December 24, 2020

Avocados will never lie to you. You will know the moment you cut one open whether it’s a great one. Here’s how to dramatically increase your odds.

You’re undoubtedly reading this because you’re tired of buying avocados that disappoint. Since they’re among the most expensive foods, learning how to choose a great avocado ranks among the best shopping skills you can acquire.

I’ve made repeated lengthy visits to Mexico, and along the way I figured out how to pick out a perfect avocado nearly every time. Avocados here are excellent, sold everywhere, and very cheap. My time in Mexico has enabled me to master the dual skill of knowing how to buy great avocados, and how to accurately judge when they’ve reached peak ripeness.

Avocado just might be the world’s trickiest fruit to buy. You can have two avocados that appear identical, but cut them open and one’s brown and nasty inside and the other is absolutely perfect. No matter how good you get at choosing avocados, you’ll still pick a disappointing one occasionally. That said, I’ve learned how to drastically improve my chances of getting a good one. I’ve also become skilled at determining when an avocado has reached reached peak ripeness and is ready to cut open. So if you want to learn how to choose fantastic avocados, keep reading.

Avocado Buying Advice

The first step to getting great avocados is simply to buy the right variety. Hass avocados are widely-regarded as the tastiest variety. And any avocado that resembles the Hass usually won’t disappoint, even if its’ an alternate variety. I try to buy fuerte avocados when the Hass variety isn’t available. Reed avocados are also excellent, but they have a much shorter growing season. Generally, large avocados with shiny skins are terrible. At all costs avoid the slick-skinned bacon avocado, as this variety lacks flavor and has a watery texture.

Regardless of which variety you choose, always buy your avocados completely unripe. You want to purchase them greenish and rock hard. That way, they are unlikely to be bruised. Avocados are tricky because even a tiny bruise will spread brown rot throughout the fruit as it ripens, and even partly ripe avocados bruise easily. The main problem here is that people tend to squeeze them at the market to test ripeness. And that’s all it takes to bruise and ultimately ruin an avocado that’s just starting to ripen. The riper the avocado you purchase, the more likely it will suffer from bruise-triggered rotting. Even partially ripe avocados will bruise easily. So I urge you to only buy avocados when they are green and totally unripe.

Thoroughly unripe avocados don’t easily bruise. I’ve had them roll off the kitchen table and onto a tile floor, and they still ripen perfectly. So you can buy them green confident that they’ll ripen up nicely. Just bring them home and put them in a paper bag for two to four days.

Storing Your Avocados

Once you buy your unripe avocados, you’re going to need to store them.

After purchasing, I keep my hard green avocados in a fruit bowl at room temperature. I then check them a couple times a day to see how they’re progressing. I like to have my avocados reach perfect ripeness on different days. To accomplish this I’ll put one or two avocados in a paper bag, rolled shut, to speed ripeness—they’ll then usually ripen a day ahead of the others.

You need to look at your avocados twice a day in order to catch each one at peak ripeness.

With practice, you’ll gain a knack of knowing when one’s ready to cut open. The trouble is there’s only a brief window of time when avocados are perfectly ripe. Any significant waiting past reaching ripeness is detrimental. Figure it takes about a day for a not-quite-ripe avocado to perfectly ripen. Then less than another day before it’ll begin to pass its peak. Most avocados develop disgusting brown fibers running through the fruit as they pass peak ripeness.

Knowing When to Cut an Avocado Open

To fully enjoy your avocado, you’ve got to pick a good one and then cut it open just as it hits peak ripeness.

The more avocados you cut open, the better you’ll get at judging when the one you’re examining has reached peak ripeness. The skin will turn from green to off-black as the fruit ripens, but that in itself won’t tell you everything. The best indication is softness. Once you get a feel for it, the softest imaginable squeeze is all you need to reliably judge ripeness.

Another hazard is that once you start cutting your avocado open, you can’t go back. If it’s unripe, you’ve ruined the fruit. I’ve opened more than a thousand avocados in my life, and I still sometimes misjudge. You’ll know you’ve blown it if the flesh is still fused to the pit. Unripe fruit won’t mash properly into guacamole and it digests like you’ve eaten plastic.

That’s all there is to it. All the trouble is worth it because avocados are one of the most delicious and satisfying foods you’ll ever eat.

Avocado Serving Ideas

Of course the most famous preparation method is for guacamole. Just mash some avocados and blend in some lime juice, black pepper, salt, garlic, and perhaps some finely-diced tomato and minced cilantro.

Avocado slices go wonderfully on both salads and sandwiches. Their rich texture combines perfectly with any sort of crunchy vegetable. And of course, sliced avocados are also a perfect garnish for just about any Mexican dish.

Finally, no better breakfast exists than a freshly-baked baguette sandwich with perfectly ripe avocado slices. these two foods offer one of the most delicious flavor combinations you’ll ever experience. You won’t even need salt or pepper.

For further reading: please see our Vegan Mexican Foods guide, as well as our Guide to Fruits.