With Red Onion

Place a few wedges of red onion in the bottom of a storage container and place the cut avocado flesh-side up on the onion. The gases released from the onion will prevent the avocado from browning.

7. Immerse The Avocado In Water

Place half an avocado (with the pit intact) face-down in a bowl and cover with water. Store in the refrigerator for 2 days. Since water protects the flesh from air exposure, it prevents the avocado from turning brown.

8. Freeze The Avocado 

Yes, you can freeze avocados! Frozen avocado has a shelf-life of 4 to 6 months.

Pros

  • Have avocados on hand for various recipes, such as guacamole, smoothies and salad dressing.
  • Purchase in bulk when you catch a good deal.
  • Enjoy avocado throughout the year
  • Save money and reduce food wastage

Cons

  • Freezing changes the texture of the flesh, from firm to mushy.
  • The avocado may brown during thawing.
  • Frozen avocado may not be as tasty served on its own. It is best enjoyed when mixed into dishes such as guacamole, smoothies and burritos.

How To Freeze Avocados:

Whole Avocado 

Wrap the avocado (with the skin on) tightly in plastic wrap. Place in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and freeze.

Avocado Halves 

Brush freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice over the flesh. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a resealable bag or airtight container before freezing.

Avocado Chunks Or Slices

Sprinkle each piece with lemon or lime juice. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and quick-freeze for 1-2 hours. Transfer the slices to an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing tight and freezing.

Avocado Mash Or Puree

Add a few sprinkles of lemon juice to the mash or puree. Mix well and freeze individual portions in an airtight container, freezer bag, or ice cube tray.

What Can I Do With Overripe Avocado?

Too little too late? There is still hope for your avocado! 

While an overripe avocado doesn’t make for an Instagram-worthy plate of food, it is still edible. If the avocado is free of mold and funky odors, consider the following ideas to get the most out of it:

Chocolate Mousse Or Ice Cream

Blend avocado, banana, cacao powder, vanilla, and cinnamon with a little milk until thick and creamy. Enjoy chilled as mousse or freeze to make guilt-free ice cream.

Salad Dressing Or Sauce

Add avocado, lemon juice, tahini, yogurt, and garlic to a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with your favorite herbs and spices. Enjoy over salads, vegetables, or as a dip.

Baked Goodies

Avocados add a rich, moist, and creamy texture to baked treats such as brownies and cupcakes. Replace up to half the oil or butter in the recipe with mashed avocado – healthy and satisfying!

Why do avocados ripen faster next to bananas?

Bananas, avocados, and other fruits produce a plant hormone known as ethylene gas. This triggers the ripening process naturally, so the avocado is receiving more of this hormone than normal in this environment.

A hard avocado can be ripened faster when placed in a brown bag with a banana or apple.

How to stop avocados from ripening anymore?

While you can’t stop the ripening process completely, cold temperatures will slow down the ripening process of avocados considerably. Ripe avocados can be placed in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life window for several days or up to a week.

Avoid placing unripe avocados in the fridge as they will likely stay hard.

Final Thoughts

It’s been interesting learning the science behind why avocados ripen so fast. It’s all down to the short window since it was picked and transported, alongside other biological reactions in the fruit and vegetable ripening process. Hopefully after this article and with careful planning, preparation, and storage, you will be able to enjoy each and every avocado in all its glory.

Tom

Hey, I'm Tom. I set up Boss The Kitchen to start answering the thousands of questions people have while cooking. For me, the kitchen is my happy place and I hope to help other people with the knowledge I've gained along the way.

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