What Does Papaya Taste Like? [And Why Does It Smell Like Vomit]

No doubt you are aware of the love-hate relationship people seem to have over this plant-based fruit. Some people say papaya tastes sweet while others are insistent that it smells like vomit.

These are quite polarizing reviews of the same fruit. A ripe papaya will be sweet and has a taste similar to a melon or mango. The flesh will melt in your mouth and has a buttery feel.

An unripe papaya is a different story. Papayas that aren’t exactly ripe have a smell often equated to vomit or stinky feet.

In this article, I’m going to demystify papayas so that you can feel confident choosing one that you’ll be happy to eat and won’t leave you gagging. This includes the overall taste, why it smells, and how to pick a perfectly ripe one.

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whole ripe papaya with yellow skin and green spots next to sliced open papaya

Why Does Papaya Smell Like Vomit?

Papayas have an enzyme by the name of papain. This enzyme is similar to our own digestive enzymes which is why it reminds us of when you got sick.

Papain causes a naturally strong odor in the fruit. Often described as pungent and offensive. One benefit of eating this enzyme is that it helps your body break down food more easily, especially tough to digest proteins.

The aversion to papaya’s smell depends depends on the person though. Some people have no problem eating papaya and don’t notice the smell. The smell does dissipate after being mixed in with other fruits or after cooking with it.

What Does Papaya Taste Like?

Papaya tastes very similar to cantaloupe melons or a more exotic version of a mango. There is a slight sweetness but it’s not overly powerful. Ripe papaya has a buttery texture that melts in your mouth.

Unripe papaya has harder flesh with little to no flavor. Unripe papayas also smell worse than ripe ones. The only reason to buy an unripe papaya is when using green papaya in Asian cuisine. Green papayas are crunchy which many Asian dishes call for.

What Is Papaya Fruit?

This tropical fruit comes from the Americas, mainly in Mexico and the Caribbean. Papayas grow from a tree in tropical climates, which means they love sunlight. It is available most of the year, which makes it easy to find at the supermarket.

What Part Of A Papaya Can You Eat?

Some papayas are green, while others are yellow. The inside fruit can range from light orange to a saturated salmon pink.

The main part of the papaya you’ll eat is the interior fruit flesh. This is where most of the water and flavor comes from.

The skin of a papaya is technically edible but most people don’t eat it. It’d be like eating the peel of a banana.

The seeds of the papaya are edible as well. Most people discard them but they’re high in fiber and nutrients. One thing to be aware of is that eating papaya seeds could cause decreased fertility or other health issues so it’s best to ask your doctor first.

How To Choose A Ripe Papaya

For papaya, eating them at the peak of ripeness is essential for the best flavor. To help figure out when the papaya is ripe, you’ll use the skin color, firmness, and smell.

Unripe papaya’s start out green. As the papaya ages, the exterior skin becomes yellow with a few green speckles. You want to eat a papaya whose skin is mainly yellow. Make sure the skin is free from mold.

Another way you can tell papaya is ripe is by the texture. If the skin has bruises or scratches, it might not be fresh. When you press on the outside of a papaya, if you feel a slightly soft texture, it’s ripe. The harder it is, the less ripe.

Lastly, you can tell a papaya’s ripeness by it’s smell. If there is a slightly noticeable sweetness when you sniff it, then it should be good. If there is no scent, then it is not ripe, and if the smell is too strong, then it is overripe.

How To Store A Papaya

If you just bought your papaya and it’s not ripe yet, leave it on your counter at room temperature until it ripens. Once ripened, you can place the papaya in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Sliced papaya should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It will continue to ripen and break down. Much longer than 4 days and papaya turns to mush.

Should you try out the papaya yourself, there may still be leftovers. In that case, I recommend refrigeration.

How To Prepare Papaya

The simplest way to prepare papaya is to cut it in half length-wise. Then scoop out the dark seeds using a spoon. It’s up to you whether you want to save the seeds to eat or discard them.

Then use either a small knife or spoon (if the papaya is really ripe) to cut away the fruit’s flesh from the skin. Once the fruit is removed, slice it into whatever size you’d like and enjoy.

What To Do With Papaya?

While papaya tastes delicious on its own, it pairs well in many dishes. Here are some ideas for what to make with leftover papaya:

  • Smoothies
  • Salsas
  • Sauces
  • Baked Goods
  • Soups/Stews
  • Salad Dressings
  • Dried Fruit Jerky

One of the most popular ways to cook with papaya is by making a papaya chutney or salsa. Papaya pairs especially well with lemon, cilantro, and onions.

If mixing papaya into a fruit salad, use other tropical fruits like kiwi, mangos, and passionfruit.


If you can get over the initial smell of papaya, it is a wonderfully tasting tropical fruit. Papaya’s similar taste to melon and mangos makes it pair well in chutneys, salsas, and fruit salads.

If you want to try out an exotic fruit that brings unexpected flavor, you should try papaya. It is entirely vegan-friendly and tastes good just as long as it remains fresh.

I recommend you try it for yourself and see if you like it. Have you tried papaya? What did you think of the taste?

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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