Trying to figure out how to pick a perfectly ripe, flavorful and sweet mango? You've come to the right place!
I'm an absolute mango addict. Mangoes are the number one most eaten fruit in my house, and they're my absolute favorite. When a mango is good it's goooooood.
But when a mango is underripe it can be hard and sour. Or worse, when it's overripe it can taste stale. And unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to figure out where a mango is in terms of ripeness and freshness.
But I'm here to help! Read through this step by step guide to find out everything you need to know about how to pick a ripe mango.
The Ripening Process
Mangoes are generally harvested from the mango trees before they're fully ripe. Because mangoes are tropical fruits they often have to undergo a long journey between the tree and your grocery store. The trip should give them some time to ripen!
However timing doesn't always work out as planned, and many mangoes are still pretty underripe when they get to the place where they're being sold. Because of this, ripening is often sped up by application of ethylene gas. Have you ever stuck a bunch of bananas in a brown paper bag to get them to ripen? This process also uses ethylene gas, which is given off by the bananas and trapped in the bag.
In a perfect world this process would result in all perfectly ripe mangoes for sale at the store, but we don't live in a perfect world. Below I'll talk about some indicators of ripeness in mangoes.
The first thing to consider in order to determine if your mango has reached peak ripeness is it's appearance.
Ripe mangoes are generally vibrant in color, but not too dark. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking just because a mango is ripe simply because it's intensely colored and shows some orange or pink spots. This isn't true!
One thing to note about our discussion regarding appearance is that there are many mango varieties, each displaying different colors. They don't all show the same signs of ripeness. For simplicity I've split the discussion between green mangoes, such as Keitt, Kent and Tommy Atkins, and orange/yellow mangoes known as Ataulfo mangoes.
The Keitt mango above has a nice, vibrant green color going on, with a pink spot. It's not ripe though, which is indicated by the fact that the color is quite dark. By the time this mango ripens it will have lightened in color.
You may also be able to tell by looking at the underripe mango above that it's pretty firm. An unripe mango will generally have a smooth outer surface with very few wrinkles or blemishes.
The mango in the photo above is an Ataulfo mango. This variety will normally have green or pale yellow skin when it's underripe.
The mango above is just about ripe. You can see that the colors are still vivid, but it's a touch lighter than the first underripe mango we saw. The skin is a bit more matte than with the underripe mango, and you can see the start of some shallow wrinkles forming, which indicates that the flesh has softened up a bit.
This photo shows a ripe Ataulfo mango. It's turned to a brighter orange color and there's a bit of wrinkling, indicating that it's ripe.
A mango's bright colors will begin to fade as it passes peak ripeness, and it will eventually start to turn brown all over. Overripe green mangoes often appear dull and may show lots of wrinkles. Overripe Ataulfo mangoes tend to be dark orange with some brown and lots of wrinkles.
Tip: Watch out for black spots like the one shown below. These can appear on a mango at any stage of ripeness. These spots are often found near the stem end of a mango, but can appear anywhere and will indicate a small area where the mango has started to rot. A small black spot like the one below can be cut around, and the majority of the fruit will usually be fine. But these spots expand fast, so use your mango as soon as possible if you find them!
Smell is another good indicator of ripeness. A ripe mango will have a fruity, sweet aroma that can be pretty strong. I can sometimes catch whiffs of the fruity smell of a ripe mango from all the way across my kitchen!
Unripe mangoes on the other hand have very little, if any fragrance. Overripe fruits can run the gamut far as smell goes: some smell cloyingly sweet, some stale, sour, and some even smell like alcohol due to natural fermentation that takes place as the mango goes bad.
To test a mango's ripeness by feel, hold it in your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. I like to apply gentle pressure to the skin with my thumb. Whatever you do, don't press too hard or you might dent the mango!
A firm mango is unripe. An overripe mango will usually feel very squishy. A perfect mango will give slightly.
Tip: Wondering when mango season is? It's basically year round! Because there are so many varieties of mangoes you'll usually be able to find at least one that's readily available year round, although mango availability usually peaks in summer.
Cut the Mango
Unfortunately, this can on occasion the the only way to tell for sure if a mango is ripe. Sometimes a mano will have the perfect look, feel and smell, and you'll cut the mango only to find that it's unripe or overripe. This is why I always buy a few extra mangoes for backup!
Place your mango on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice off a section. A small paring knife works great! The inner flesh of a cut mango should be bright orange. Pale mango flesh usually means it's overipe. Very dark orange or brown flesh like that in the mango below indicates that it's overripe or starting to go bad.
How to Ripen Mangoes
In my experience the best way to ripen a mango is by simply keeping it at room temperature, on the kitchen counter. Mangoes stored in cooler environments will take slightly longer to ripen, whereas warmer conditions can speed up the ripening process.
You can also try storing mangoes in a paper bag to trap ethylene gas. In my experience this will only shorten ripening time very slightly.
Mango Storage Tips
Try to consume your mango as soon as possible once it's ripe, especially in warmer conditions which can quickly turn a ripe mango to an overripe, squishy mess.
If you need to hang on to your ripe mango for a few days, the best way to keep it fresh is by placing it in the refrigerator. The cold temperature can significantly extend it's shelf life. I like to take mine out a few hours before eating, so that it comes up to room temperature, but this is totally a matter of personal preference!
If you've cut your ripe mango, store the mango pieces in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 days.