Avocados have gained enormous popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. The versatile fruit is very healthy, filled with fiber and essential fatty acids, and you can eat avocado for any meal. But what do you do if you come upon a bitter-tasting avocado? Keep reading to find out.
Why Is My Avocado Bitter? — The Short Answer
Avocados typically have a mild flavor, which is one of the reasons why they are so versatile. A bitter-tasting avocado means one of two things, either the avocado was not at its peak ripeness (either not ripe enough or too ripe), or the avocado was overcooked, leading to bitterness.
Is It Dangerous to Eat a Bitter Avocado?
No. Eating an avocado that tastes slightly bitter because it is unripe or overcooked is not dangerous to your health. However, the chances are that you won’t want to continue eating a bitter avocado because it will not taste very nice.
Additionally, overeating unripe avocado may cause your stomach to get upset due to the amount of dietary fiber in the fruit.
On the other hand, if your avocado tastes bitter because it is overripe (or has gone bad), you may want to consider just tossing it out rather than eating it. A slightly overripe avocado should be fine, but once an avocado gets too overripe, it starts to become rancid and grow mold. These two things could make you sick.
When I first started buying and eating avocados, I wasn’t sure how to select the best fruit. One day, I inadvertently purchased several underripe avocados for homemade guacamole. When I got home and attempted to cut them open, I discovered I could not use them for guacamole because they hadn’t fully ripened.
How Can I Tell if My Avacado is Ripe?
One main reason avocado tastes bitter is because the fruit has not reached the proper ripeness to eat. If your avocado has not fully ripened (or has ripened too much), there is not much you can do to fix the situation easily. An unripe avocado takes a bit of work to ripen once cut, and an overripe one generally cannot be salvaged.
Therefore, when shopping for avocados, make sure that you choose ones that are not too firm and not too soft.
As a general rule, you want to leave a small “dent” on the fruit when you press it gently with your finger. If your finger does not leave a “dent,” the avocado is not yet ready to eat. On the other hand, if your finger completely presses through the dark skin, the avocado is too soft and overripe.
As far as the skin color goes, an unripe avocado will have bright green-colored skin. As the avocado ripens, the skin darkens to a darker green. Once it has passed its peak ripeness, the skin looks black.
When it comes to the taste, an unripe avocado will taste bitter. A properly ripe avocado will taste mild, buttery and a little nutty. An overripe or spoiled avocado will taste bitter, sour, or rancid.
What if My Avocados Don’t Seem to Ripen?
If you’ve bought a bunch of avocados, and they just will not ripen out on the countertop, it could have to do with either the avocado being picked too early or that you have improperly stored it.
Avocados Picked Too Early
Avocados picked too early from the tree will not have the required oil content that the fruit needs to ripen fully. California-grown avocados must have a minimum of 8% oil before being harvested. However, occasionally some with lesser oil content will get through the batch.
Unfortunately, if your avocado does not ripen because of the oil content, there is no way for you to remedy the situation. They will most likely never soften properly or become edible but remain tough, rubbery, and bitter-tasting.
Avocados are Stored Incorrectly
Avocados also will not properly ripen if they are stored incorrectly. Storing them in temperatures that are too cool will slow down the ripening process.
Many avocados remain in cold storage from when they are picked up until they are transported to the supermarket. However, once you have purchased the avocados, you should leave them at room temperature to ripen.
Storing unripe avocados in the refrigerator could permanently damage the natural ripening process, and they may never fully ripen. On the other hand, if you purchase avocados already at peak ripeness, putting them in the refrigerator will extend their longevity.
Helping Avocado Ripen
If your avocados do not ripen as they should, you can try to stick them in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana. The two fruits will release a gas called ethylene, which acts like a ripening hormone.
As the gas remains in the bag with the fruit, it will help speed up the ripening process.
What if I’ve Cut into an Unripe Avocado — Can I Salvage It?
With the cost of avocados these days, the thought of throwing one out seems painful. But what if, like me, you started to make guacamole and discovered that you cut into an unripe avocado?
Fortunately, although it is not easy or completely foolproof, you can try to salvage the avocado by allowing it to ripen more. Unfortunately, it will ruin your guacamole plans for that night, but in a day or so, you should be able to enjoy the fruit in its optimally ripened state.
To ripen the avocado that you’ve cut, first, leave the pit in the center of the avocado. Then, take the two halves of the avocado and place them back snugly together. Next, use twine, tape, or elastic to secure the two halves together so they cannot break apart.
After securing the two halves, double-check that they are resealed tightly. You don’t want air, dust, moisture, or fruit flies to get into the fruit’s flesh. If it seems sealed well, put the avocado on the countertop and check it every 12 hours or so for ripeness. It should ripen within a day or so.
Can I Fix the Taste of an Unripe Avocado and Eat It?
Suppose you don’t have the patience to put your avocado snugly back together and wait another day or so for it to ripen. In that case, you can go ahead and eat the avocado by taking care to prepare it in a way that will remove the bitterness.
Although cooking a perfectly ripe avocado will cause it to taste bitter, baking an unripe one will help make it edible. A favorite preparation method that I learned recently is to make “Avocado fries.” I simply slice the avocado lengthwise, dip the slices in an egg wash and breadcrumbs and then bake them in the oven until they are crispy.
I’ve also “speed-ripened” the avocado in the microwave. First, I season the halves with lemon juice and salt, then put them on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap. I poke a few little holes in the plastic wrap for ventilation and microwave them for about 2 minutes.
This microwave method will soften the avocado enough to make it edible. However, it will not be the best choice for making guacamole or eating fresh on a salad. In this case, I would mash it over some toast with a soft-boiled egg or make it into an avocado patty and fry it.
What if I’ve Already Made Guacamole with Unripe Avocados?
If you’ve somehow managed to mash up unripe avocados enough to make them into guacamole, you will find that it does not taste very good. It will most likely have a watery texture and an unpleasant bitter taste.
The best way to fix this situation would be to add some perfectly ripe avocados to balance out the texture and the taste. However, if you do not have any avocados on hand that are ripe enough, you won’t have that solution.
In that case, you can try to add a few extra ingredients to your guacamole to try and adjust the taste and texture. If you have sour cream at home, you can try to add that little by little and blend it with the avocados until the texture and taste improve.
You can also try to add a bit of sugar and even a touch of vanilla extract. Start with the sugar, adding a little bit at a time until the taste improves. If you’ve added a bit of sugar and still taste the bitterness, try also adding a dash of vanilla extract to mask it.
What if I’ve Cut into an Overripe Avocado—Can I Salvage It?
If your avocado is overly ripened but not yet to the point that it has spoiled, you can utilize it for guacamole, salad dressing, smoothies, or baked goods. You will know if the avocado is OK for this purpose if it’s just starting to turn brown inside but otherwise looks, smells, and tastes normal.
However, if your avocado has ripened so much that it has started to spoil, you should discard it for safety reasons and avoid getting sick.
You will know if your avocado is too ripe to eat if it is overly brown/dark colored inside, it’s extremely mushy when squeezed, doesn’t smell great, or is sour. When in doubt, you should treat it as a spoiled avocado and throw it away.
How Can I Avoid Overcooking an Avocado?
Avocados taste best when eaten raw, and in most cases, the best way to prepare a perfectly ripe avocado is to do very little to it at all.
If your avocado seems properly ripe when you cut into it but tastes bitter after you’ve used it in a recipe that required cooking, the culprit could be that you overcooked the fruit. Cooking avocado leads to the fruit tasting quite bitter.
If your recipe calls for adding avocado to a cooked dish, make sure that you wait to add it until the last minute (right before the dish is ready to be served). Doing so will help you avoid making it taste bitter by overcooking it.