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How to Tell if a Papaya is Ripe

We’ve all been there, wandering through the produce section and eyeing a potentially luscious papaya, but hesitant to bring it home because we can’t tell if it’s at its peak ripeness.

Whether you’re an exotic fruit enthusiast or a beginner venturing into the world of papayas, this guide will help you confidently pick the ripest and juiciest ones on your next grocery trip.

A ripe papaya cut in half on a cutting board with seeds inside.

A ripe papaya is yellow to orange-red, slightly soft to the touch like an avocado, and has a sweet smell at its base. Unripe ones are green and hard, while overripe ones may have dark spots and a strong sweet smell.

What is a Papaya?

Before we dive into how to find ripe papaya, it’s important to understand what a papaya is. Papaya, also known as pawpaw, is a tropical fruit known for its sweet, melon-like flavor and vibrant orange hue.

It’s rich in vitamins C and A and packed with antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to your diet.

How to Identify a Ripe Papaya


When it comes to picking ripe papaya, appearance is key. Here are the signs to look for:

Color: A ripe papaya has yellow to orange-red skin. A green papaya is not ripe, while papaya that’s fully yellow or orange-red is ripe and ready to eat.

Shape: A ripe papaya should have smooth skin and be slightly soft to the touch, similar to an avocado.


Feeling the papaya is another excellent way to check its ripeness. Gently press the skin with your thumb. If it yields under gentle pressure, it’s ripe.

If it’s too hard, it’s not ripe. If it’s too soft or mushy, it’s overripe.


Lastly, sniffing the papaya can provide another clue to its ripeness. A ripe papaya often has a sweet aroma, especially at its base. If it has a strong, overly sweet smell, it might be overripe.

How To Pick a Papaya

Size and Weight

Papayas come in various sizes, from small to large. The size doesn’t necessarily indicate ripeness, but ripe papaya should feel heavy for its size.

Growing Season

Papayas grow year-round in tropical climates, but their peak season is early summer and fall. If you’re shopping during these times, you might have an easier time finding ripe papayas.

The Papaya Ripeness Chart

The ripeness of papaya can be identified at different stages. This table provides an easy reference for identifying papaya ripeness:

Almost ripeYellow with some greenFirm with slight giveMild
RipeFully yellow or orange-redYields under gentle pressureSweet
OverripeYellow or orange-red with dark spotsSoft or mushyStrong, sweet

Now that you know how to pick a perfectly ripe papaya, why not put your skills to the test with a delicious recipe?

Som Tam, a traditional Thai green papaya salad, is an excellent way to utilize your newly found expertise. Check out this Som Tam salad recipe.

How to Ripen a Papaya

What if you’ve brought home an unripe papaya? Don’t worry; you can ripen it at home using these steps:

  1. Place the unripe papaya in a paper bag.
  2. Add an apple or a banana to the bag. These fruits release ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.
  3. Check the papaya daily. It should ripen in a few days.

While we’re on the topic of exotic fruits, you may also be interested in learning about how to select another tropical delicacy – the passion fruit.

Like papayas, determining the ripeness of dragon fruit involves understanding certain signs. If you’re curious to learn more, check out our comprehensive guide on how to tell if a passion fruit is ripe.

For a full spectrum of fruit-picking knowledge, check out our detailed guide to fruit ripeness, where we explore the peak ripeness indicators for numerous fruits.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To tell When Papaya Is Ripe

A ripe papaya exhibits a vibrant yellow to orange-red skin. If it’s still green, the papaya is unripe, but a completely yellow or orange-red skin indicates a ripe papaya.

Papayas grow throughout the year in tropical climates, but their peak season is early summer and fall. This is often the best time to find ripe papayas.

Once ripe, a papaya should be refrigerated if not consumed immediately. Cut pieces can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Finding a ripe papaya might seem like a daunting task, but with this guide, you now have the knowledge to confidently pick the juiciest and ripest papayas on your next grocery trip.

Remember, a ripe papaya is yellow to orange-red, yields under gentle pressure, and has a sweet smell. If you happen to buy an unripe one, you can always ripen it at home with the help of a paper bag and an apple or banana.

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