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Best Papaya Substitute – 5 Ideas To Try

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If  you’re looking for a papaya substitute, you may be thinking it’s hard to find. In truth, papaya has a very special flavor that’s hard to completely replace. But in terms of texture and color, it can be substituted  by other sweet and tropical fruit.

Depending on what you need the papaya for, one or several of these substitutes will work great. We’ve also taken into account green papaya, in case you’re making a papaya salad.

papaya substitutes

Best papaya substitute

The best papaya substitute are pineapple, mango, peaches or nectarines, cantaloupe, or butternut squash. If you’re looking for green papaya you need something neutral like zucchini, cucumber, shredded cabbage, or lotus root.

Any of these will work, depending on what you need the papaya for. Some are better for texture, some are better for color, and some are just for flavor.

Papaya tastes a bit like a cross between a pumpkin and a melon. It’s sweet, but a soft, mellow kind of sweet. It’s not acidic or very bright, like a mango for example. But it’s got a crunchy texture, especially the green variety. So the substitutes we’re looking for should be sweet, match the color of papaya, and also remind you a little of the flavor.

Read also: Pineapple Substitute 

All that being said, we’re aware papaya is not easy to completely substitute. Still you can use several of these together to form a more coherent substitute.


Pineapple is on this list for the crunchy texture and the sweetness. It’s more acidic and fresh than a papaya, but it can substitute for papaya in a pinch. If you get a pineapple that’s not very ripe you can use it in place of green papaya.



Mango has a very bright, tropical flavor that may remind you enough of papaya. Even if it’s not actually papaya, it could do tis job pretty well in a salad or savory dish. We recommend giving mango a try, even if it might not sound like the most papaya-y fruit.

And if you’re making a fruit salad with several fruit types, swapping papaya for mango, along side 4-5 other fruits is definitely going to work great.

Peach or nectarine

Peaches and nectarines are a little more mellow than mango, but they’re sweeter. Less acidic and less strong-tasting, they can even resemble papaya in color if that’s what you’re looking for.

Whichever you use doesn’t matter all that much. Nectarines and peaches are the same in terms of flavor, the only difference is that nectarines developed a mutation that left them hairless. So yes, nectarines are basically hairless peaches.


Cantaloupe may be closer in flavor to papaya. or you can even try honeydew. Not, these are not for everyone and you need to figure out if your guests will enjoy this substitute.

In terms of flavor it’s close, but the color will be a little off. If you’ve somehow found an underripe one, you can use it as a green papaya substitute.


Butternut squash

Hear us out, it’s actually worth a shot. We’re aware most folks eat pumpkin cooked or baked, but you can eat it raw too. It’s sweet on its own way, maybe not as sweet as papaya. But it’s definitely the right color and overall flavor.

This swap only works if you’re in autumn or winter, otherwise you can’t really find any. But, if you need some papaya paste and only have canned pumpkin (available year-round) it could work in a pinch.

Alternatives for green papaya

If green papaya is what you’re after, then know that the reason it’s used in recipes is for its neutral flavor, green appearance, and crunch. So you should look for other fruits or vegetables that aren’t sweet, are greenish, and don’t have a strong flavor.

Shredded cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, lotus root are the first that come to mind. Other ideas could be Chinese cabbage, vegetable pear (chayote), daikon radish.

All of these will work very well in any dish you make, to provide crunch and a nice pop of color.

If you’re using zucchini or cucumber, keep in mind these wilt very quickly once you expose them heat. So only add them last if your dish is a hot one, so they will have time to keep some texture.

Read Also: Why Is Papaya Bitter ?

Can I use canned papaya ?

We’re sure there is canned papaya for sale, but it might not be immediately obvious on the shelf. After all, canned fruits are sometimes very volatile in terms of what’s available, so you may find your local supermarket with only canned pumpkin, mandarins, and cherries for some reason.

But if you can get your hands on canned papaya then go ahead and buy a few cans. They’re amazingly useful. You can also find dried, cubed papaya. You can rehydrate them if you like.

And if the papaya flavor is what you were looking for, there’s papaya juice or concentrate available to flavor a drink or dessert.

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