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Papaya isn’t a very common fruit in many parts of the world. But if you go to the tropics, you’ll see them piled up at markets, and even alongside the roads, where people are selling the overload from their trees. Papaya is a curious fruit that is often just out of the sightline of our radars, and is usually eaten fresh. Some varieties are spectacularly colored, making them a perfect fruit to turn into a vibrant sorbet.

When I lived in California, there were plenty of papayas in the multicultural markets, some as large as footballs and as bright as navel orange inside, whereas others are more muted. But I haven’t bought one in recent years.

When I did, I always went for the ones that were as heavily blushed inside as possible. Latin American and Asian markets usually have one or two varieties on offer, and they’ll cut giant papayas into small pieces, which gives you a good chance to check out the color of the flesh beforehand.

Cutting up papaya can be a slightly slippery affair, with the dark seeds spilling out all over the place. Try a few; you’ll find they’re quite spicy and peppery. The flesh contains an enzyme called papain which is said to be good for your digestion, but it’s also the same enzyme which can affect cake batters, so if you try making an upside down cake with papaya (or another tropical fruit rich in papain), you may end up with some goopiness in the batter. I don’t often buy papayas, although whenever I’m in a tropical climate, they’re offered for breakfast and I invariably have a few slices in the morning with a squeeze of lime juice.

Recently Romain was fingering some beautiful papayas at the market (that I’ll admit, were just outside of my radar) and I took the hint and brought one home. Next time we went shopping, he was eyeing them again, so I picked up another. Then, suddenly, I found myself with a lot of papaya on hand. And while it’s tasty when lounging on the beach in Mexico or Vietnam, it doesn’t have the same appeal to me when you’re sitting in your kitchen, staring at the sink or your iPad.

But this papaya sorbet is sure to please, no matter where you live. It’s super easy to make and only requires a blender, and an ice cream maker, however it can be made without a machine. (Although this machine usually costs less than $50 and while I’m not a fan of having every kind of kitchen appliance in my kitchen, not having an ice cream maker isn’t an option.)

I brought some to a friend’s house the other night when she slow-roasted an entire pork shoulder, which was rich, but was oh-so-good that it wasn’t possible not to overindulge. And while I’m also not a fan of double negatives, I will say that there isn’t a single negative when it comes to this Papaya Lime Sorbet.

Papaya Lime Sorbet

This is a very easy sorbet to make. The lime juice is important to balance the papaya, but you can add a bit of tequila or rum to the mixture before freezing, or add a little sprinkled over the top of each serving. I like to serve it with fresh fruits. A good accompaniment is Coconut Chocolate Macaroons or Pineapple-Coconut Macaroons.
Servings 1 quart (1L)
  • 2 pounds (900g) whole papayas, two small or one large papaya
  • 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lime juice, (about 3 limes)
  • pinch of salt
  • Cut the papayas in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Peel the papayas and cut them into chunks. Put the papaya pieces in a blender along with the sugar, water, lime juice, and salt, and purée the mixture until completely smooth.
  • Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Serving suggestions: Serve the papaya sorbet with fresh fruits or berries. Tropical fruits are particularly interesting, such as kiwi fruit, mango, or pineapple. Other options are to douse scoops with a little tequila or rum or sprinkle them lightly with red chile pepper powder.

Related Links and Recipes

How to make ice cream without a machine

Tips for making homemade ice cream softer

Mango Frozen Yogurt

Grapefruit Campari Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet



    • Shari M

    What perfect timing! In the last week I’ve made 3 sorbets from “The Perfect Scoop”: Lemon, Strawberry, and Chocolate Coconut. While they were all fab, the Strawberry was my fav. No, it was the Chocolate Coconut. Or maybe the Lemon….

    • John

    Hi David – How hard does this sorbet freeze? I ask because the tequila/rum option is intriguing, and I want a finished product that is still frozen and can hold a shape. I’ve played around with sugar/vodka substitutions per Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook to make a scoopable sorbet that isn’t overly sweet, and I don’t want to make a papaya/rum Icee out of your recipe. Not that that would be bad…

    • Cece

    What brand of ice cream maker do you recommend?

    • sillygirl

    We are getting the huge ones in the market lately and I want to sing “Princess Pupule has plenty papayas, she loves to give them away…”

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Shari M: Glad you’re enjoying so many recipes from The Perfect Scoop! : )

    John: This was stays relatively soft but generally speaking, you can add up to 4 tablespoons of liquor to a quart of sorbet or ice cream mixture without it affecting its ability to freeze. I haven’t read Harold’s writings on that subject but I wrote more in the post I linked to at the end of this recipe, Tips for Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer. Probably 4 tablespoons of tequila or rum would be too much for this sorbet, flavor-wise, but if you do try it with one of them, let us know how much you use…and how it turns out.

    Cece: I have a Cuisinart ICE 50 (the newer model is the ICE 100) and also have the KitchenAid ice cream attachment for the stand mixer and both work very well. There’s more info in the link at the end of the post, Meet Your Maker, where I talk about the various machines.

    • soozzie

    Papain is an effective meat tenderizer and an excellent treatment for a jellyfish sting. Just sayin’.

      • Claudia


      Please blend 1 part of papaya with 1 part of vainilla ice cream and serve It with a bit drizzle of creme de cassis (as much as you would like). That was one of my favorite deserts back in Brasil!

      Another idea to use any leftover papaya!

    • vrinda bhalla

    love live Berkeley Bowl !

    • Dorothy

    I’ll have to wait for summer to try this amazingly colourful sorbet – the temperature is 13 degrees Celsius today in South Australia. Too chilly for an icy dessert! Luckily, papaya is grown in Australia’s tropical Northern Queensland and widely available in season.
    Many thanks for your wonderful recipes and witty, perceptive comments. I am an absolute fan.

    • Jan

    Papaya and lime juice has to be one of the best flavour combinations.
    I so look forward to trying this.
    Many thanks.

    • Susan

    Looks and sounds amazing!

    • Carol gillott

    This looks divine and the under $50 icecream maker! Who could resist? I’m almost ready to pay the overseas postage. Considering what I would save annually not buying cornets in Paris…A small fortune!

    • Haley

    Waiting for hot weather to bump in so that I try this one soon. Good recipe!

    • Deb Caponera

    Love your newsletter and blog!

    After just returning from an ancestral town in Italy, seeing how few tourists are in off-the-beaten-path places, and how many businesses are making their own summer plans, it’s nice to see your suggestions to just go and enjoy. Everywhere we went (Fumone, Alatri, Anagni, Montecassino, Segni) was breathtaking and accommodating. No need to try to be tourists. It was great to try to blend in, relax and see what life is like outside of the crazy U.S.
    It really is the best way to travel!
    -Wishing I was back in Italy, or maybe Paris!

    • Carolyn Z

    Good Luck!

    • Annette

    Thank you for this great recipe, David! I made this a few days ago exactly as written and it turned out absolutely delicious! My 2 year old daughter tasted a bit of this wonderful dessert, held up her spoon and laughed as she signed for more! All my family loved this too. This is wonderfully refreshing and very easy to make. I look forward to my next batch.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Happy it was a hit at your place! : )


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