Ripe avocado on toast

You've got the perfect recipe planned for dinner, only to find that your avocados are rock hard and nowhere near ready for mashing, dicing or slicing. Instantly turning an unripe avocado into the creamy, delicious fruit perfect for a batch of guacamole is a tall order, and may not be possible. But a few hacks can help you hasten the ripening process so tacos, guacamole and maybe a margarita for the chef is possible in a day or two.

1. Brown Paper Bag

If you have a day or two before you need your avocado, but can't wait the five to seven days it might take the fruit to soften on its own, a brown paper bag offers the perfect solution. Avocado puts off a compound known as ethylene gas, which ultimately causes it to ripen. Concentrate this gas by placing your avocado in a brown paper bag, and fold down the top for a loose close.

To encourage the production of even more ethylene gas, put a whole apple or banana in the bag with the avocados.

2. Ripen in an Hour or Less

The avocado may taste a little "different" than when naturally ripened, but baking a rock-hard specimen hastens the softening process. Wrap your avocado in foil and place it in a 200° F oven. The heat drives the avocado to speed up the release of the ethylene gas that brings about ripening. While semi-soft avocados may need just 10 minutes or so to become usable, you may need to wait an hour for harder fruits to reach the perfect softness.

3. Instantly Soft Avocados

This method doesn't really ripen the avocados, but it makes them soft enough for use in guacamole or for topping a sandwich. Peel the hard avocados; remove the pits, and place the avocados in a blender with 1 cup of peas—use fresh or frozen and thawed. Pulse the mixture to create a smooth blend. The peas help make the mixture creamy without dramatically altering the taste of the avocados.