Ripe papaya fruit may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Papaya flowers, leaves, roots, and seeds are also edible, but there is limited research on the safety of these foods for babies and toddlers. The same goes for young papaya, also known as green papaya or unripe papaya. Consider waiting until your child is older and has developed advanced eating skills to serve the unripe fruit and other parts of the plant.
Papaya originated in Central America before it was taken by European colonizers to Africa, Asia, and Australia, where it is sometimes called papaw. Today the fruit tree thrives wherever skies are sunny, temperatures are consistently warm, and there is plenty of rainfall to plump up the fruit. Papaya can be eaten raw, like a melon when it is ripe, or cooked like squash when it is still young, firm, and green. As young papaya fruit ripens, its pulp softens and its green skin fades, some to a pale yellow, others to deep gold with blushes of pink. The aroma of papaya fruit also changes as it ripens, at first bright and sweet, then increasingly earthy and musky as the fruit overripens. The pronounced smell comes from papain, a plant enzyme that helps our bodies break down proteins and that can be used in marinades and rubs to tenderize meat.
Amelia, 7 months, tastes papaya for the first time.
Mila, 8 months, eats papaya.
Callie, 11 months, eats papaya.
Yes. Ripe papaya fruit is packed with vitamins A and C—essential nutrients to support your baby’s eyesight, immune system, and skin. Vitamin C also helps your baby absorb iron from plant-based foods, and papaya has loads of vitamin C, even more than apples, bananas, and oranges. The fruit also offers plenty of B vitamins for energy, vitamin E for stronger cells, and fiber for a healthy gut.
It would be wise to start with ripe papaya fruit and wait until your child is older to serve green or unripe papaya. While information and research are limited, studies show that unripe papaya fruit contains more latex and papain than ripe papaya, which can act as irritants (these may also promote contractions in pregnant women). Animal research also suggests that the seeds or seed extract may not be safe for expecting moms.
★Tip: Always wash ripe papaya. The fruit is commonly sprayed with pesticides, and washing the skin before cutting through it can help minimize your baby’s exposure to toxins.
It depends. Ripe papaya that is soft and gives under pressure shouldn’t pose any unusual risk. Green or unripe papaya, however, is firm and slippery—two qualities that can increase the risk of choking. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and stay near your baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!
For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
No. Papaya is not a common allergen, although individuals with cashew, pistachio, mango, latex or kiwi allergy may be sensitive to papaya. Some individuals may also be sensitive to papain, an enzyme in the papaya plant. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Offer large “handles" or spears of ripe papaya fruit (skin and seeds removed). If the fruit is too slippery for baby to hold on to, sprinkle it with hemp seeds, infant cereal, shredded coconut, or finely ground nuts or seeds to add grip and texture. Mashed papaya can also be served on its own for hand scooping or mixed into warm cereal, chia pudding, overnight oats, or yogurt.
At this age you can try offering smaller pieces of ripe papaya (skin and seeds removed) coated in hemp seeds, infant cereal, shredded coconut, or finely ground nuts or seeds. Adding this bit of texture will reduce the risk of choking and make it easier for the baby to pick up the small, slippery pieces. Alternatively, you can continue with large "handles" or spears of papaya.
Serve bite-size pieces of papaya to be eaten with a fork or fingers, no modifications needed. When you are introducing a fork, manage your expectations: eating with utensils is a skill that can take well into toddlerhood to get the hang of it. Using utensils accurately can also be exhausting for new eaters, so don’t worry if your toddler goes back and forth between eating with fingers and utensils.
How to prepare papaya for babies 6 months+
A different way to prepare papaya for babies 6 months+
Store whole papaya fruit at room temperature away from sunlight. After a couple of days on the countertop, it will be ripe. Eat it soon! Storing ripe papaya fruit in the fridge can help prolong freshness but tends to turn the flesh mushy after a couple of days.
How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.
1 ripe papaya
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Wash and dry the papaya.
Place the fruit on its side on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to slice off the blossom and stem ends. Now stand the fruit upright on the cutting board. Hold it with one hand, and with your other hand, use the knife to peel the skin. Compost the skin and ends. Cut the papaya in half lengthwise. Scoop out and compost the seeds, or reserve for another use. If your papaya fruit is very large, you may only need one half for this recipe. If that is the case, wrap one half in plastic or cut it into cubes and place them in an air-tight container. Store the cut papaya in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 days.
Cut the papaya into spears the width of two adult fingers placed next to one another. If the spears are longer than your point finger, cut in half or thirds to create manageable sizes for your child.
Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the papaya spears. Use your hands to coat the fruit in the lime juice.
Spread the coconut flakes on a plate. Roll each papaya spear in the coconut flakes. If you’d like to add a little spice sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper over the spears.
Offer the papaya spears on a plate for your child to pick up independently or hand a spear in the air for easier grabbing. Eat alongside your child to show how it’s done!
Store ripe papaya that has been skinned and cut will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Ripe papaya is sweet with a soft, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. To play up the sweetness, pair with other tropical fruits like banana, kiwi, or mango, or balance it with tart flavor from lemon, lime, pomegranate, or tamarind. Ripe papaya also tastes delicious with creamy foods like cashew, coconut, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, or yogurt and with savory flavors from avocado, black beans, or corn.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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