How to Tell if a Papaya Is Ripe and Ready to Eat

Plus, how to speed up the ripening process with a paper bag and a paring knife.

Papayas sometimes take a backseat to other popular summer fruits, but did you know that the sweet, creamy orange flesh is not only delicious, but incredibly good for you? The luscious fruit is packed with antioxidants and nutrients, and contains enzymes that can help with digestion. Plus, there are options for indulging beyond just fruit salad. You can use papaya in a summery salsa, as the base for refreshing ice pops, or even in some no-churn ice cream.

Buying papayas that are already almost ripe is the ideal scenario, as you can take them home and have them ready to serve after an overnight stay on the counter. But like going to the grocery store for guacamole ingredients and being faced with a tower of rock-hard avocados, sometimes life gets in the way of best-made plans.

Here's everything you need to know to enjoy ripe papaya at home.

When Is a Papaya Ripe?

If you're not familiar with papayas, it can be intimidating to know what to look for at the store, and what to do once you get home. If you're wondering how to tell when your papaya is ripe and ready to devour, the thing to pay attention to is color. The skin of the papaya will slowly start to turn from green to yellow as it begins to ripen. When it's almost fully yellow and a little soft to the touch, your papaya is ready to eat. If you wait too long, the fruit will begin to get overripe and mushy, and the flesh will be bland-tasting and mealy.

ripe papaya
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How to Ripen a Papaya in Two or Three Days

You can, of course, just let your papaya ripen naturally on the counter at room temperature. But if you're in a rush to use the fruit for a specific recipe, or just can't wait to dive in to the creamy, orange flesh, you have options. The best method is similar to ripening other fruit and requires only one piece of equipment: a paper bag. Simply placing your papaya into a paper bag and folding or rolling closed will ripen the fruit within two to three days, depending on how green it was to begin with.

If you want to take it up a notch, add an ethylene-producing fruit like an apple or ripe banana to the bag to speed up the ripening process by a day.

How to Ripen a Papaya Even Faster

In a super hurry? Here's where the papaya-specific instructions come in handy. If you have green papayas on hand that you need to use ASAP, get out your paring knife in addition to the paper bag. Carefully score the skin of the papaya with the knife vertically along the fruit. Score lightly and make sure to not pierce the flesh of the fruit, just the skin, or you run the risk of your papaya rotting before it's even ripe enough to eat. The scoring helps the papaya release ethylene and ripen more quickly, and leads to an exceptionally sweet fruit. If you use this method, you don't need to put another piece of fruit in the bag as the papaya is utilizing its own ethylene.

How to Slow Down the Ripening Process

So now you've got a ripe papaya on your hands, but what if you're not ready to put it to use quite yet? You can place a ripe papaya in the fridge until you're ready to eat it to keep it from spoiling. The papayas will keep in the fridge for up to a week, but it's best to use them within two days for optimal flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a papaya taste like?

    Papaya has a sweet taste and creamy texture that many people describe as tasting like a cross between a cantaloupe and a mango.

  • Can you eat papaya seeds?

    Papaya seeds are edible and have a crunchy texture with a slightly peppery taste. But don't eat an entire papaya's worth of seeds in one sitting. While they can help with constipation, they can have the opposite effect if you overeat.

  • How do you pick a papaya in the store?

    Papaya skin will slowly turn from green to yellow as it ripens. A truly ripe papaya will smell sweet and soft to the touch. Buy a ripe papaya if you plan on eating it the same day. Buy a green papaya and let it ripen at home if you plan on eating later in the week.

  • How do you cut a ripe papaya?

    Cut the papaya in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds from both halves and discard. Using a paring knife, cut the papaya into bite-sized pieces and serve.

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  1. Schweiggert RM, Kopec RE, Villalobos-Gutierrez MG, et al. Carotenoids are more bioavailable from papaya than from tomato and carrot in humans: a randomised cross-over study. Br J Nutr. 2014;111(3):490-498. doi:10.1017/S0007114513002596

  2. Muss C, Mosgoeller W, Endler T. Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46.

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