2 March 2024

You liked papaya in yogurt, smoothie, or fruit salad, so you decided to buy one. Now you are home and not quite sure how to store that papaya or what its shelf life is.

Papaya, unlike mango or avocado, is one of the less popular tropical fruits. So it may be your first time owning one and you may not know how to handle it or how long you have until it goes out. Alright.

In this article, I cover everything you need to know about papayas. That means ways to store them, their shelf life, signs of spoilage, and differences between immature and mature. And no, I won’t bore you with nutritional information, health benefits or anything like that. Let’s go.

Papaya in a plastic foam packing net
Papaya in a plastic foam packing net

How to know if a papaya is ripe

Before we talk about storage, you should know if your papaya is ripe or not. To do that, you need to keep the following in mind:

  • Color. If your papaya is mostly green, it isn’t ripe yet. A combination of green and yellow/orange means it’s almost ripe (see my photos), and mostly yellow or orange means it’s perfect.
  • Feel. The fruit should give a little under gentle pressure (like a mango). If it’s too firm, it’s not ready.

The good news is that even if you open the papaya prematurely (as I did), most of the pulp will still be soft and sweet. Only the outermost parts (yellowish and close to the rind) will be quite firm and bitter tasting.

Advice

If you cut the papaya prematurely, remove the yellowish parts near the skin before eating.

Knowing that, let’s talk about storage.

Close up of papaya peel
Papaya not fully ripe: the yellowish parts near the peel are bitter, trim them off

How to store papayas

Leave the green papayas at room temperature. (between 68 – 77°F or 20-25°C) ((AP)). They will ripen in a few days, depending on the fruit. The green and firm ones will take much longer than the ones that are partially yellow and softer to the touch. Be sure to check your green papayas once a day.

If you want to speed up the process, place the fruit in a paper bag with a banana((AP)), or any other ethylene-producing fruit. The gas will speed things up.

Last but not least, cut papaya, like almost any cut fruit, should sit in the refrigerator in a closed container.

Papaya removing seeds with a spoon
Remove the papaya seeds with a spoon.

How long do papayas last?

As I already mentioned, green papayas take anywhere from a couple of days to even a week to ripen.

Once the papaya is ripe, it is best (in terms of flavor) for about two days if refrigerated ((AP)). Of course, that does not mean that it will go bad immediately on the third day. Instead, it will slowly ripen within 5-7 days, depending on the fruit.

If you decide to leave ripe papaya on the counter, expect it to start to rapidly decline in quality within a couple of days.

For cut papaya, it should be kept for at least 2 to 3 days if sealed well.

Room temperature Fridge
green papaya 1-7 days until ripe
ripe papaya 2-3 days 5-7 days
cut papaya 2-3 days

Please note that the periods in the table above are estimates only.

cubed papaya
Diced papaya on a cutting board

Can you freeze papaya?

If about a week of storage time isn’t enough for your needs, consider freezing the fruit. You can definitely freeze papaya, but you have to remember the downsides.

Warning

Only freeze papayas that are fully ripe.

After freezing and thawing, papaya pulp is softer than fresh papaya. (which is pretty smooth itself). That means the fruit pieces will be watery and feel mushy. That’s far from perfect for a fruit salad or the like, but it shouldn’t bother you in a smoothie.

Advice

If you need your papaya to keep its shape better, opt for partial thawing instead of fully thawing. And eat that salad right away, because the fruit will continue to thaw and lose texture.

If you are looking for how to freeze papaya, you can follow the same process that I described in the frozen watermelon article.

Papaya in a glass bowl
Diced papaya in a glass bowl

How to know if a papaya is bad?

First of all, remember that if you cut the papaya before it is fully ripe, the yellowish part near the skin (you can see it in one of the photos I took) will probably taste bitter. That’s normal and it doesn’t mean the papaya is spoiled or anything, just cut those parts off and enjoy the rest.

papaya bruises
A couple of bruises on a papaya is perfectly fine.

That said, knowing whether or not you can eat your papaya isn’t particularly difficult. If it is bad, there will be one or more of the common signs of fruit spoilage. Those include:

  • Surface mold or large blackheads (some bruising and marking, as you can see in the photo above, is fine)
  • Super soft texture, large sunken spots.
  • The fruit oozes liquid
  • A rotten or spoiled smell
Advice

If you have to convince yourself that your papaya is okay to eat, it’s not. If something feels off, like it smells weird, tastes weird, or something similar, discard the fruit. The same is true even if you can’t tell precisely what is wrong.

Sources

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