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How Long Do Papayas Last?

You’ve bought a papaya or two to give the fruit a try. You returned home, and you’re thinking: how long do papayas last and how do I store them?

That’s how I go about testing new fruits and veggies. I buy first, and worry about storage, shelf life, preparation, and all the other details later.

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. After reading this article, you’ll know exactly where to keep the fruit and how long it can sit there before it spoils.

But before we talk about storage and shelf life, you need to know if your papaya is ripe or not. We’ll cover that first.

Sliced papaya ready for eating
Sliced papaya ready for eating

How To Tell If Your Papaya Is Ripe?

There are two things to look at when you’re checking if your papaya is ready for eating or not. Those are:

  • Color. Green papayas are unripe, green turning yellow or orange means it’s getting there (see my photo below), while mostly (more than 50%) yellow or orange is ripe ([BT]).
  • Feel. Firm means it’s unripe. If it gives in a little to a gentle squeeze, it’s ready for eating, just like with mangos and kiwi.

That’s it. It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of seconds to tell if your papaya is ripe or not.

Whole papaya
Whole papaya, a bit immature

How Long Do Papayas Last?

Now that you know if your papaya fruit is ripe, everything else should be a breeze.

Unripe papayas take up to a week to ripen. It all depends on the fruit. Green and firm will take much longer than one that’s starting to go yellow. The good news is that you can speed up this process – more information near the end of the article.

While ripening, the fruit should sit at room temperature ([BT]), like on a kitchen counter or in a fruit basket.

Papaya cut in half
Papaya cut in half

Once the fruit is ripe, you can transfer it into the fridge. That slows down the ripening process and prevents the fruit from going overripe prematurely. The papaya should keep quality for about 5 to 7 days in the fridge.

If you leave a ripe papaya at room temperature, it’ll most likely go overripe within 2 to 3 days.

When it comes to sliced or cubed papaya, keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. It should retain quality for 3 to 4 days.

Removing seeds from a papaya
Removing seeds from a papaya

Can You Freeze Papayas?

If you know your (cut or not) papaya will go bad because you have too much of it, consider freezing.

Papaya isn’t the perfect fruit for freezing. It’ll be soft and watery after thawing but should work okay in a smoothie or as a snack on a sweltering day.

Before you get started, make sure your fruit is ripe. If you freeze unripe papaya, it won’t ripen after thawing, and you’ll end up with a tasteless mush.

Here’s how to go about freezing papaya:

  1. Slice or cube the fruit. Go with what works best for you. Smaller pieces are usually more versatile than large ones.
  2. Pre-freeze the pieces. Lay the fruit on a cookie sheet in a single layer so that the pieces don’t touch. Put that sheet into the freezer for a couple of hours until the slices freeze solid. This step prevents the parts from sticking and allows you to scoop only a few instead of defrosting the whole container.
  3. Transfer frozen fruit to an airtight container or a freezer bag and back into the freezer. A freezer bag usually takes less space in the freezer, but go with what works for you.

That’s it. The whole process takes about 10 minutes of actual work. It seems worth it the alternative is to discard the papaya.

Peeling a papaya
Peeling a papaya with a kitchen knife

How To Tell If Your Papaya Has Gone Bad?

Knowing if your papaya is spoiled or not is the last piece of the puzzle. And because the signs of spoilage are pretty much the same for all fruits, nothing below should surprise you.

Here’s what you should check for:

  • Dark spots. A couple of small ones is okay, but if they’re taking over the whole skin, you know that papaya is done for.
  • Mold. If things have gone that far, throw the fruit out. Make sure to look for mold before eating papaya that’s been cut a couple of days earlier and sat in the fridge since then.
  • Soft or sunken spots on the skin. A couple of small ones can be cut out, but if the whole fruit is soft or oozing, it’s time for it to go.
  • Smell. Off smell (like the fruit fermented or something) usually comes last. If that happens, discard the papaya.
  • Off taste. If your papaya tastes bitter, or the taste seems off in any other way, get rid of it.

Long story short, if anything about the fruit is off and you’re not quite sure if it’s okay to eat it or not, don’t. Better safe than sorry.

Slicing my papaya
Slicing my papaya

FAQs about Papayas

How To Speed Up Ripening Papayas?

If you need your green papaya to ripen as soon as possible, there are two things you can do.

The first is to place the fruit in a sealed paper bag ([UCD, UOH]). Papayas produce ethylene, a gas that helps them mature. Traping the gas in that paper bag accelerates the ripening.

To supercharge the process, insert another ethylene producing fruit into the bag, like an apple or a banana ([UCSD]).

How To Cut Papayas?

Preparing a papaya for eating doesn’t take long, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. A good knife and a teaspoon are all you need.

First, you cut the papaya in half lengthwise – see one of my photos above. Then you remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Everything is soft and goes smoothly. It’s nowhere as difficult as removing seeds from butternut squash .

Once you’re done, you can scoop the flesh with a teaspoon (like an avocado), or peel the halves with a veggie peeler and cut them into slices or cubes.

In a Nutshell

  • A ripe papaya is mostly yellow or orange and gives in a bit to a gentle squeeze.
  • Unripe papayas take between a day to a week to ripen. It all depends on the color and firmness of the fruit.
  • Ripe papayas keep good quality for about 5 to 7 days if refrigerated, half of that if you leave them on the counter.
  • Cut papaya lasts for about 3 to 4 days is you keep it in a sealed container in the fridge.