An overripe avocado can be healthy to eat, but very unpleasant. You can prevent disappointment by understanding what to look out for. An avocado doesn’t ripen until picked from the tree, but the process happens rather quickly afterward. When it is ripe, you have only 2-3 days before the fruit spoils. You may wonder how to determine when an avocado is rotten and no longer good to eat. Here are 5 ways to tell if an avocado has gone bad.
Examining the Avocado
Use your hand palm to gently squeeze the avocado when checking for ripeness. Do not press the fruit with your fingers, as this may bruise the flesh. If the avocado is very solid and is not giving at all, it’s under-ripe.
When it slightly soft, it is typically ready to eat. When squeezing leaves a tiny indentation, however, it may be too ripe for slicing and will work better mashed.
If the pressing leaves a big dent, and the fruit feels mushy, the fruit is overripe and possibly spoiled. When an avocado has a sunken region already or appears deflated before you pinch, it’s probably rotted.
If you squeeze an avocado gently in your hand’s palm, and it maintains a large indentation where you squeezed, the fruit is overripe and potentially spoiled.
Dark Grey Stringy Flesh
After you’ve sliced an avocado, it’s easier to tell whether it’s gone wrong. This is only an option after you purchase it. A ready-to-eat avocado has bright green flesh color. A rotten one has brown or black spots all over the flesh.
However, grim lines in the flesh are another potential indicator of rotting. Some avocados, especially those harvested from young trees, may have black streaks despite not being rotted. If otherwise the fruit looks good, and doesn’t taste bad, eating is perfect.
Similarly, when an avocado has gone bad, the texture can be stringy. Even it’s not bad if there are no other decay signs. The growing conditions may also refer to a fibrous texture.
A rotten avocado’s flesh has black spots, and a stringy texture which tastes bad. However, bruising may be because of an isolated, discolored area.
Check the Color
Some types of avocados undergo various changes in the skin color as they ripen, especially the Hass variety, which accounts for around 80 percent of avocados eaten worldwide.
Hass avocados has bumpy, luminous green skin when not fully ripe. When it is ripened it progresses to dark green or brown color. If the skin looks almost black, and the fruit feels mushy on contact, it’s over-ripened and probably gone bad.
Many varieties such as zutano maintain their color of green flesh, no matter how ripe they are. Use other methods like feeling firm, for example, to determine if they are rotten.
Hass, the most prevalent variety of avocado, develops blackened skin when rotting. Other varieties however keep their green color when they are overripe.
Poor Taste or Odor
Ripe avocados have a slightly spicy, good fragrance and very nutty taste. It may develop an unpleasant taste as the fruit spoils. It could have bacterial spoilage if it has a poor taste or smell, discard it.
A chemical smell and taste may mean it’s rancid. This can occur if the oxygen or microbes harm or break down the unsaturated fat of the fruit.
Rancidity can create potentially toxic compounds. If you think it is rancid, don’t eat it.
Spoiled avocados’ flavor may vary, but it is usually easy to tell on taste whether they’re past their prime. You can decide by smell, taste, touch and visual inspection whether an avocado has spoiled.
A poor taste or smell, and a rancid odor and chemical flavour, means an avocado is rotten and you can discard.
Avocado mold is usually white or gray and looks fluffy. Don’t sniff it, because if you are allergic to it, you can inhale mold spores and trigger breathing problems.
Do not buy avocados with mold on the exterior, as they can enter the flesh and cause decay. If you cut an avocado open and see mold then discard the whole fruit. Though you may see mold only in one area, it can spread easily through the soft flesh.
Mold is a simple sign that it spoils an avocado. You should discard the entire fruit, because the mold may spread through the soft flesh but may not be visible.
Safety of Overripe Avocados
Whether consuming an overripe avocado is healthy depends on the level of decay and how far it has progressed. Since ripening begins from the stem end and progresses downwards, if the flesh has just started turning brown, you may use part of the overripe fruit.
But don’t eat an avocado’s discolored areas, because that won’t taste good. Remember, don’t save some portion of a rancid, sour-smelling, or moldy avocado because it can make you sick.
Remember the flesh browns because of oxygen exposure after you cut an avocado. This process is normal, similar to how apples turn brown when sliced. Skim off the discolored layer and eat the rest, if you find it unpleasant.
Brush the lemon juice on the flesh to reduce the browning of cut areas and refrigerate in a sealed container. If you keep a close eye on avocados, you can minimize waste and refrigerate them to slow down the ripening cycle.
Avocados that are too soft but unspoiled are safe to eat, and can make guacamole, smoothies, salad dressing and baked foods.
You can eat overripe avocados if they taste fine, but be sure to avoid rotten ones. The more decay an avocado has, the more likely it will be rancid, which may make you sick.
The Bottom Line
If avocados are rotted, they look mushy and develop rancidity or a sour smell. Carefully inspect avocados at the store and closely monitor them at home, so you can avoid the need to discard them.
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Challenges of utilizing healthy fats in foods. Adv Nutr. 2015.
Enzymatic browning in avocado (Persea americana) revisited: History, advances, and future perspectives. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017.
United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.