In New York City, the perfectly ripe supermarket avocado is a veritable myth, complete with an unlikely origin story (California droughts),
many a villain with which to contend (Australian real estate moguls, the threat of tariffs), and a personalized iPhone emoji.
But unlike any sort of storybook character or chimerical creature, the perfectly ripe avocado can actually be conjured at home, with enough foresight.
Short of that, there are some tricks whispered about in far-reaching corners of the internet: things involving paper bags, or ovens. We tested four popular methods—and if you're here now, chances are you don't have much more time to spare. So let's get to it.
Avocado Ripening Method A: Oven
"Can you really ripen an avocado in just 10 minutes?" asked The Kitchn's Kelli Foster back in 2015. Her proposed method: Bake your avo, swaddled in foil, at 200°F for 10 minutes (or more) until it softens. Let cool, unwrap, and slice. Foster's verdict? The texture might be ripe, but the flavor is lacking.
In our test, it only took 15 minutes at 200°F for the avocado to soften to the degree that would have excited us in the wild (as in, a grocery store produce basket) and as a bonus, we felt like we were helping a dinosaur egg to hatch.
The only hitch: the final product was uneven in texture, watery, lacking flavor, and in the words of Senior Editor Eric Kim, the embodiment of "that disappointing feeling you get when you cut an avocado too early." So, kind of a big hitch.
"Do not microwave your avocados or put your avocados in the oven to try to ripen them faster," cautions the California Avocados blog. "If you do, the microwave or oven may soften the flesh of the fruit a little which may make it ‘seem’ ripe, but it isn’t. The avocado will taste unripe and won't have the creaminess or buttery, nutty flavor we all know and love."
The windowsill—or "classic"—method of avocado ripening proved most effective across our four trials. We placed an unripe avocado in direct sunlight and left it for 36 hours (including overnight, though no lullabies or scary stories were involved).
By the end of its sabbatical, a gentle poke yielded flesh-give like the avocado was a lump of clay. Its flesh was lush and smooth, and by far the ripest (textbook-perfect for guacamole). Given the lack of special equipment and props, we liked this best.
Avocado Ripening Method C: Paper Bag with Ripe Fruit (36 Hours)
"Bananas release ethylene gas, which speed up the ripening process for avocados (and other fruits). Storing the two in close proximity means the ripening is super charged and happens quicker," reports Lifehacker.
Either our banana was a dud, or it needed quite a bit longer to work its magic. After 36 hours of cohabitation in a sealed paper bag, this test avocado had barely ripened from its original state. As Senior Editor Arati Menon noted, "The water content was too high," too. "I’d use C in a dressed salad, maybe," said Kim.
Avocado Ripening Method D: Paper Bag with Flour (36 Hours)
"The flour + paper bag combo works to both concentrate the avocado's own ethylene gas and soak up any residual moisture, keeping the fruit free of mold and from bruising while it ripens," says Thrillist.
In the same time period (36 hours), a sealed paper bag with several inches of all-purpose flour produced a much, much riper specimen than the banana bag (and second only to the windowsill fellow). "It'd be perfect for avocado toast, with salt," says Assistant Editor of Partner Content Erin Alexander.
Did we miss a method? Let us know how you like to ripen your avocados in the comments!
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Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.