Avocados are a delicious and nutritious fruit that are growing in popularity. However, once an avocado is cut open, it quickly starts to brown and go bad. This can be frustrating if you only use half an avocado at a time. Luckily, there are some simple tricks to keep the unused portion of a cut avocado fresh for longer.
Why Do Avocados Turn Brown So Quickly After Cutting?
Avocados turn brown due to oxidation. When the flesh of the avocado is exposed to air, it reacts with oxygen and begins to oxidize. This chemical reaction causes the green flesh to turn brown.
An enzyme called polyphenol oxidase is responsible for this browning. Polyphenol oxidase catalyzes the reaction between phenolic compounds in the avocado flesh and oxygen in the air, which creates melanin pigments that cause the browning.
Once an avocado is cut open, the polyphenol oxidase rapidly kicks into action, especially if the flesh has been damaged or bruised. The browning typically begins within minutes and progresses quickly.
Tips to Prevent Browning and Keep Avocado Fresh
Luckily, there are several effective methods you can use to slow down this enzymatic browning and extend the life of cut avocado. Here are some of the best tips:
Keep the Pit In
Leaving the pit in the unused avocado half helps slow oxidation. The pit contains antioxidants and enzymes that can help neutralize the polyphenol oxidase. This can buy you an extra day or two before browning occurs.
Wrap Tightly in Plastic Wrap
Wrapping the exposed avocado flesh very tightly in plastic wrap helps limit the flesh’s exposure to oxygen. The plastic wrap creates a protective barrier against the air.
For best results, make sure you press the wrap directly against the surface of the flesh to minimize air pockets.
Sprinkle with Lemon or Lime Juice
Citrus juice is highly acidic, which helps slow down the enzymatic browning reaction. After cutting the avocado, immediately sprinkle freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice over the flesh. Use about 1 tablespoon of juice per half of avocado.
Store in an Airtight Container
You can place wrapped or juiced avocado halves in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. This adds another layer of protection against oxygen. Glass or plastic containers work best.
Brush or drizzle vegetable oil, olive oil, or canola oil over the exposed flesh. The oil helps block air from reaching the flesh and oxidizing the enzymes.
Keep Cold in the Refrigerator
Chilled temperatures help slow down enzymatic activity. Place prepared avocado halves in the refrigerator immediately after cutting. The cold environment keeps polyphenol oxidase less active.
How Long Do Prepped Avocados Last?
Using these methods, you can extend the life of cut avocado by 2-3 days. Here are some timelines for how long prepped avocado lasts refrigerated:
|Kept whole and uncut
|Cut in half, pit in
|Cut in half, exposed to air
|Less than 1 day
|Tightly wrapped in plastic wrap
|Sprinkled with citrus juice
|Stored in airtight container
|Covered with oil
As you can see, combining multiple methods like lemon juice, plastic wrap, and refrigeration can extend an avocado’s life for several days.
What Causes Cut Avocados to Go Bad?
There are a few signs that indicate your stored avocado halves have gone bad:
Flesh Turns Brown
As mentioned, brown or black flesh indicates oxidization has occurred. Once the flesh is very dark, the avocado tends to become unpalatable.
Over time, the flesh becomes progressively softer and can take on a mushy, almost slimy consistency. This is a sign of microbial growth.
Spoiled avocados give off unpleasant odors like sour milk or rotten vegetables. This happens when molds and bacteria grow in the decomposing flesh.
Growth of Mold
You may see fuzzy white or gray mold growing on the surface of old avocado halves. This mold comes from microscopic fungal spores in the air.
Can You Still Eat a Brown Avocado?
If your avocado has only browned slightly but still smells and tastes normal, it is likely still safe to eat. The brown flesh will not taste quite as fresh and mild, but should not make you sick.
However, if the flesh is very dark brown or black, the texture is off, or you detect any rancid odors, it is best to discard the avocado. Severely spoiled avocado flesh can harbor bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can cause foodborne illness if consumed.
When in doubt, remember the old adage “when in doubt, throw it out.” Don’t risk getting sick from eating a bad avocado.
Other Ways to Use Up Leftover Avocado
If you have half an avocado left over and want to use it up quickly before it goes bad, here are some delicious options:
– Make guacamole or avocado toast
– Blend into smoothies, juice, or protein shakes
– Mix into salads, salsa, or gazpacho
– Mash and spread on sandwiches or burgers
– Cube and add to quinoa or rice bowls
– Puree into cream sauces, soups, or dressings
– Slice thinly and use in wraps or tacos
– Mash and use as a topping on nachos, omelets, or baked potatoes
Getting creative with your leftovers can help cut down on wasted avocado!
Storing Unused Avocado Half for Later
If you won’t be able to use up the remaining avocado half right away, follow these steps to store it:
1. Leave pit in avocado half to slow oxidation.
2. Rub flesh with lemon or lime juice, about 1 tbsp per half.
3. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, pressing it directly against the surface.
4. Place in an airtight container or bag, removing excess air.
5. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
6. Check frequently and use immediately once browning occurs.
Properly stored, you can get a few extra days out of leftover avocado before it goes bad.
Ripening Avocados Faster
To ripen an unripe avocado more quickly for use within a day or two, there are some tricks you can try:
– Place unripe avocado in a paper bag with a banana or apple. The ethylene gas released will hasten ripening.
– Sit the avocado in a window sill or other warm spot to speed up the process.
– Microwave the avocado for 10-20 seconds to jumpstart ripening. Check often and remove when softened.
– Bake the avocado at 200°F for about 10 minutes, until just slightly softened but not mushy.
– Press the avocado gently between your hands to melt the interior without damaging it.
– Keep avocados away from refrigeration, as the cold slows down ripening.
With these methods, you can shave off a day or two of waiting for a rock hard avocado to ripen.
Freezing Avocado for Later Use
Freezing is a great long-term way to save overripe avocados. Here are some freezing tips:
– Peel, pit, and mash the flesh. Add lemon juice.
– Portion into freezer bags, removing excess air. Flatten to 1/2 inch thickness.
– Freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in fridge before using.
– Can also freeze cubed avocado chunks for smoothies.
– Frozen avocado may turn brown but is still safe to eat when thawed.
– Works best in recipes, not for plain eating. The texture will be softer.
With frozen avocado on hand, you always have access to this nutritious fruit!
Drying and Powdering Avocado
You can convert avocado into shelf-stable powder:
– Peel, pit, and slice avocados. Coat with citric acid or lemon juice.
– Dehydrate slices in a food dehydrator or low oven until completely dried.
– Blend dried avocado slices into a fine powder using a blender or food processor.
– Store powder in airtight container for up to 1 year.
– Use avocado powder to add flavor, nutrients, and thickness to smoothies, soups, dips, and more.
Dehydrating is a novel way to make avocado last indefinitely!
Picking Ripe Avocados
Selecting perfectly ripened avocados ensures you can enjoy them at their freshest. Here’s how to pick ripe avocados:
– Avoid very firm avocados, unless ripening them yourself.
– Gently squeeze and look for just a slight softness without indentations.
– The skin should be dark green to purplish-black, not bright green.
– Avoid avocados with cracks, dents, or mushy spots.
– Remove stem – it should come off easily and reveal green flesh.
– Compare weights – heavier avocados tend to have more usable flesh.
– Ask produce workers when deliveries arrive and shop accordingly.
Following these tips will help you enjoy prime, ready-to-eat avocados!
Signs an Avocado Has Gone Bad
Watch for these signs that an avocado is past its prime:
– Very mushy consistency throughout
– Brown or black flesh
– Discoloration or mold on surface
– Rancid smell
– Extremely lightweight for size
– Dry, stringy flesh inside
– Severely bruised or damaged skin
A spoiled avocado is not necessarily unsafe, but the flavor and texture degrade. At a certain point of decay, it’s better to be safe than sorry and toss it.
Avocados are a tasty superfood, but once cut their richness turns quickly to ruin. With some care in storage and preparation though, you can prolong the life of leftover avocado. Just remember to limit air exposure, slow oxidation with acid, keep chilled, and use strategically. Follow the wisdom of the ages – waste not, want not – and get the most out of your avocados.