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Here’s How to Tell If an Avocado Is Bad

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Avocados are slow to ripen and quick to spoil. Here’s how long they keep and how to know if they’ve gone bad.

We’ve all been there — you bought a few avocados with the intention of using them for your next meal prep, but life got in the way and now they’ve been sitting in your kitchen for longer than you intended.

Now, you’re looking at the overripe avocados in your hand, holding your phone and wondering: how to tell if an avocado is bad?

Ways to Tell Your Avocado Has Gone Bad

In short, the signs of a bad avocado include blackened skin and overly soft or mushy flesh. The avocado will also be brown inside, have a sour smell, a bitter taste, and an unpleasant mouthfeel.

The Avocado Has Blackened Skin

An illustration of a ripe and an overripe avocado, compared side by side.

Take a close look at the color of the avocado’s outer skin to assess its ripeness and freshness.

Unripe avocados typically have bright green skin. As they ripen, their skin turns dark green. However, if you see brown or black spots or if the skin is completely blackened, it’s a sign that the avocado is overripe and may have gone bad.

The Avocado Feels Overly Soft in Your Hand

Hold the avocado in your palm and gently squeeze it with the base of your thumb and fingers. Be careful to not press too hard, as this can bruise the fruit.

Unripe avocados are usually hard and difficult to squeeze. Ripe avocados have a soft flesh that yields to gentle pressure, but still holds its shape. However, if the avocado flesh feels overly soft, mushy, or sunken, it may have already gone bad and should not be eaten.

The Avocado Has Dark Brown, Stringy Flesh

An illustration of the flesh of a ripe and an overripe avocado, compared side by side.

Can’t make up your mind if the avocado is ripe or overripe?

Cut it in half and inspect its flesh.

As you cut the fruit with your knife, it should feel soft and creamy. If the flesh feels overly sunken, mushy, or hollow, it may have gone bad.

After cutting the avocado in half, take a closer look at the flesh to check its freshness. An unripe avocado has light green flesh. As the avocado ripens, a natural process called enzymatic browning kicks in, causing some discoloration in the flesh.

Put simply, you can eat brown avocado if it only has a few brown spots or brown patches on the inside. That said, if the avocado’s flesh is dark brown and fall-apart mushy, it may indicate that the fruit is override and shouldn’t be eaten.

The Avocado Smells or Tastes Bad

Smell and flavor are the last and final indicators that you may be dealing with spoiled avocados — and that, consequently, the avocados may no longer be safe to eat.

A fresh and ripe avocado should have a creamy and buttery texture, with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. It should taste delicious and melt in your mouth.

On the other hand, an overripe avocado may have a bad smell, bitter taste, and a mushy, unpalatable texture that makes it unpleasant to eat.

Can Spoiled Avocados Make You Sick?

If you suspect that an avocado has gone bad, don’t eat it. You may ingest disease-causing bacteria, mold spores, or fungi that can cause food poisoning.

Although the bacteria that spoil our food and make it smelly and mushy are generally harmless, spoiled food can also be overgrown with disease-causing bacteria and the toxins that they produce — avocados are no exception.

This is particularly true if the avocado has been bruised and the pathogenic bacteria that normally reside on the surface, such as Listeria monocytogenes, have found their way inside the fruit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people in the US suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and those who are sick or recovering from an illness are most at risk.

To minimize your risk of food poisoning, err on the side of caution and do not eat bad avocado.

How to Store Avocados

If you bring home unripe avocados from the grocery store, store them in the kitchen at room temperature until they ripen.

It usually takes about 4 to 5 days for the avocados to ripen fully. Putting the avocados inside a brown paper bag can help reduce the time required for ripening to 2-3 days.

Did you know? You can ripen avocados quickly by zapping them in the microwave for 30 seconds on high power. To find out more, check out “Can You Ripen Avocados in the Microwave?”

Once the avocados are ripe, you can transfer them to the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process and extend their shelf life. Properly refrigerated, ripe avocados will keep for 3 to 5 days.

If you bring home ripe avocados from the store, it’s best to store them immediately in the refrigerator to prevent them from becoming too ripe, too quickly.

How Quickly Do Avocados Ripen?

Storage MethodRipening Time
In a fruit bowl in the kitchen4 to 5 days
In a brown paper bag in the kitchen2 to 3 days
On high power in the microwave oven30 seconds

The time it takes for an avocado to ripen can vary depending on the storage method and temperature.

As a general rule, unripe, fresh avocados will ripen in 4 to 5 days when left out in a fruit bowl in the kitchen. The ripening process can be accelerated to 2 to 3 days by placing the avocados in a brown paper bag, and 30 seconds by zapping them on high power in the microwave.

How Long Do Avocados Last?

Storage MethodShelf Life
Whole ripe avocados, refrigerated3 to 5 days
Cut avocados, halved or pulp3 to 4 days
Frozen avocados4 to 6 months

How long do avocados last once you’ve brought them home from the grocery store?

The answer depends on various factors such as the ripeness of the fruit, how it’s stored, and the temperature.

Whole ripe avocados will usually keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Cut avocados, on the other hand, will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.1USDA (2020, July 31). Leftovers and Food Safety. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://fsis-prod.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/leftovers-and-food-safety

Lime juice or lemon juice can help slow down the browning in cut avocados, which occurs due to the oxidation of enzymes in the flesh when exposed to air.

By wrapping the avocado pulp in plastic wrap, you create a barrier that reduces the amount of oxygen that comes into contact with the avocado. This can help extend the life of your cut avocados in the fridge and keep them fresh for longer than otherwise.

Avocados frozen at 0°F (-18°C) will always be safe to eat.2(2023, January 18). Are You Storing Food Safely? US Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/are-you-storing-food-safely However, they will only keep their best quality for 4 to 6 months before their aroma, flavor, and texture start to slowly but surely degrade.

Bottom Line

An avocado has gone bad if it has blackened skin, soft flesh to the point of mushiness, and an excess of brown spots and dark, streaky patches on the inside.

A bad avocado not only tastes bitter and has an unpleasant mouthfeel, but may also be overgrown with disease-causing bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

While we all have a duty to minimize food waste as much as possible, if you do come across a rotten avocado, dispose of it in a composting bin or the garbage can; the risk of food poisoning is simply not worth it.



Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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