An avocado does not start to ripen until picked from the tree, but the process happens rather quickly afterward.
Once ripe, you have a narrow window of time — generally a few days — before the fruit starts to spoil.
You may wonder how to determine when an avocado is rotten and no longer good to eat.
Here are 5 signs that an avocado is ripe or has gone bad.
Mold on avocados is generally white or gray and looks fuzzy. Don’t sniff it, as you may inhale mold spores and trigger breathing problems if you’re allergic to it.
Avoid buying avocados with mold on the exterior, as it can penetrate the flesh and cause decay.
If you cut open an avocado and see mold, discard the entire fruit. Though you may only see mold in one area, it can easily spread through the soft flesh. Don’t attempt to salvage it.
Off flavor or odor
Ripe avocados have a pleasant, slightly sweet aroma and somewhat nutty flavor. As the fruit spoils, it may develop an abnormal taste and odor.
If it has a sour taste or smell, it may have bacterial spoilage and should be discarded.
The flavor of spoiled avocados can vary, but it’s usually easy to tell upon taste whether they’re past their prime.
Through smell, taste, touch, and visual inspection, you can determine whether an avocado has spoiled.
Dark, stringy flesh
Once you cut an avocado, it’s easier to determine whether it has gone bad. Of course, this is only an option after you buy it.
An avocado that’s ready to eat has light green flesh. A rotten one has brown or black spots throughout the flesh.
Yet, an isolated brown spot may be due to bruising, rather than widespread spoilage, and can be cut away.
Another possible sign of rotting is dark streaks in the flesh.
Still, some avocados — particularly those harvested from young trees — may have dark streaks even though they are not rotten. If the fruit looks good otherwise and doesn’t taste off, it’s fine to eat.
Similarly, the texture of an avocado may be stringy when it has spoiled. Still, if there are no other signs of rot, it’s not necessarily bad. A fibrous texture can also be attributed to growing conditions.
Some types of avocados undergo distinct skin color changes as they ripen — particularly the Hass variety, which accounts for about 80% of avocados eaten worldwide.
When not fully ripe, Hass avocados have bumpy, bright green skin. It progresses to dark green or brown when ripe. If the skin looks nearly black and the fruit feels mushy upon touch, it’s overripe and likely spoiled.
Other varieties, including the zutano and fuerte, retain their green skin color regardless of how ripe they are. Use other methods — such as feeling for firmness — to determine if they have gone bad.
Overly soft with dented skin
When checking for ripeness, use the palm of your hand to gently squeeze the avocado. Don’t press the fruit with your fingers, as this may bruise the flesh.
If the avocado is very firm and doesn’t give at all, it’s underripe. If it gives slightly, it’s likely ripe and ready to eat.
However, if squeezing leaves a small indentation, it may be too ripe for slicing and will work better mashed.
The fruit is overripe and probably spoiled if pressing leaves a large dent and the fruit feels mushy.
Additionally, if an avocado already has a sunken area or looks deflated before you squeeze, it’s likely past its prime