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Pawpaw vs. Papaya: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
Pawpaw refers to a North American fruit or the tree it grows on, while papaya is a tropical fruit native to the Americas, often mistaken for pawpaw.

Key Differences

Both pawpaw and papaya are commonly referred to as fruit, but they come from different plants and have distinct characteristics. The pawpaw is native to North America and grows on small deciduous trees.
Papaya, on the other hand, is a tropical fruit native to Central America but is now cultivated in many tropical regions worldwide. The papaya tree is typically an evergreen with a more straight and slender trunk.
In terms of taste and texture, the pawpaw has a creamy texture with a flavor that can be likened to a blend of banana, mango, and melon. Its skin is thin and green, turning yellowish when ripe, enclosing a custard-like flesh.
Papaya is noted for its vibrant orange or reddish-orange flesh, with a flavor that's sweet and somewhat similar to melon. The fruit contains black seeds in its central cavity and is known for the enzyme papain, which is used as a meat tenderizer.
While pawpaw is relatively unknown outside of its native regions and has a limited season, papaya is popular worldwide and is available in grocery stores year-round in many places.

Comparison Chart


Native to North America.
Native to Central America.

Tree Appearance

Small deciduous trees.
Tall evergreen with a straight trunk.

Fruit Texture & Flavor

Creamy with a banana-mango-melon flavor.
Soft and sweet, similar to melon.

Fruit Color

Green skin, custard-yellow flesh.
Green to yellow skin, orange to reddish-orange flesh.


Limited season and less commercially widespread.
Year-round availability in many global markets.

Pawpaw and Papaya Definitions


Pawpaw trees have maroon, upside-down flowers.
In the spring, the pawpaw tree displays its unique dark flowers.


Papaya trees belong to the Carica genus.
The Carica papaya is the most widely cultivated papaya species.


Pawpaw fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals.
Eating pawpaw can be a nutritious addition to one's diet.


Papayas have black seeds in a central cavity.
The seeds of the papaya can be eaten but have a peppery taste.


Pawpaw trees belong to the Asimina genus.
Several species of pawpaw trees are found in the Eastern United States.


Papaya is a tropical fruit.
Papaya trees thrive in warm climates.


Pawpaw is a North American native fruit.
The pawpaw tree produces the largest edible fruit indigenous to North America.


The papaya fruit contains an enzyme called papain.
Papain from papaya is often used as a meat tenderizer.


Pawpaw has a custard-like consistency.
The creamy texture of pawpaw is often used in desserts.


Papaya fruit is beneficial for digestion.
Consuming papaya can aid in digestion due to its enzyme content.


Any of various deciduous trees and shrubs of the genus Asimina of the eastern and southeast United States, especially A. triloba, having maroon flowers with three sepals and six petals and fleshy, yellowish-green, edible fruit.


An evergreen tropical American tree (Carica papaya) with a crown of large lobed leaves, widely cultivated for its large yellow edible fruit.


Where can I find pawpaw?

Pawpaw is native to North America and is often found in the Eastern United States.

Are pawpaw trees common in gardens?

While not as common as other fruit trees, pawpaw trees are sometimes grown for their fruit and ornamental value.

Can I eat the seeds of a papaya?

Yes, papaya seeds are edible but have a strong, peppery flavor.

How do you eat a papaya?

You can slice a papaya open, scoop out the seeds, and eat the flesh directly or use it in dishes.

Are there any cultural significances related to pawpaw?

Pawpaw has historical significance in Native American cultures and has inspired songs and regional festivals.

Is pawpaw the same as papaya?

No, pawpaw and papaya are distinct fruits from different plants and regions.

Do pawpaws have seeds?

Yes, pawpaws contain large, dark seeds that are typically not eaten.

Why is the pawpaw fruit not as popular commercially?

Pawpaw has a short shelf life and is less known outside its native regions, limiting its commercial appeal.

What are the health benefits of papaya?

Papaya is rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes like papain, which aids digestion.

Can you make juice from papaya?

Yes, papaya is often used to make juices and smoothies.

Can you eat pawpaw skin?

While not toxic, pawpaw skin is typically not eaten due to its bitter taste.

How can I tell when a papaya is ripe?

A ripe papaya will yield slightly to gentle pressure and have a sweet aroma.

Are papaya leaves edible?

Papaya leaves are edible and are sometimes used in cooking, especially in some Asian cuisines.

Are there different varieties of pawpaw?

Yes, there are several species and cultivars of pawpaw with varying fruit sizes and flavors.

How big does a pawpaw fruit get?

Pawpaw fruits can vary in size, but some can grow as long as 6 inches and weigh over a pound.

Are pawpaw and papaya used in cooking?

Both can be used in cooking, but they're often eaten fresh. Pawpaw is sometimes used in desserts, while papaya can be used in salads, smoothies, and other dishes.

Do pawpaw trees produce flowers?

Yes, pawpaw trees produce unique, dark maroon flowers.

Can I grow papaya at home?

If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you can grow papaya trees in your garden.

Is it true that papaya can tenderize meat?

Yes, the enzyme papain in papaya is used as a natural meat tenderizer.

What parts of the world is papaya grown in?

Originally from Central America, papaya is now grown in many tropical regions worldwide.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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