Solutions For Browning Avocados

Hi Will,

I have a salad issue … it’s a beautiful salad with great stuff in it, but it just gets too big. For example, using only half an avocado, makes me mental because I can’t find a way to keep the other half from turning brown. 


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Dear Mental,

Avocados contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. When this enzyme contacts oxygen in the air, the avocados turn brown. You can’t get rid of the enzyme, and you can’t really block it either. So the solution for avocado sanity here is to either limit oxygen exposure or slow the activity of the enzyme.

First of all, there are some “common sense” notions that are uncommonly unhelpful. For example, I’ve heard that citrus from something like a lemon helps retard browning. The acid in the lemon juice actually does nothing to stop the marriage between oxidase and oxygen. That’s why you still have to deal with their offspring (a brown avocado).

Another idea is to leave the pit in. This is a partial solution that is as effective as the pit is large. In other words, the pit holds no magic preventative powers to preserve pristine avocado-ness. The reason it works partially is only because it partially covers the flesh of the fruit (that which lies directly underneath the pit. All the other exposed portions are still going to go brown. 

If you can’t prevent the chemical reaction grossing out your guacamole, you can at least slow it down. You would simply do this with cold. Immediately after cutting, place into the refrigerator. This will, at the very least buy you another day before it starts to turn.

I have read one solution that is very interesting: cutting the avocado, slicing some onion, and putting both of them into an airtight container. For me, I would then put this into the refrigerator as well. I’m actually heading home for lunch today and will give this a shot, take pics, and let you know how it comes out!!

In the interim, just know that the flavor of the avocado is unimpaired by the oxidase reaction. So, even though it may look like 3 miles of bad road, it still tastes wonderful!

Hope this helps!


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