Avocado

The Best Way to Stop Your Avocado from Browning: Do Nothing

December 15, 2015

Last week, we suggested a smarter way to cut an avocado to reduce the surface area exposed to air and thereby susceptible to browning.

Some of you cried blasphemy!...

...while others commented with advice for other ways to stymie the browning. Always on the search for new tips, we cut some avocados down the center the traditional way, took out the pits, then put these 6 techniques to the test:

  • Red onion: line the bottom of a container with chopped red onion
  • Lemon juice: brush the surface with lemon juice
  • Olive oil: brush the surface with extra-virgin olive oil
  • Boiling and shocking: boil the cut half for 1 minute, then shock in an ice bath
  • Coconut oil: brush the surface with melted coconut oil
  • Cold water: peel avocado, run under cold water, and set on a paper towel for up to 4 hours

We also set one avocado aside as a control, leaving the pit in one half (which we hypothesized would curb browning).

Hour 0 versus hour 24.

So what did we find?

  • Most of the methods did more harm than good.
  • For the techniques that did work (the red onion and the lemon juice), it's not clear whether they were more effective than doing nothing at all. So if it makes you rest easy knowing you've taken preventative measures against a brown avocado, go ahead and use one of the methods that actually worked.
  • But this is also your permission to be lazy: to slice your avocado, take no action, and store it in a sealed container. We think it will fare just as well as the lemon-juice coated one.

Read on for the full report...

But does this *really* work? Photo by James Ransom

Hour 0: The Lineup

Top row, from left to right: red onion, olive oil, control (pit), control (no pit)
Bottom row, from left to right: lemon juice, boil & shock, coconut oil, cold water

Our avocados, ready to brown (or not).

Once we had prepared all the avocados, we put sealed them all in individual quart containers (with the exception of the cold water test, as that method purported to keep the avocado green whilst exposed to air at room temperature) and tucked them into the refrigerator.

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We returned 1 hour later.

Hour 1: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Significant changes had taken place on our avocado halves after just one hour in airtight containers in the refrigerator! (Magic!/Tragedy!)

There's oxidation afoot!

The red onion and lemon juice avocado both showed small signs of browning, but remained nearly pristine.

Red onion (left) and lemon juice (right).

The olive oil-brushed and the boiled and shocked avocado, however, already looked unappetizing.

Olive oil (left) and boil & shock (right).

The coconut oil congealed on the coconut oil-brushed avocado, leaving a white film. The avocado that had been peeled and showered under cold water was already showing signs of browning all over, but was not entirely hopeless.

Coconut oil (left) and cold water (right).

The real surprise was the control avocado halves, both of which looked nearly unscathed.

Control with pit (left) and control without pit (right).

Hour 2: The Going Gets Tough Ugly

Here's when things really took a turn for the worse.

While the techniques that seemed successful between hour 0 and hour 1 remained effective between hour 1 and 2 (red onion and lemon juice), the ugly avocados only got uglier.

The real losers—boiling & shocking, running under cold water, and brushing with olive or coconut oil—already looked too unappetizing to eat in their current state:

Boiled & shocked (right) and cold water (left).
Coconut oil (left) and olive oil (left).

Hour 4: More of the Same

We returned 2 hours later to no real surprises: The gross avocados were deteriorating (and fast), while the others (red onion, lemon juice, and both controls) were showing signs of mild, largely innocuous browning.

Compare the two control avocados (top) to some of the worst performers, coconut oil and cold water (bottom):

Then compare the red onion and lemon methods (left) to the olive oil and boiling and shocked methods (right):

Hour 24: The Plain Ol' Avocados Look Best

Here was the real test of technique. It's fair to make the assumption that many, if not most, people looking to ward off avocado browning are looking to store their avocado halves for at least 24 hours (rather than just 1 or 2). But would these methods hold up?

The Winners:

Red onion (left) and lemon juice (right).

While the red onion and lemon juice methods did not brown very much, it's up for debate as to whether these avocado halves were in better condition than the control group—on which we took absolutely no action.

We ate all four of these halves (happily) but noted that the avocado that had been stored with red onion did taste and smell onion-y—it'd make the perfect start to guacamole but might be a bit strange as the base for a chocolate mousse.

Control with pit (left) and control without pit (right)

The Losers:

Olive oil (right) and coconut oil (left).

While the olive oil avocado was particularly brown (especially in its cavity), at least it did not have the congealed film of the coconut oil avocado or the weird textural issues of the avocado that had been boiled and shocked.

Boiled & shocked (& kind of a mess, with a cooked ring along its outside).

As for the avocado that had been peeled and run under cold water, we transferred it to a plastic bag for its overnight shift. It did not fare well.

Would not eat.

Are you convinced to try any of these methods? Do you have any other avocado-browning tricks? Tell us in the comments below.

16 Comments

Dulcy F. July 22, 2016
If we're talking about an avocado half that you'll eat within a day, just leave it out on the counter. No cover, no shmears, just air dry. Slice away the thin dry layer when ready to use. Works with bananas, cut in half, peel on, as well. Can't vouch for quality after more than a day because I've used it by then.
 
Penny H. July 20, 2016
I use avocado instead of mayo on my sandwiches, much healthier. I use 1/2 small avocado per day. I remove the seed from the unused half, fill part way with extra light olive oil and turn it onto some plastic wrap swishing it around so that all cut surfaces are covered. Wrap the plastic wrap snugly and store in the refrigerator until the next day. The second day any olive oil remaining will not affect the taste or texture. One day I noticed my grocer stocking the avocado bin with almost frozen avocados. I asked and he said that when they came to room temperature they would resume ripening and continue until refrigerated again. So I'm no longer afraid of buying too many to use in a few days - just let them get ripe and stick in the refrigerator.
 
Carol E. July 23, 2016
I use the same technique and it really works!
 
Barbara July 20, 2016
I haven't tried this with a cut avocado but with guacamole, I put it in an airtight container, pressed down so there are no air pockets and covered it with water, sealed it and refrigerate. The next day it had not turned brown. I just pour off the water and stir. Now I'm going to try this method with a cut avocado and see if I get the same results.
 
Penny P. July 20, 2016
You can make a salad with sliced or halved avocado and leave it without dressing for a few hours as long as you put the stone in the salad bowl, and remove it before serving. It will not discolour.
 
Gayle B. December 21, 2015
Reed avocados (very large, smooth skin) don't seem to turn brown and are delicious. The season is short, though- a few months in the fall here in CA.
 
Denny December 16, 2015
The absolute best thing that I have found is to put the half in a ziplock bag with water and a good dash of salt. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing the bag. I've had halves last as long as a week. For leftover guacamole, smooth the surface in the bowl, add enough water to cover the top, sprinkle with salt, and cover with wrap
 
rachiti December 16, 2015
I'm a leave the pit in, throw it into tupperware, and store it in the fridge. I can let it go 3 days and at most just cut off a slice of the surface after removing the pit. The bonus to leaving the pit in is that when it's removed, what's underneath isn't brown so you only have to slice a thin slice straight across (if you let it go long enough for it to brown).
 
Saw K. December 15, 2015
Air tight vacuum and vitamin C powder
 
Cindy F. December 15, 2015
I went to Puerto Rico, and they have enormous avocados. About 3 times the size as in the states. They also had the smooth peel, as oposed to the bumpy kind. I cut one, and it lasted 4 hours without any browning. Wrapped it in plastic wrap, and it lasted 2 days without browning. I wish you could buy that kind of avocado in the states.
 
Aleksandra W. July 20, 2016
You can! In florida they grow on our trees!
 
c460053 December 15, 2015
ktr: I do the same, but with a splash of water on the plate. If I know it's going to be a while before I get back to it, I'll use a FoodSaver vacuum container to keep it from the air. I once found a forgotten half in said container hidden in the back of my fridge. No idea how long it was in there. Could've been a few weeks or more. It wasn't perfect, but it was edible. Without the vacuum it would've been a science project.<br /><br />Having said all that, the VERY best way to keep half an avocado from browning is to eat it.
 
Emma B. December 15, 2015
I've found the best method is covering the cut side with a wet paper towel. Almost the same as doing nothing, but takes longer for the exposed area to dry out.
 
ktr December 15, 2015
I just place half the avocado cut side down on a plate or a flat bottomed bowl and put in the fridge without a lid. I've had avocados last several days with this method.
 
Niknud December 15, 2015
So I'm pretty sure that someone, somewhere, in all these posts has mentioned it, but the best way to keep an avocado from browning (IMHO) is to keep it from getting exposed to air. I just mash up whatever remaining avocado is leftover, smooth it into a firm layer and place a piece of plastic wrap tight on the surface. I've kept guacamole and leftover avocado green that way for up to 2-3 days.
 
Allyn December 15, 2015
Put the cut half in a small ziploc bag and squeeze/suck as much air out as possible. Works better than anything else I've found.