How to Cut a Papaya for a Variety of Delicious Dishes
- The firm skin, coupled with the soft inside, can make a papaya more difficult to slice.
- With the right knives, you can easily peel, slice, or dice the fruit.
- Use a trenched cutting board to ensure papaya juices don't run onto your kitchen counter.
Ask someone about a random fruit, say an apple or a banana, and their opinions usually range from bland (“They're ok.”) to favorable (“They’re good!”).
Bring up papayas, however, and prepare for a colorful spectrum of feedback. The taste and smell of this tropical fruit have been heavily debated — some say it’s like a “cantaloupe melon or certain varieties of mango,” while others think it has a “musky, sweaty-sock-like stench.”
Feelings aside, papayas are packed with so much nutrition and can be prepared in a variety of different dishes that just about anyone can find a way to add it into their diet.
Whether you’re about to try papayas for the first time, or love them already and are looking for a new recipe to try, this post can help you make the most of this versatile, tropical fruit.
Types of Papayas and What You Need to Slice Them
Following in the footsteps of avocados and bananas, papayas are another tropical fruit that’s now readily available all year round.
The most common papayas are either the Hawaiian or Mexican varieties. The Hawaiian varieties (Kapoho Solo, Rainbow, Sunrise) are smaller and pear-shaped, with bright orange-yellow flesh, and can be easily cut with a chef's knife or santoku knife.
Mexican varieties (Maradol, Tainung, Royal Star), on the other hand, are larger, elongated in shape, and have red-orange flesh. These varieties may require a longer chef's knife or serrated knife to cut through the entire length in one slice.
Papayas generally range from 7-12 inches in length and 2-7 pounds in weight, and can be found both ripe and still green (although the latter is mostly in Asian markets).
Both ripe and green papayas are full of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Ripe papaya will be easier to cut through than green. And while ripe papayas are ready to eat once cut, green papayas are not meant to be eaten raw. They need to be either marinated or cooked as part of a dish.
How to Cut a Papaya
The process of cutting a fresh papaya depends greatly on how you plan to eat it. Ripe papaya can be enjoyed plain or as part of a cold salad or salsa. Some may even get creative and use a papaya half as a boat for other fruits. Green papaya can be segmented and boiled into a savory soup or shredded into a refreshing Thai salad.
However you choose to enjoy this versatile fruit, we’ll provide the best methods to peel, slice, or cut papaya.
To do so, you’ll need a stable cutting board — one with a trench or juice groove works best, especially as ripe papayas can be quite juicy — and a sharp chef’s knife or serrated knife. Make sure the knife has been properly sharpened to best cut through the soft flesh of a fresh papaya. It’s also a good idea to have a waste bin nearby, as the papaya seeds and pulp can get a bit messy.
How to Cut a Papaya for One
The simplest, easiest way to enjoy a papaya is scooping it straight from its skin. After giving it a good rinse under clean running water, pat the papaya dry to prevent any accidental slips while slicing. Place the papaya on your cutting board, and with a sharp chef’s knife, slice the entire fruit in half lengthwise.
Using a tablespoon, gently scrape out all the black seeds and all the surrounding pulp from both halves of the papaya. Don’t scrape too hard or some of the papaya may go along with the seeds. Then using the same spoon, you can sit back and enjoy the fruit as is. Especially for smaller Hawaiian variety papayas, this is the quickest way to prepare a papaya. Or you can proceed to a few of the following cutting methods.
How to Cut a Papaya Into Ready-to-Eat Slices
After prepping the papaya according to the previous step — sliced in half and deseeded — it’s time to peel the skin. Take one half and slice about an inch off one of the ends. Then stand the papaya half on the newly cut flat end and, taking a chef's knife or paring knife, carefully slice off the skin, moving the blade along the curve side as close to the skin as possible.
Alternatively, you can use a vegetable peeler or cut the papaya half into quarters and peel the skin off each quarter if that’s more comfortable. Repeat this for the rest of the papaya until all the skin is gone.
Next place the peeled papaya flat side down on the cutting board, and use a chef’s knife to create slices, cutting the flesh crosswise at the desired thickness.
Ripe papaya is fine to eat at room temperature or chilled. A squeeze of fresh lime right before eating can enhance the subtle flavor of papaya.
How to Cut a Papaya Into Ready-to-Eat Chunks
To cut a papaya into chunks, start with it prepared in halves and deseeded. Cut each half into half again, creating quarters. Place one quarter on the cutting board, skin side down.
Holding the quarter firmly with your free hand, run a chef’s knife or paring knife along the border where the papaya skin meets the flesh. Cut along the length of the piece as smoothly as possible until the skin is completely removed. Do this for the remaining pieces until you've peeled the whole papaya.
Finally, with the peel removed, slice each quarter crosswise into chunks of your desired size. Large chunks are perfect for fruit salads or on their own, while medium chunks can be tossed onto salads or blended into a smoothie or sorbet. And papaya’s soft, almost creamy flesh mixes perfectly with a milky base.
Smaller chunks of papaya can also be made into a salsa, mixed with red onion, cilantro, green peppers, and a splash of lime, as long as the fruit is not too mushy.
How to Cut a Green Papaya for Salads
If you’d like to try some papaya in a more savory setting, a refreshing green papaya salad is one of the most delicious ways to do so.
Instead of slicing before peeling, as is done with the softer, riper fruits, green papayas are typically peeled first. Their flesh is much firmer and crunchier, making them easier to manage with the skin removed.
Wash the papaya under clean, running water, and pat off any drops before placing onto the cutting board. Start by using a vegetable peeler or chef's knife to carefully peel the skin from the entire papaya. Once all the skin is removed, slice the papaya in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds from both sides. The flesh of a green papaya is a pale, almost translucent, shade of yellow-green.
To shred the papaya, you can use a julienne peeler or grater. Or as they traditionally do in Thailand, you can use a knife to create several long cuts in the flesh — almost like jabbing the fruit with the blade — and then slicing off the tiny shreds crosswise. (Here’s a visual demonstration.)
Once all the papaya is shredded, you can mix together all the other ingredients (i.e., tomatoes, cilantro, peanuts, and lime juice) and chill the papaya salad before serving.
A Papaya a Day
With so many health benefits and ways to eat papaya, the fruit can be part of a healthy shake or fruit bowl, made into a refreshing appetizer, or enjoyed on its own.
Learning how to cut a papaya is easy. Its soft flesh and skin make for quick preparation, and after a few tries, you’ll be able to slice and dice the tropical fruit with ease.