Papaya really is all that is cracked up to be. This tropical fruit is jam-packed with health benefits and it’s a semi-sweet fruit that can be eaten unripe and ripe for just about every meal of the day.
If you’ve never grabbed a papaya from the store, or off of a tree, it may seem somewhat of a mystery-- it kind of looks like a funky shaped mango (sometimes a gigantic one) with seeds that look like whole peppercorns. And with all of the hype around health...what parts of the fruit should we be eating?
We’ve got you covered. Get ready to fall in love with the next best thing since pomegranate. We’ve broken down how to cut papaya, a little bit of papaya 101, and some of our favorite recipes to jumpstart your newest obsession.
Preparing papaya is very similar to cutting and preparing a cantaloupe or melon. It’ll be juicy once you get going, so make sure to have a sink or wash towel nearby.
Begin by cutting the papaya in half longways.
As soon as you cut the papaya in half, you will see all the little round seeds in the center. Grab a spoon and scoop out the papaya seeds. You can hang on to these to eat or use (see below for more details!)
Similarly to a melon, you can use a melon scoop and begin to scoop out small round pieces of the papaya, or you can use a paring knife and remove the skin of the papaya and cut into slices or chunks. Here, we went with chunks.
The flavor of papaya is really highlighted by some fresh lime juice! This also helps to keep it fresh longer if you want to store in the fridge.
Enjoy some fresh slices, or explore some nifty recipes! We’ve included some ideas below to get your papaya juices flowing.
Yes! Papaya seeds have a peppery flavor and have a ton of health benefits. Papaya seeds are a good source of many important nutrients, including antioxidants, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. Several studies have been conducted on the effects of papaya seeds as well as the seed extract for a variety of medical conditions, and studies have shown that in moderation, papaya seeds have shown an impact on fighting infections and cancer, improve kidney health, and aid in digestive health. Like many natural medicines, studies are still somewhat limited, but the research so far points to: eat more papaya seeds!
One easy way to prepare and use papaya seeds is as a peppercorn alternative. After you scoop out the seeds, simply rinse them off, removing any leftover papaya flesh, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake them in the oven at about 120 degrees for approximately 90 minutes (stirring every 15-20 minutes or so), and crush them up with a mortar and pestle, or grind them, and add to your spice cabinet.
The short answer is no. While the seeds are nutrition packed and delicious, the skin is not so much. Eating papaya skin won’t necessarily hurt you, but it’s not doing you any favors either. Dr. Susan Evans reports that the papaya's skin isn't generally edible. The papaya plant produces latex, and some of this substance can come in contact with the skin during harvest. As such, eating the fruit's skin can lead to stomach irritation. To the compost pile they go!
A papaya is ripe when the skin turns a golden color. Generally papayas are harvested while the skin is still green, and as they begin to ripen, the skin starts to turn a beautiful golden, then a little more red. A ripe papaya’s skin will easily depress with your finger when you touch it.
It’s also important to note that if you are following a recipe that calls for ‘green papaya’ or unripened papaya, you will want to look for papayas that are firm and unripened. These are most often found at asian markets and the flavor is akin to jicama or cucumber.
Native to Central and South America, papayas are currently grown throughout the tropical world. Papayas are harvested throughout the year, though their peak season is early summer and fall. They grow on a palm-tree-like plant and grow up to 26 feet tall. The fruits can be anywhere from 3-20 inches in size and weigh up to 25 pounds!
While papaya seeds are used as a source for nutrition, unripe papayas have a special juice that has been used for quite some time. Unripe papayas contain a milky juice which contains a protein-digesting enzyme called papain, This juice is used in the preparation of various remedies for indigestion and in the manufacture of meat tenderizers.
This recipe is a delectable papaya smoothie. Lassi is a traditional Indian smoothie. You may have seen it on the menu as your favorite Indian spot as a mango lassi, but the papaya lassi will blow your mind.
Papaya Bruschetta is an innovative twist on a classic appetizer. These little toasts are a perfect addition to your next happy hour.
This salsa recipe is a lovely, not-too-sweet fruit salsa that is just waiting to join you for your next taco tuesday! It takes only about 10 minutes to whip up and will stay good in the fridge for up to 3 days when stored well.
A good chutney recipe is essential for every kitchen. You can use this warming papaya raisin chutney on fish, chicken, pork, tempeh, on toast, or as a delicious marinade. This is also a great recipe to can if you end up with a ton of extra papaya, extending the shelf life.
This Green Papaya salad is a staple in Thai cuisine and an awesome option for trying out a new way to use papaya. Green papaya simply means unripened, so you’ll want to make sure you find a good papaya that hasn’t yet begun to turn golden.
For those of us that love a not-too-sweet dessert, this papaya lime sorbet really hits the spot-- and it’s easy on the calories! This is something you will want to make at least a day ahead-- or have some frozen papaya waiting for you to make this a quick last-minute sweet treat.
This vegan and gluten-free entree is packed with nutrients! Papaya Thoran, or Raw Papaya Stirfry, is a classic tropical Indian dish. This stirfry brings together fresh grated green papaya and coconut for a refreshing and healthy entree ready in just about 45 minutes.
Is there any meal of the day that papaya can’t do? Nope. These papaya breakfast boats are a beautiful display of a refreshing and colorful way to start your day.