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Whether you know them as alligator pears, butter fruit, or something else entirely, there is no other fruit quite like the avocado. With their heart-healthy benefits— a good source of folate, potassium, and monosaturated fats —and creamy texture, it’s no wonder they have become something of a superfood fad over the last few years. Alas, the words “nothing gold can stay” rings especially true for this tasty food, as avocados have an unusually short shelf life— only 3-4 weeks.
Freezing an avocado, with or without the skin, ruins the texture and color. Avocados contain a large amount of water and so freezing the fruit forms sharp ice crystals within it that burst the fruit’s cells. This takes the smooth texture of the avocado and makes it incredibly mushy.
So should you ever freeze an avocado? How should you store them? Read on to find out all you need to know about this fruit.
What are frozen avocados good for?
Though freezing an avocado destroys its natural texture, avocado cubes or slices are common habitants of the frozen fruit section at plenty of grocery stores. Why is that? Though regular, unfrozen avocados brown quickly once cut, the frozen fruit maintains its bright color long after being peeled and frosted. Don’t let its vibrant green fool you though: once thawed, frozen avocado slices will likely brown even faster than usual, for the same reason that its texture is now slimy and watery. (source)
While some people say that texture is everything, an avocado that has been frozen still has its uses. Though frozen avocado slices may not be useful on sandwiches or in guacamole, there are still plenty of ways to consume this super— though now mushy— food. Recipes, where the avocado’s texture is hidden or irrelevant, are the best ways to utilize this produce. Pureeing is a great way to accomplish this. Blending frozen avocado into a salad dressing, pudding, or even baby food are all good options for this. Frozen avocados can also be great in smoothies, taking the place of ice or other frozen substance and simultaneously concealing their texture.
Avocados retain their dense nutrients— with the mild exception of having slightly fewer water-soluble vitamins such as B6— when frozen and can still be considered useful additions to your freezer. Just be sure to keep in mind that what regular avocados are good for, frozen avocados may not be able to accomplish. (source).
How to freeze avocados yourself
Though there are no noticeable benefits or harms to be had in freezing an avocado with its skin intact, it may be wise to consider at the very least cutting the fruit in half before freezing. While regular avocados slice smoothly and easily, the same cannot be said of their frozen counterpart, especially once thawed, as the new, mushier texture will make it even more difficult to do neatly. Peeling a frozen avocado is neither easy nor fun, so keep that in mind when preparing the fruit.
The first step in at-home freezing is to cut and peel the avocado. For this, it is best to use fruits that are just beginning to ripen and are still firm to touch. Slicing the avocado into quarters is the best way to separate the meat from the skin, as it can be easily peeled away from the green insides. Once the pit and peel have been removed, cut the avocado into whatever sized pieces work best for you— cubes, slices, or just plain quarters are all common, as their smaller shape makes for easier storage in the freezer.
Second, comes the first freeze. It is important to freeze the avocado pieces twice, first individually, then together in a bag or container, so they do not stick together. Even the biggest avocado fan ever may not appreciate having to chisel frozen shards of super-fruit off a giant block of stuck-together slices. Place the pieces of avocado on a tray lined with parchment or freezer paper where they are not touching and let them chill out for 1-2 hours.
Once the slices or cubes are sold and hard to the touch, place them all together in a freezer bag and seal it up, removing as much air from the bag as possible. They are now ready for long term freezer storage! Remember, though the freezer does extend an avocado’s shelf-life, they will still last a relatively short time compared to other freezer foods, remaining fresh for only 3-4 months. (source).
How to tell if an avocado is ripe?
Avocados can be tricky little fruits, sometimes hard as a rock one day and overripe the next. The first thing to realize about storing avocados is that avocados have what is called a high metabolic rate, which gives them a very short shelf life, lasting only around a month once picked from the tree. Avocados, like bananas, apples, and kiwis, naturally produce ethylene gas as they ripen, which speeds the ripening process even more.
This fact can be used in your favor if you are in dire need of avocado and only have underripe ones sitting on the counter. Placing an avocado near, or more extremely in a sealed container with, other ethylene gas-producing fruits will quicken the ripening process exponentially. Ripening is also best done at room temperature.
However, this useful food science fact can also be to your detriment, especially if you don’t know to separate the fruits that produce this ripening agent. Left on the counter in the open air, avocados can take up to 5 days to ripen. Stored with other fruits they can go from hard to squishy overnight.
To determine the ripeness of an avocado, hold it in your hand and gently squeeze it with your palm, not your fingertips. We merely want to assess the feel of it, and using fingertips can cause unnecessary bruising. The ideal firmness is for the fruit to be soft but not overly squishy. If you are new to this fruit, it may be confusing to know just what level of giving is “too squishy.” Luckily, that is not the only way to assess freshness.
Next check the stem at the top of the fruit. If the stem comes off easily and the fruit visible underneath it is green (it will be much brighter than the green of the fruit’s skin), congratulations! That’s a good avocado, ready to eat. This rule of thumb goes the same for its two counterparts, overripe and underripe. If the stem comes off easily and the fruit underneath is brown, cut it open and check the ripeness of the fruit inside. Sometimes there are still good parts of even an overripe avocado. If the fruit is mostly green on the inside, it’s good for eating. Just scrape off any pieces that are browner and continue on as normal. If the stem is stubborn and doesn’t want to come off, that is a good sign to give it a few more days to soften up.
How to best store avocados?
Most nutritionists and chefs recommend storing avocados the same way: allowed to ripen on their own at room temperature, out of any storage bags, and away from other fruits. That being said, this is not the only way avocados can be stored, especially if you are looking to either speed up or slow down the ripening process.
As discussed above, avocados can be encouraged to ripen faster when stored in a bag with other ethylene gas-producing fruits like bananas, or even just other avocados. However, what should you do when you wish to keep your produce fresh for longer than just a few days?
A good way to do keep avocados fresh for longer is in the refrigerator. Storing avocados— sliced, mashed, or whole— in the fridge can help keep them fresh for up to 2 weeks! To store ripe avocados, place them in an airtight container or the produce drawer in the refrigerator. Unripe avocados can also be stored this way, but allowing them to ripen completely in the fridge messes with their texture slightly, though not to the degree that freezing does.
Storing avocados that have been cut or mashed is a slightly different story, as you now have the added task of keeping the flesh from browning as well as preserving it. One good way to keep up freshness is to leave the avocado skin and pit intact. The pit and skin naturally obstruct oxygen from the surface of the fruit, keeping the parts that are unexposed even fresher. Cover the areas which are exposed in plastic wrap as tightly as you can, and store it in the fridge.
Another technique is to store the avocado in a container with sliced onion. The gases that the onion produces will also slow the browning process, keeping the avocado green for at least two days. It is important to note with this method that the avocado is likely to absorb some of the onion flavors, so just be careful if you intend to use the fruit for something that onions wouldn’t be welcome in.
For avocado that has been peeled and sliced already, the best way to keep it fresh is to mash the avocado (at least a little bit) and spread it evenly in an airtight container. Instead of closing the package with a lid, spread plastic or cling wrap directly on the top of the fruit so that it is protected from as much air as possible. This method can also be helped by adding some acid like lime or lemon juice on top of the avocado before covering it with plastic wrap, aiding in its preservation.
Ineffective storage methods
Like anything involved with cooking, there are many tips and tricks (or old wives’ tales if you ask some) for keeping avocados fresh that does not work. Some of these can be effective if taken to the extreme, but largely they are not helpful in keeping your produce fresh.
One such myth is that coating the cut edge of avocado in olive oil before storing it will prevent it from browning. While this may work for a short time, it is not a good idea to use for any time longer than a full day, and even then, prepare to use a lot more olive oil than anticipated.
Another misconception is that placing the pit in with mashed avocado or guacamole keeps the whole thing fresher for longer. While this reasoning sounds like it may hold some weight, the truth is that it is no more effective than covering the fruit in plastic wrap. The only part of the fruit that will benefit from the pit’s presence is the fruit directly underneath it, where it blocks the air from making contact. In fact, adding the pit to the mashed fruit may actually increase the likelihood of browning, as the irregular surface is harder to cover efficiently in plastic.
A less common tip for keeping avocados fresh is to “blanch and shock” the fruit, which involves placing it in boiling water for 10 seconds then removing it to iced water for 30 seconds. The blanch and shock method is used more commonly for peeling tomatoes and peaches and is not particularly useful to keeping sliced avocado fresh. If anything, this method will just mess with the texture of the avocado. Not particularly helpful at all. (source).
Another myth has to do with the ripening trick mentioned earlier, where sealing an avocado in a bag by itself traps the ethylene gas and speeds up the process. Some people suggest coating the avocado in flour or rice to help trap the gases in and to make the process closer in speed to placing the avocado with a banana or apple, say. Unfortunately, this tip is more fallacy than fact. The only thing you’ll accomplish in following this tradition is wasting flour or rice— not helpful at all. (source).
Though they don’t last long, avocados are one of nature’s greatest gifts to the kitchen. Whenever and however you plan to eat one, just keep in mind that some good things won’t last forever. It is best to enjoy avocados as soon as you can after purchasing them!