Avocados are the infants of the produce aisle. In the same way that babies will be sleeping soundly one minute and crying and screaming the next, avocados can be hard as a rock at the grocery store one day and then plastered with a bright orange sticker that screams “ripe” the next. So if you’re wondering how to pick an avocado, know that you’re not alone.
You don’t have to let this temperamental fruit get the better of you. You deserve the best of the best when it comes to topping your toast, fattening up your salad, or mashing it into guac. And that’s why we’ve rounded up these insider secrets for finding the perfect avocado. Remember these tips the next time you head to the grocery store. And once you get home, put them to good use with these 30 Avocado Recipes.
Press down by the stem
Avocados are delicate! You can check to see if the fruit is ripe by giving it a quick squeeze, but you shouldn’t press in on the sides. Doing so can bruise the beautiful green part you will ultimately eat. Instead, press down lightly (about the same amount of pressure you’d use to click a mouse) on the top of the avocado by the stem. If it gives easily and retains its shape, the avocado is ready to eat. If your finger leaves a dent, the avocado is likely overripe and could be brown inside.
Flick the stem
Here’s some advice we haven’t heard before. “Our preferred method for identifying a ripe avocado is to try to flick the small stem off the fruit,” the editors of America’s Test Kitchen explain in their book, The New Essentials Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Better Cooking. “If it comes off easily and you can see green underneath, the avocado is ripe. If it does not come off easily or you see brown underneath, the avocado is not yet ripe, or it’s overripe and therefore unusable.”
Don’t rely on color
According to our friends at the California Avocado Commission, “color alone may not tell the whole story.” That’s because there are hundreds of different varieties of avocados, and they all turn different colors as they ripen! For example, “the Hass Avocado will turn dark green or black as it ripens, but some other avocado varieties retain their light-green skin even when ripe,” says the California Avocado Commission.
Check to see what kind of avocado you’re buying. If you’re looking at one variety of avocados, you can judge based on color. For example, if they’re all Hass avocados, start by looking for a darker colored avocado, and then do the squeeze test.
Don’t worry about texture
For the same reason you can’t rely on color, you also shouldn’t lean on the texture of the avocado skin to notify you of its ripeness. Different varieties of avocados have different textures. For example, Fuerte, Bacon, and Zutano avocados have smooth skin while Gwen, Reed, and Hass avocados have pebbling, according to the California Avocado Commission.
Avoid dark blemishes
Any localized discoloration is a sign the fruit is past its prime. “Avoid fruit with dark blemishes on the skin or over-soft fruit,” says the California Avocado Commission.
Stagger your schedule
If you’d like to eat avocados all week, pick avocados in a variety of stages of ripening. For Hass avocados, like those from Avocados from Mexico, you’ll want to grab dark brown-skinned avocados to eat today. Looking to make avocado toast within the next couple of days? Check for green and brown speckled fruit. And to make guacamole next weekend, stock up on hard, unripe fruit. According to Avocados from Mexico, the brand’s green fruits will be ready to eat in three to four days when left out at room temperature.
Be wary of bulk
It bears repeating: You’ll want to stagger the ripeness of your avocados if you want to eat them throughout the week. If you buy in bulk, they could all ripen on the same day, leaving you with four fruits to get through before they go bad! If you still want to buy in bulk to save money, you can store avocados in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process, according to Hass avocado brand Love One Today.
And the next time you’re shopping (for avocados or otherwise), don’t miss these 30 Cheap Costco Buys That Make the Membership Worth It.