Avocados may be scrumptiously tasty, but the oh-so-healthy fruit is a notorious source of frustration in the kitchen. It usually takes days of patiently waiting for a rock-hard avocado to ripen — and then, it seems to go from perfection to mushy in mere minutes.
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So, how can you extend the useful life of an avocado? That’s just the kind of challenge made for the creative minds on TikTok. And they did not disappoint. (#savetheavocados)
A viral hack promises that avocados can be kept fresh for up to a month if they’re submerged in water and stored in the fridge. Dunk ‘em whole or cut in half! Either way, you’ve got avocados for longer!
If that sounds too good to be true … well, it is. This seemingly helpful TikTok tip might as well be labeled as a how-to guide for potential food poisoning, states registered dietitian Carly Sedlacek, RDN, LD. Here’s why.
Is storing avocados in water safe?
To be clear, the answer to this question is a definite NO — an opinion shared widely by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the avocado storage hack began trending on social media.
It’s not uncommon to find bacteria on the bumpy outer skin of an avocado. An FDA study detected Listeria monocytogenes on nearly 18% of tested fruit. Salmonella popped up on 0.74% of sampled avocados.
But wait! It gets worse! FDA researchers also found that keeping avocados in water allowed Listeria monocytogenes to permeate the fleshy pulp beneath the skin in some cases. (Even washing the avocado won’t help at that point.)
“If you put your avocado in water, you’re really just dropping it into a breeding ground for any bacteria that are present,” says Sedlacek. “This TikTok hack is a recipe for foodborne illness. It’s very, very bad.”
Both types of bacteria can cause gastrointestinal mayhem such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and other rather unpleasant symptoms.
How to best store whole avocados
You just returned home from the grocery store with a bag filled with firm avocados. Where should you put them to ripen? “Your best bet is to leave them out on the counter,” advises Sedlacek.
But make sure to check your avocados daily. (Remember, they can turn ripe in a jiffy!) Signs that an avocado is ready to eat include:
- Skin color change. An avocado with bright green skin needs more time. Look for the skin to turn darker as the fruit ripens, says Sedlacek. Your avocado is ideal for use when the skin takes on a purplish hue. If the fruit looks black, it’s overripe.
- Softening. A ripe avocado will feel “a little bit squishy” when you apply slight pressure to the fruit, she adds. Wait to use an avocado if it feels like a rock. If it’s downright mushy, it’s past its prime.
- Stem cap check. The little stem cap on top of an avocado should pop off easily when the fruit is ripe. The color beneath the cap hints at what the fruit looks like inside, too. Green is good. Brown means you may see some spots.
Once your avocado is ready to eat, placing it in the refrigerator can slow the ripening process. “That can buy you an extra day or two — but don’t wait too long to use it,” says Sedlacek.
How to store a sliced avocado
Don’t fear if you only used half an avocado this morning while making a slice of avocado toast. You’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the fruit with tomorrow’s breakfast if you take a few storage steps.
The creamy pulp of an avocado tends to gain unappetizing brown spots once exposed to the outside world. An enzyme in the fruit creates these splotches upon contact with air and oxygen.
Take these steps to slow down that oxidation process and keep your avocado fresh.
- Add acidity. The acid in lemon juice or lime juice can help preserve your cut avocado. Ditto for olive oil. “Just put a little bit of the juice or oil on the avocado you’re saving and it’ll limit those brown spots,” says Sedlacek.
- Wrap it up. Sealing the unused avocado in plastic wrap will help limit exposure to oxygen. Wrap it tightly, too. “The goal is for no gaps where air can be against the avocado,” she adds.
- Keep it cold. Chilly conditions combat oxidation. Popping it in the fridge will keep it fresh for a day or so. (Again, don’t dillydally.) Freezing your avocado also is an option, particularly if you’re saving it for use in a smoothie.
Tips to safely cut an avocado
Avocados aren’t the easiest fruit around when it comes to preparation. That tough exterior skin needs to be removed, for starters. Then, there’s the matter of extricating that pesky pit in the middle.
The task requires some deft work with a knife. Not everyone is up to the undertaking.
Avocado-related knife injuries send thousands of Americans to emergency rooms every year, studies show. It’s become so common, there’s even a name for the self-inflicted wound — “avocado hand.”
To keep your fingers and hands intact, follow these guidelines:
- ALWAYS cut an avocado on a cutting board. (Slicing the fruit while holding it in your hand isn’t the best move.)
- Scoop out the pit with a spoon or your fingers. Don’t whack at it with a blade.
One more thing, too: Make sure to wash your avocado thoroughly before cutting into it. “If there is any bacteria on the skin when you cut into it, all you’re going to do is shove that bacteria inside to what you’re going to eat,” stresses Sedlacek.
Safely enjoying avocados
It’s safe to say that people LOVE avocados — an opinion backed by massive sales increases in the United States over the past few years. Better yet, the nutrient-packed fruit qualifies as a superfood.
It’s that healthy reputation that’s been fueling interest in avocados. (Well, that and guacamole.)
Still, some people resist buying the fruit, with one of the most common reasons being how perishable it is. Nobody wants to drop a buck or two on an avocado only to watch it turn into a mushy mess.
“That’s why you can understand how the TikTok hack became so popular,” says Sedlacek. “But it’s really not a good idea.”