Avocados are nutritious fruits that have become increasingly popular. But like any produce, avocados will eventually spoil. Determining whether an avocado is still good or has gone bad can be tricky. This article will cover the signs of fresh avocados, what causes them to deteriorate, how to identify spoiled avocados, proper storage methods, and how long avocados last under various conditions. Read on to learn how to tell if your avocados are bad and how to keep them fresh as long as possible.
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Signs of a Fresh Avocado
When selecting fresh avocados at the store, look for these indicators of quality:
- Firm but yields to gentle pressure – Avoid avocados that are hard as a rock or overly soft.
- Unblemished dark skin – The skin should be free of cracks, bruises, dents or discoloration.
- Heavy for its size – Heavier avocados tend to have more flesh and less pit.
- Smooth, green skin – Rough brown skin indicates an overripe avocado.
A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado will feel slightly soft when squeezed but should not dent too readily. Under the skin, the flesh should be bright green, not brown or grayish.
What Causes Avocados to Go Bad?
Avocados spoil due to a few key factors:
- Enzymatic browning – Exposure to air causes oxidation and browning of flesh.
- Microbial growth – Bacteria and fungi can take hold in damaged or ripe fruit.
- Moisture loss – The flesh dries out and becomes stringy and unappealing.
- Physical injury – Cuts, bruises and impact injuries accelerate deterioration.
Heat exposure and ethylene gas from other produce also speed up enzymatic action and ripening. Proper storage is important for extending avocado shelf life.
How to Tell if an Avocado Is Bad or Spoiled
Here are the common signs that an avocado has gone bad:
- Brown or black flesh – Unappealing grayish or brown color instead of green.
- Moldy spots – Fuzzy gray or black mold on the skin or flesh.
- Very hard or mushy texture – Lack of slightly firm yet yielding texture when handled.
- Off odors – Sour, fermented smell instead of fresh “green” scent.
- Dry or stringy flesh – Separated brown strands in the inner fruit.
- Leathery, cracked skin – Pecan-brown, sunken, dried-out skin.
Even a small area of mold or minimal bruising can quickly lead to decay in avocados. When in doubt, don’t risk eating a questionable avocado.
Stages of Ripeness
To better understand the signs of a bad avocado, it helps to know the stages of ripeness. Here is a guide to the gradual process of how avocados ripen:
Stage 1 – Unripe: Hard, green skin. Firm flesh.
Stage 2 – Just Ripe: Skin turns darker green or black. Flesh softens slightly.
Stage 3 – Ripe: Skin blackens. Flesh yields to gentle pressure.
Stage 4 – Overripe: Skin wrinkles and spots appear. Flesh is very mushy.
Stage 5 – Spoiled: Skin very wrinkled. Dark spots and mold. Flesh brown or rotten.
Avocados are best for eating when ripe (stage 3). Once it becomes overripe, an avocado will quickly spoil.
How to Store Avocados
Proper storage is important to keep avocados fresh for as long as possible and avoid spoilage.
How Long Do Whole Avocados Last?
|Max Storage Time
Proper storage helps prevent spoilage and keeps avocados fresh and ready to enjoy. Discard any that show signs of mold or damage.
Storing Ripe Avocados
Once an avocado is ripe, it should be used within 1-2 days for best quality. Here are some methods to store ripe avocados:
Place ripe avocados in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will slow down ripening and prevent spoilage.
- Leave the avocado in its skin to prevent exposure to air.
- Wrap the avocado in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. This prevents oxidation and browning.
- Add a sliced onion to the container. Onions produce ethylene gas which will help extend the life of the avocado.
- Sprinkle the avocado with lemon or lime juice. The acid helps inhibit browning.
- Stored this way, ripe avocados will last 3-5 days in the fridge.
Ripe avocados can also be frozen whole or as guacamole to extend their shelf life.
- To freeze whole, peel, halve and pit the avocados. Coat the cut surfaces with lemon juice to prevent browning. Place in a freezer bag, removing excess air. Frozen this way, avocados will last 6-10 months.
- To freeze guacamole, prepare the dip then store it in an airtight freezer container, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace. Top with plastic wrap directly on the surface before sealing the lid. Frozen guacamole will last 3-5 months.
Submerging ripe avocados in oil is an effective storage method.
- Peel, halve and pit the avocados. Brush the cut surfaces with lemon juice.
- Place in an airtight container and cover with olive oil or canola oil. Make sure the avocados are fully submerged.
- Store in the fridge up to 2 weeks. Drain and rinse the fruit before eating.
Storing Unripe Avocados
Unripe avocados have a bright green skin and feel hard when squeezed. Here are tips for ripening them quickly and storing properly:
Leave at Room Temperature
Leave unripe avocados at room temperature to ripen naturally.
- Place on the counter or in a paper bag to trap ethylene gas and speed up ripening.
- Avoid placing them near direct sunlight or heat which can cause uneven ripening.
- Depending on the firmness, they will ripen in 2-7 days.
- Check daily and use once ripe.
Ripen in a Paper Bag
For faster ripening, place unripe avocados in a brown paper bag.
- Add a banana or apple to the bag. These fruits produce ethylene gas which hastens ripening.
- Fold the top of the bag closed and leave on the counter.
- Check daily and remove once ripe.
Suspend Ripening Process
To delay ripening of unripe avocados, store them in the refrigerator.
- Place them loose or in a paper bag in the warmest area of the fridge, like the door.
- The cold temperature will slow down ripening.
- Remove 1-2 days before you want to use them to finish ripening.
How to Tell if an Avocado is Ripe
It’s important to know how to gauge the ripeness of avocados. Here are some methods:
- Gently squeeze – A ripe avocado will yield to gentle pressure but will not feel mushy. An unripe one will feel very firm.
- Check the color – Avoid avocados with very dark, sunken skin which indicates overripe. Ripe ones will have unblemished, dark skin.
- Remove the stem – If it comes off easily and you see green underneath, it’s ready to eat. If you meet resistance, it needs more time.
- Do the float test – Place the avocado in a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s very ripe or past ripe. If it sinks, it’s still unripe.
Storing Opened Avocados
Once an avocado is cut open, oxidation and spoilage happens rapidly. Here are tips for storing the unused portion:
Direct Contact with the Pit
Place the pit directly back into the avocado cavity after removing it.
- Push it in firmly so it is flush with the cavity surface.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- The pit prevents browning. Stored this way in the fridge, opened avocado will last 4-5 days.
Brush with Lemon Juice
Brush all cut surfaces with lemon or lime juice.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 2 days maximum to slow spoilage.
Store in an Airtight Container
Place unused avocado in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
- Remove air and seal the container.
- Add onion slices if possible, which prevents oxidation.
- Will last up to 3 days refrigerated this way.
Immerse in Water
Submerging cut avocado in water is an effective storage method.
- Place avocado chunks in water in an airtight container.
- Water prevents oxidation and browning.
- Stored in the refrigerator, this will extend shelf life 2-3 days.
Freezing Leftover Avocado
Freezing is a great way to save unused portions of opened avocados. Here’s how:
- Mash the flesh with lemon juice and a pinch of salt to prevent browning.
- Portion into freezer bags or airtight containers, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace.
- Remove air and seal before placing in the freezer.
- Frozen this way, avocado will last 6-10 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
What to Do with Bad Avocados
If you cut into an avocado and find it has spoiled, there are a couple of options:
- Compost it: Rotten or moldy avocado should not be eaten. Place bad avocados in a compost bin if available. The fruit and mold provide valuable nutrients for compost material.
- Discard it: You can also discard spoiled avocado in the garbage. Be sure to seal it in a bag first so it does not attract pests.
While you should avoid eating spoiled avocado flesh, some parts of a bad avocado can still be used:
- The pit can be dried, cleaned, and used for arts and crafts projects.
- The skin of an uncut avocado can be cleaned and used for crafts like stamping and printing. Just be sure to wash it thoroughly first.
- Avocado oil can be extracted by boiling the flesh of overripe or slightly spoiled avocados and skimming off the oil. The resulting avocado oil is still safe for cooking and cosmetic uses.
Can You Get Sick From Eating A Bad Avocado?
It’s possible to get ill from consuming avocados with mold, rot, or other signs of spoilage:
- Foodborne illness – Bacteria like listeria, salmonella, or E. coli may be present.
- Allergic reaction – Mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms or anaphylaxis in sensitive individuals.
- Vitamin K toxicity – Very high doses of vitamin K from spoiled avocados could be harmful.
- Intestinal illness – Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea from toxins.
To be safe, throw out avocados at the first signs of damage, mold, off odors, or poor texture. Don’t risk eating spoiled fruit.
Is It Safe to Eat Moldy Avocados?
It’s not recommended to eat any avocados showing mold growth. Surface mold can send threads deep into the soft inner flesh. Invisible mold below the surface can still contaminate the fruit. Cooking also does not destroy mycotoxins from mold or potential bacteria. Always discard moldy avocados.
How to Pick Ripe Avocados
Now that you know what to look for to identify bad avocados, here are some tips for selecting fresh, ripe avocados at the store:
- Gently lift – Carefully lift avocados and feel their weight. Heavier ones with unbroken skin are riper.
- No pressure – Avoid avocados with cracked skin, indentations, or moisture. This indicates bruising.
- Color check – Lighter green skin means unripe. Ripe avocados have darker green or black skin.
- Stem trick – A dried, brittle stem likely means an under ripe avocado. Green, flexible stems indicate ripeness.
- Soft squish – Apply gentle pressure near the stem. It should dent slightly but not feel mushy.
- Buy ahead – Purchase unripe, firm avocados several days before you need them. Allow them to ripen at room temp.
Choosing avocados carefully and allowing them to properly ripen ensures you have the perfect avocado when you’re ready to use it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spoiled Avocados
Still unsure about how to tell if your avocado has gone bad? Here are answers to some common questions:
1. Can you eat an avocado with brown spots?
Small brown spots on the skin are harmless, but large dark splotches usually indicate overripeness and spoilage underneath. It’s best to avoid eating avocados with extensive brown spotting.
2. What happens if you eat a bad avocado?
Eating spoiled avocado can potentially cause foodborne illness. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, dangerous bacteria like listeria in bad avocados can even be life-threatening.
3. Is it OK to eat an avocado with mold?
No, you should never eat an avocado with visible mold growth. Mold indicates advanced spoilage, and the toxins can cause illness. Any moldy produce should always be discarded.
4. Can you fix or ripen an overripe avocado?
Unfortunately once an avocado becomes overripe, it cannot be reversed. The flesh will quickly deteriorate and spoil. Letting an unripe avocado ripen on the counter works, but overripe avocados cannot be salvaged.
5. How can you use up a ripe avocado fast?
If an avocado ripens faster than expected, you have a couple of days to use it while it’s still good. Options include making guacamole, adding it to smoothies, using it in wraps or sandwiches, baking avocado fries, or mashing it for avocado toast.
Learning to determine ripeness and spot signs of spoilage allows you to enjoy avocados at their peak. Ripe avocados have darker green skin and flesh that yields slightly to pressure. Overripe or spoiled avocados develop brown spots, wrinkled skin, mold, soft or mushy flesh, and a foul odor. Storing avocados properly delays spoilage. Discard bad avocados, but salvageable parts can still be used creatively. Avoiding spoiled avocados will help ensure you have only delicious, fresh avocado to eat.