We Tried 7 Ways to Ripen an Avocado, and the Results Are Surprising

published May 5, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

We’ve all been there: We’re craving some avocado toast in the morning or freshly made guacamole to enjoy for an at-home happy hour. The only thing standing in our way? A rock-hard avocado.

If you eat avocados on the regular, then you probably know that the internet is full of “hacks” for speeding up the ripening process. While unfortunately there’s not a good way to ripen an avocado instantly, there are some ways you can fast-forward the process. 

To find the best method, I scoured the internet for ideas about how to ripen an avocado quickly and then put seven popular methods to the test. Aside from two controls, each method involved placing the avocado in a brown paper lunch bag with a ripening agent. When all the tests were done, two clear winners rose to the top. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

So, What Is the Best Method for Ripening an Avocado?

The best method for ripening an avocado is placing it in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. Read on to learn more about why these two methods are the best, and how each of the other methods fared.

A Few Notes on Methodology:

The tests: For this Skills Showdown, I purchased the hardest, least ripe avocados I could find at my local grocery store. I chose avocados that were bright green and didn’t give when pressed firmly with my thumb. I placed each avocado in a labeled brown paper lunch bag with the ripening agents (a banana, an apple, a kiwi, uncooked rice, and all-purpose flour), then folded the top of the bag over three times to seal it.

All of these methods work on the same principle: They expose the avocado to ethylene gas, a plant hormone that expedites ripening. The fruits (kiwi, apple, and banana) produce ethylene gas themselves, while the flour and rice are thought to “trap” the natural ethylene gas from avocados and speed up the ripening process (a claim that seems to not have a lot of evidence or research to fully prove). As a control, I also tested an avocado by itself in a brown paper bag as well as an avocado by itself on the counter. 

Ratings criteria: I judged each method based on how quickly each avocado ripened. I tested ripeness by gently pressing my thumb into each avocado three times a day — at 9:30 a.m., at noon, and at 10:30 p.m. Additionally, I rated each method based on how practical it was. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag with All-Purpose Flour

  • Rating: 3/10
  • Ripening time: 3 days

About this method: This method, explained by Well + Good as one of the best ways to ripen an avocado, is straightforward. I simply placed an avocado and enough all-purpose flour to slightly cover it in a brown paper bag. I then folded the top of the bag three times to close it and labeled it.  

Results: With this method, the avocado took three full days to ripen — the longest of all the methods. I also gave this method a low score on the basis of practicality. I didn’t love having to wash the flour off my hands each time I checked on the ripeness and there was always a bit of flour on the countertop to clean up, too. Lastly, it seems wasteful to use a few cups of flour just to submerge an avocado, especially one that didn’t ripen very quickly. (Per a spokesperson from the FDA, using the flour for cooking after using it to ripen the avocado is not recommended, as it may come in contact with human pathogens — like listeria or salmonella — residing on the surface of the avocado.)

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag with a Kiwi

  • Rating: 4/10
  • Ripening time: 2.5 days

About this method: This method, touted by sources such as California Avocados, Insider.com, and Today.com, calls for placing the unripened avocado in the brown paper bag along with a whole kiwi and folding it up. 

Results: This method took two-and-a-half days to ripen, which was the second longest of all the methods. So even if I happened to have kiwis on hand, I wouldn’t turn to this method again.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag with Uncooked Rice

  • Rating: 4.5/10
  • Ripening time: 2.25 days

About this method: Similar to the flour technique, this method touted by sources like Good Housekeeping and The Pioneer Woman involves submerging the avocado in uncooked rice. I placed an avocado in a paper bag with enough uncooked rice to just cover it. Then, I folded the bag up and proceeded with the ripeness tests outlined above.

Results: This method took two-and-a-quarter days to ripen — only slightly less time than the kiwi method. This technique also lost points for being wasteful, as it required a lot of rice for a method that was slow and somewhat mediocre. (As with the flour, for food safety reasons it’s not a good idea to cook and eat the rice after using it to ripen an avocado.)

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag by Itself

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Ripening time: 2 days

About this method: Aside from just leaving the avocado on the counter, this was the simplest method in the bunch. I labeled the bag, put a super hard, unripe avocado inside, and folded it up. That’s it! This method is mentioned by both McCormick and The Spruce Eats.

Results: If you have paper bags on hand and can wait two days, this is a reliable method for ripening an avocado fairly quickly — although there are others I’d turn to first. Because this avocado was nearly ripe when I checked it at noon on the first day and fully ripe by my nighttime check that day, I suspect it reached optimal ripeness sometime in that window of time.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: On the Counter by Itself

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Ripening time: 2 days 

About this method: For this test, I simply let an avocado do its thing on its own on my countertop. This is the easiest method of all — no special equipment or ingredients required. 

Results: This method is probably the best demonstration of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” At the first morning check, this avocado was already noticeably softer than the avocados with the flour and the rice, and by the end of the second day it was fully ripe (like the one in the bag, I think it likely reached full ripeness between my two ripeness checks). While the ripening time was about the same for this method as the avocado in a paper bag, I gave this one a higher score because it doesn’t require anything other than the avocado itself, which means you don’t have to search around Target for those paper lunch bags.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag with a Banana

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Ripening time: A little over 1.5 days

About this method: This method involves simply separating a single (unpeeled) banana from the bunch and placing it in the bag with the avocado. I proceeded as normal by folding up the top of the bag and labeling it. This is one of the many methods mentioned by EatingWell and America’s Test Kitchen.

Results: This method took a little over a day-and-a-half to get fully ripe. On the morning of the first day, when I checked the ripeness of all the avocados, this one was noticeably softer. At the end of the first day this avocado was softer than all but one of the other avocados, but still wasn’t quite ripe. By noon on the second day, though, this avocado was perfectly ripe! Although this method requires buying extra ingredients and supplies, the speed at which the avocado ripened was worth a few extra dollars for me. Plus, after doing its job the banana was perfectly edible, so it didn’t go to waste. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

Avocado Ripening Method: In a Paper Bag with an Apple

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Ripening time: 1.5 days

About this method: For this technique, all I had to do was go to the store and pick out a nice apple — I chose a sweet Honeycrisp, but any sort of apple will do. I placed the apple in the bag with the avocado, folded it up, and labeled it, then tested three times a day, as with the other methods. This method is mentioned in sources like Food.com, Country Living, and Thrillist.  

Results: Apples are truly magic! This method, like the banana, worked extremely well. Not only did I have a super ripe avocado in what felt like almost no time, but I also had a sweet snack afterwards. On the evening of the first day, I was surprised by how soft the avocado had become in such a short amount of time. By noon on the second day, this avocado was exquisite — it was soft and easy to cut into. For me this method only slightly beat out the banana, as I believe this one became fully ripe in between the morning and midday of the second day. I gave the apple and the banana methods the same score because they both got the job done quite well and they’re both easy and affordable options.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there were several methods I’d use again to quickly ripen an avocado. If I had an apple or banana on hand, then I’d pop the avocado in the bag with the piece of fruit for the fastest path to guacamole, avocado toast, or a nice avocado salad. If I had a bit more time, I’d just leave the avocado on the counter and let nature take its course.