Our dehydrator has become an essential part of our self-sufficient lifestyle. Each year, we preserve over a hundred kilos (200 pounds) of papaya fruit that can be used for many cooking and baking needs from our pantry.
Below is the information on how we pick, prepare, process, dry, and finally store our Dehydrated Papaya Strips and Pieces at home for all our baking and various snacking needs. Follow along if this is something you would like to learn about.
Drying Papaya with a dehydrator
What equipment is needed to dehydrate papaya
- Mesh screens(optional)
- Cutting board
- Knives for cutting and peeling
- 2 bowls (if collecting seeds)
- Container for storage
The dehydrator you use is relative to how much you will be processing. If you grow your Papaya and have a lot of papayas (pawpaw) to process year after year, then investing in a larger machine that can accommodate many trays may be a good investment.
However, if you are starting your drying journey and want to dry just a few items during the year, a cheaper four or 6-tray dehydrator may suit your needs.
How to dehydrate papaya: step by step
- Pick and wash your fruit
- Cut fruit in half
- Scoop out seeds
- Peel and remove skin
- Chop fruit into pieces
- Place pieces on trays
- Place trays on dehydrator
- Run for 12hrs at 50 to 55C (122 to 131F)(estimate only)
- Turn off dehydrator allowing fruit to cool
- Place in storage containers
For those experienced in dehydrating, the list above will give you a quick reminder of all you need to do to start now.
If you would like to see my process of dehydrating Papaya, follow along below as we go through each of the steps above with images and tips on drying this excellent fruit.
1. When is the best time to pick papaya for drying?
The papaya (or pawpaw) fruit ripens one at a time from the bottom of the bunch spiraling their way up the main trunk as you pick them. This allows for easy picking. For dehydrating, pick the fruit that has turned yellow and has very little green for the best results.
How ripe does a papaya need to be to dehydrate?
The image above shows three stages of ripeness. The papaya on the right is too green. It takes a few more days before it can be picked. The papaya on the left is ready now, and the one in the middle can be picked but will have to continue ripening for one or 2 days.
2. How to Cut Papaya
Collect your freshly picked papaya and begin the process by cutting your papaya in half. Cut off the end where the stem is connected as this area is generally a little more green or hard. I find I tend to discard this end piece.
Cutting the papaya long ways rather than across the middle makes for easier handling and removal of the seeds.
Can any size papaya be dried?
With papaya, it doesn’t matter if the size and weight of the fruit is 250gm (1/2 pound) or weighs in at a whopping 2 kg (4 pounds); so long as the fruit is ripe, it can be dried. I have dried papaya of all sizes; the flavor comes from ripeness, not just size.
3. How to remove the seeds
Hold half of the Papaya and use your spoon to scrape out the seeds and membrane from inside the fruit cavity into a bowl. These are all soft and easy to remove. Separate the seeds into another bowl if you are keeping these for further processing.
Are papaya seeds useful and worth saving?
Collecting and saving your papaya seeds is a useful venture as it extends the value of the entire papaya fruit.
For use in the Pantry, they can be dried and used as a spice in cooking.
For garden use, we either save the seeds for further planting, compost them or give them to the chooks. We have another article here that explains how our chickens help grow new Papaya/Pawpaw trees.
4. How to peel a papaya
Using a small paring knife (or peeler if you prefer), remove the skin of the papaya, dropping it into a bowl as you go. If you intend to use the skins for other uses, slice them into strips and pop them aside to deal with after processing the papaya fruit for drying.
Are there any uses for the Papaya skin after peeling?
Using up the whole Papaya fruit is always a challenge. There are quite a few uses for the skins in the kitchen, provided it’s the ripe yellow skins. The skin of the papaya is a lot tougher than the sweeter flesh; however, it has its own tenderizing and flavor advantages.
I don’t use green skins, as the latex substance present in the fruit’s skin may cause some irritation to the digestive system.
Word of caution: I am referring to our organically grown Papaya, NOT store bought Papaya, which may have been spayed with a variety of chemicals
5. How to slice papaya fruit for drying
Papaya can be sliced into long strips or cut into little cubed pieces. We do it both ways as I have found all sizes have their place and use in the pantry.
To chop up the papaya, hold the peeled and de-seeded half fruit and chop off pieces, dropping them onto the tray, or if using your cutting board, slice into even cubes or slices. The papaya should be firm but ripe.
How thick should papaya be sliced for dehydrating?
I slice my papaya fruit into 1/2-inch strips. It doesn’t matter how long they are. However, it would be best if you considered the container they will be stored in after the drying process is complete.
The papaya can be cut lengthways or across the center with the slices. It doesn’t make any difference to the flavor or the ‘chewability.’
What size pieces should papaya be chopped into for drying?
When chopping the papaya fruit into pieces for drying, I cut them into 1/2 to 3/4 an inch square. This makes a good bite size for most of our needs.
If you want smaller dried pieces, I suggest you invest in a mesh mat to place them on, as it saves the fruit from falling to the tray below.
6. Placing the fresh papaya pieces on dehydrator trays
As you chop or slice your papaya fruit, place it straight onto the dehydrator trays. The less you handle the fruit, the better, especially if you have cut them into long pieces. These longer pieces tend to break in half easily.
Do you need to use a mesh sheets for drying papaya?
Whether you are slicing, chunking, or cutting into tiny pieces, I highly recommend investing in mesh sheets.
I bought mine initially for herbs. However, I have found over the years that they are a considerable sanity saver when removing the dried fruit from the dehydrator trays. I now have mesh sheets for most of my trays.
How tight do you pack a dehydrator tray with pawpaw/papaya?
The ideal situation is to have an air space around every piece of fruit. If I am slicing the papaya into long strips and if one piece should bump up against another, I will not fuss too much about it. These will easily pull apart when dried.
If I have 6kg (12lbs) to dehydrate in a run (which is often) of chunks and pieces, I will spread it out reasonably well, making sure there is enough space for the airflow of the machine to go in and around the fruit to remove the wet, humid air.
However, I will not overlay the papaya (slices or pieces ) as this will cause uneven drying, and if not found as you place it in containers, it may cause molding.
7. Stack trays onto the dehydrator base
Our dehydrators have round stackable trays, and I find this method below works best for me. Once a tray gets filled, I take it to the base of the dehydrator machine and turn it on. This does two things, it gets the filled trays out of the kitchen and allows the drying process to begin.
I will continue processing the papaya until all available trays are full, and I will process the ripest papaya fruit first.
Does the number of trays matter when dehydrating papaya?
I have found over the years that it makes no difference to the finished product of dried papaya as to how many trays I use; however, the drying time varies, and you must consider this.
This is where following the guidelines of your particular dehydrator is recommended. With over 25yrs experience, I know what my dehydrators can and can’t do and use them accordingly.
If you want to know more about the number of trays needed in a dehydrator, this article explains trays and dehydrating in more detail.
8. How long does it take to dehydrate papaya
The amount of time it takes to dehydrate papaya depends on the thickness and length of the pieces as well as the overall humidity of the weather.
Some machines vary in drying time due to their airflow capacity, so I would recommend reading the instructions that came with your dehydrator. To dry our papaya, we use 55C (131F) for 18hrs in the dry season, and wet season, it takes much longer. As mentioned further down, humidity changes everything.
Can you dry papaya slices and chunks at the same time?
Papaya slices and smaller pieces can all be dried simultaneously, but be aware that some trays of papaya fruit may complete the drying process before others. You can help reduce this problem by placing the trays of thicker, longer papaya fruit closer to the drying fans and moving the smaller dried fruit to a different position.
I prefer to have uniform-sized papaya fruit drying, as the cooling and bottling processes can all be done simultaneously.
Do dehydrators work in all weather?
Dehydrators are an excellent tool as they can work and dry your papaya fruit in all weather; however, the time it takes may vary significantly if the outside air being drawn into the machine is moist/humid compared to dry air.
We have an article written covering this issue in greater detail. If you would like to learn more about this and how to deal with some of our solutions, please read Does a Humid Climate Affect Dehydrating Food?
How do you know when papaya is dried enough for storage?
There is no set time for drying as thickness, length, and humidity; are all variables specific to you and your climate as well as your machine.
As a general rule, the easiest way to test the fruit is to tear it apart. In the early stages, even though it feels and looks dry if you tear the papaya open, the wet internal part may squeeze out like ‘toothpaste from a tube.’ This indicates it is not done.
Give it more drying time and do the tear test again. If there is no apparent wet papaya or a notable difference in color in the center of the dried papaya piece, it should be dry now. If you are concerned, just let the dehydrator run for a longer time, checking it periodically.
9. How to remove the papaya from the dehydrator trays.
When your papaya is dry, turn off your machine and allow the dried fruit to cool down. To do this, take off the cover/lid and sit the trays on the bench for at least 1/2 hour.
Papaya is one of those wet soft fruits that can be difficult to remove from your trays. I mentioned earlier that using a mesh sheet is what I do now, and this is where it comes into its own.
The sheets just need to be manipulated to pop off the dried papaya.
10. How do you store dried papaya?
I have found 12mths on the pantry shelf gives us dried papaya that is still vibrant in color and still has its classic dried papaya taste. We have bottles of dried papaya that have been in the pantry for at least 3yrs. It may start to lose its vibrant color, and the flavor may diminish; however, as a cooking ingredient, it is still excellent.
Can you store Papaya in jars?
Jars are our preferred method of storing dried papaya. They are airtight, can be vacuum sealed, and will last for years on the shelf.
Can dried papaya be stored in plastic zip lock bags?
I have found these bags NOT to be airtight, and unless you live in a super dry climate, your dried papaya will lose its color and flavor within weeks of drying your fruit.
Can you use any plastic containers to store dehydrated papaya?
If the container is airtight long-term storage of the papaya is possible. It is not an option here in the tropics as even plastic containers will let in the humid air—this is a good option only for short-term use, at least for us.
Does dried Papaya need to be vacuum sealed?
As with all dried fruit, the less air that can reach the dried papaya, the better. I have found vacuum sealing the jars is a great way to extend the dried papaya for at least another year, if not more.
Can dried papaya be frozen?
Freezing dried papaya is undoubtedly possible, especially if you have no space for jars and rely only on your freezer. You will, however, have to ensure the bags you use are moisture-proof.
Dried papaya is an excellent way of extending the harvest if you can’t eat all of your papaya fresh. Being self-sufficient in papaya has allowed us to try many different ways to store this excellent fruit. Dehydration is one of the easiest and most practical ways to extend the harvest. I hope you give it a try.
This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.