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What Are the Best Tips for Ripening Papaya?

By Megan Shoop
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A ripe papaya is often sweet and juicy with just the right amount of acidity. The flesh should also be soft without being mushy, making it a delicious ingredient in fruit salads, smoothies, and homemade ice cream. An unripe papaya will often taste sour or bland, and have hard flesh that isn’t succulent at all. Though many stores sell unripe papaya so that they don't spoil on the shelves, consumers don’t have to settle for less than perfect fruit. A few tips for ripening papaya include choosing the right kind of papaya, storing it with other fruit, and keeping it at the right temperature.

Most grocery stores and farmers’ markets purposely harvest papayas and other produce early so they have a few days to sell them before they start to spoil. This means most of the papaya consumers run into is not yet ready to eat, but can be in a few days. The first step in ripening papaya is choosing one with a yellow-green skin. A yellow skin with a slight tinge of green indicates that that papaya is on the cusp of ripening. The skin should also be free of punctures, bruises, and score marks.

Another tip for ripening papaya includes storing it with other fruit. Most ripening instructions say to put unripe fruit in a brown paper bag, but only a few tout the benefits of slipping a ripe apple, banana, or orange into the bag as well. The gasses the ripe fruit emits will help the papaya ripen more quickly, meaning it only has to stay in the bag for a day or two. Those that don’t have ripe fruit to add to the bag should typically wait up to four days before the papaya is fully ready. Ripe papaya features bright yellow skin that is firm, but gives slightly under the fingers.

Ripening papayas should typically be stored at relatively cool temperatures. Very warm conditions could cause them to spoil quickly, while very cold temperatures could prevent them from ripening at all. A few degrees below room temperature typically does the trick. Areas like kitchen cupboards or root cellars work well. Avoid the top of the refrigerator, areas around the stove, or sunlit windowsills. Storing the fruit inside the refrigerator may also be counterproductive.

Some individuals like to score the skin of the ripening papaya to help speed the process. This can be tricky, as the scores must just cut through the skin but not into the flesh of the fruit. Cutting the skin may also attract insects or cause the ripening papaya to become mushy if it is left too long. Papayas ripened in this way usually only need 24 to 48 hours to ripen fully.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1006520 — On Mar 28, 2022

I bought my pawpaw at the weekly village market near my city. That was six days ago. They told me that to ripen them, I must use a polythene bag instead of a paper bag.

In six days, the fruits remain unchanged. I am today trying your method for some days to see. Thanks.

By ysmina — On Feb 28, 2013

I once cut up an unripe papaya thinking it was ripe. I was about to throw it away when my roommate told me how to get it ripe without it spoiling.

She poured lemon juice over it, wrapped it up and kept it in the fridge for several days. Then, we washed it and ate it. It was still not perfectly ripe but much better than how it was when I first cut it.

It really takes experience to figure out if a papaya is ripe or not. I've finally learned but I've wasted a few and had to make smoothies out of a few in the process. By the way, putting a ripe tomato in the paper bag with the papaya works just as well as a ripe banana.

By stoneMason — On Feb 28, 2013

@SarahGen-- I never put mine in the fridge. I just put it in a large bowl with other fruits on the kitchen counter. It ripens up nicely in several days. I do the same thing with avocados. It always works.

You might have bought yours very unripe as well. I always press lightly on papayas and buy those that are not soft but not too hard. If you buy a very unripe one, you will have to wait for weeks! It takes even longer in the fridge.

By SarahGen — On Feb 27, 2013

My papaya has been sitting in a paper bag in the produce part of my fridge for the past week. It's still not ripe! I want to eat it!

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