These Tropical Papaya Boats feel like a vacation in a BOWL – a fruit “bowl” (that you can eat!). This recipe has lots of fiber from fresh fruit and filling protein from Greek yogurt. If you want to keep this recipe vegan friendly, use your favorite non-dairy yogurt instead (coconut yogurt is delicious too)!
Remember when I mentioned those epic Tropical Papaya Boats we had in Kauai? THESE are those boats. Well these are almost those boats – these are my homemade version of Java Kai’s “Sunrise Breakie”. Which comes with the cutest little papaya boat you ever did see, filled with yogurt and topped with crunchy granola.
I don’t know about you but I get a TON of cooking inspiration from travelling and dining out at new places. When we come back from a trip, you can bet that I’ve got several pages of frantically scribbled notes of things I am dying to try out when we get back home.
The ones I make here in California will never be quite as good as the ones in Hawaii (for obvious reasons). But unless I hit the lottery, I won’t be waking up on an island any time soon – so as far as I’m concerned, this is the next best thing to hopping on a plane and hitting up a farmer's market!
Our local Whole Foods store usually has papayas grown in neighboring Mexico – which is about as close as I can get without the bounty of local fruit that Hawaii seems to have year round. But…
If you don’t have access to papayas, don’t like papayas, or just want to make a more local and seasonal choice – you can EASILY swap these for melon instead.
A halved honeydew or cantaloupe would be a delicious substitute in this recipe. The key is to just choose something large enough to hold the yogurt and toppings. That is ALSO soft + sweet enough to enjoy with just a spoon.
For instance, a halved pineapple or coconut would make for some seriously GORGEOUS breakfast boat vessels. But let me ask you this...how easy would it be to cut into a pineapple or a coconut with just your spoon? Damn near impossible. That's how.
I’ve had pineapple fried rice served IN a pineapple bowl before and while it was beautiful (I definitely grammed that ish immediately), I couldn't actually EAT the pineapple. I kept digging my spoon into the side of it hoping for a chunk of fresh pineapple, and pretty much just ended up lightly juicing the pineapple into my food.
But not to worry. If you still want to try something new and exciting check out your local farmer’s market or sign up for a CSA box for what melon is in season where you live. There are so many different varieties out this season where we are – I can’t even keep track of them all! Canary, Galia, Charentais, Piel de Sapo, Crenshaw, Santa Claus…seriously, there are SO many to choose from. Personally, I'm really digging the GODDESS MELONS right now (like a juicier, sweeter cantaloupe). TBH the name alone was reason enough for me to try it out!
If you are going to use a papaya (and aren’t familiar with this tropical fruit) – it’s important to make sure it is ripe before you cut into it.
The taste difference between an unripe papaya and a ripe papaya is pretty major. It’s not like how with melon or a strawberry, you just might end up eating a not-quite-as-sweet or full-flavored piece of fruit.
It’s the difference between something that tastes bitter + feels tough, and something that tastes delightful + sweet and you can easily cut into with just a spoon.
Basically, it’s the difference between wanting to eat the whole thing and wanting to just eat the yogurt + toppings + toss the papaya entirely.
Here’s how to tell if your papaya is ripe and ready to eat
Check the color - unripe papayas are green, and ripe papayas are an orange-yellow color (with very few, if any green spots on them). Full disclosure, the papayas I used for this shoot were not-quite-ripe which is why you’ll see a hint of green color peeking through in some of the photos. Trust me, you want to wait for those babies to ripen up first!
Check the firmness – you can check for ripeness with a papaya like you would an avocado. Give it a gentle squeeze and see if the flesh inside is soft + gives a little under pressure.
If it’s the right color and right texture, then you’re good to go! You can also google “ripe papaya” and “unripe papaya” to see the difference if you’re still feeling unsure.
If you’ve got a green papaya, here’s how to ripen an unripe papaya (quickly!)
I consider myself a pretty patient person, unless we’re talking about FOOD. Then I want to eat it pretty much as soon as I get it in my hot little hands.
So when I brought three stubbornly GREEN and unripe papayas home from the store last week, with plans to shoot this recipe on the weekend – I knew I needed to ripen them up. And I needed to do it FAST.
A quick google search showed me that you can expedite the ripening process for papayas in the same way that you would for avocados. So the method I describe below will work just as well for ripening up an avocado (or bunch of bananas) too.
All you need is -> a paper bag + an already ripe apple or banana
Here’s what you need to do:
- place the unripe papayas in the bag along with the ripe piece of fruit
- crinkle down the top to close it up and trap the air a little (I use chip clips to hold it in place but you could also staple it or tape it closed)
- let it sit for 2-3 days (checking it once a day to see how it has ripened)
The reason this works is because fruits (like apples and bananas) produce a plant hormone called ethylene – which helps trigger the ripening process in other fruits (like papayas and avocadoes). When you trap this ripening hormone inside the paper bag, you concentrate it and help speed up the natural ripening process.
TIP: Papayas are best eaten cold – so when they’re ripe enough, put them in the fridge so they’re ready to eat the next morning!
We went to a farmer’s market in Hanalei and prior to that we had never ever had a papaya before. So we were eager to learn all the first-time-eating-a-papaya tricks we could. The woman at the farmer’s market stand who sold us some strawberry papayas (so good BTW) told us that they are most excellent with a little something tangy or acidic on top. Like a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice, or some passion fruit.
We went with the latter option since we’d never really had real passion fruit before (only passion fruit flavored things like dessert sauces). And oh man. The combo of the passion fruit with the papaya alone was so good – we ate that for breakfast at our AirBnb as many mornings as we could while we were there. No yogurt needed.
Turns out breakfast bingeing on papayas wasn’t such a bad thing after all because…
Papayas have a TON of health benefits – they can help fight inflammation, improve digestion, and are high in vitamins + antioxidants.
I’ve seen a few bloggers (who struggle with IBS) praising papaya for it’s digestion benefits. Particularly, the ways that incorporating papaya into your daily diet may help ease the uncomfortable bloating and constipation (symptoms which often provide a lot of trouble and discomfort for people living with IBS).
So if you have any digestion issues, it may be worthwhile looking into papaya as a natural way to relieve those symptoms. It could be as simple as blending some up into your morning smoothie, or as fun as eating half of one for breakfast each morning.
But beyond easing tummy troubles, papaya is high in Vitamin A + Vitamin C + antioxidants. All three of which support your immune system.
MORE BREAKFAST RECIPES:
Tropical Papaya Boats
- 1 ripe papaya
- 2 c Greek yogurt plain + unsweetened
- 2 tbs coconut nectar*
- passion fruit
- assorted fresh berries
- ½ c granola
- squeeze of fresh lemon / lime
- banana slices
- coconut shreds
- hemp seeds
- chia seeds
- MAKE THE PAPAYA BOATS: Slice the papaya in half lengthwise (making sure you’ve chosen a really ripe one or it will taste bitter instead of sweet!). Used a spoon, scrape out the seeds and discard.
- STUFF WITH YOGURT + FRESH TOPPINGS: Divide the yogurt evenly between the two boats, spooning it into the center. Then top with fresh fruit. Papaya tastes even better when you add an acid component to it, so if you won’t be using the passionfruit consider adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice on top to brighten things up. To re-create the ones seen here exactly add the following: 2 passion fruit, and a handful of mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries) and a sprinkle of granola.