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Cooking With Fruit - How to Prepare Pawpaws

Updated on October 29, 2015

US and Lower Canadian Indigenous Fruit - The Pawpaw

(public domain)
(public domain)

What is a Pawpaw?

The pawpaw is the largest berry fruit in the United States, related to the South American cherimoya fruit. Both varieties have a yellow, custard-like flesh and tastes to some individuals like actual custard. Many people detect in the flavor of pawpaw a ghost of nutmeg.

Many individuals like to eat pawpaw plain, chilled, and raw, in the style that George Washington enjoyed his favorite dessert, according to Mt. Vernon historic records and cookbooks.

Pawpaws are used fresh and processed, giving a natural flavor much like the combination of mango, banana, and pineapple and a hint of nutmeg for those that can detect that element of the fruit taste. The pawpaw is are also called Kentucky banana, West Virginia banana, Indian banana (because Native Americans introduced pawpaw to the Europeans), or Michigan banana. Two other nicknames are Indian nut and Indian berry. They have also been called poor man's banana and American custard apple. Pawpaws are good in cakes, puddings, muffins, pies, and smoothie and are even palatable in pawpaw wheat beer.

The pawpaw tree is not known to all Americans, but is native to twenty-six (26) states. Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are the top leaders in pawpaw production, with Kentucky advancing pawpaw use and breeding through well planned research. The Kentucky State University has the only full-time pawpaw research program in the world. Ongoing research is designed to improve seed and cloning reproduction methods, orchard management, ripening processes, storage, and genetic diversity, among other important topics. Since 1994, Kentucky State University has been the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR) for pawpaws – That means that it is the global gene bank for pawpaws.

Inside the Pawpaw

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(public domain)

Pawpaws and Native Americans

Researchers think that the pawpaw began as a native fruit in the woodlands of the Eastern US, carried westward by the Native Americans when they moved away from European settlers as the land filled with whites, again after the Revolutionary War, and until they Indigenous Peoples were largely settled on reservations. Altogether, Native Americans seeded pawpaw trees up through the Great Lakes Region, down to the Gulf of Mexico, and westward as far as Texas and Kansas at least, reaching a bit farther afield than Johnny Appleseed and his apples. The pawpaw is also grown in southern Ontario Province, Canada. A total of 8 varieties of pawpaw exist.

Archaeologists have found fossil evidence of the pawpaw that they believe proves it to be an indigenous plant of North America. Thus far, the largest fruit found has measured 18” in diameter, growing in Athens, Ohio not far from the Ohio River. The Ohio Pawpaw Festival is held at Lake Snowden near Albany, just six miles west of Athens on US 50/SR 32. The festival includes a large number of events and entertainment venues, well as a Pawpaw Cook-Off and pawpaws prepared every way imaginable. It rivals the Circleville Pumpkin Festival, and Buckeye Lake Corn Festival, the Marion Popcorn Festival, and other Ohio food product events held in the summer and fall.

Pawpaw Seeds

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(public domain)

Super Pawpaw

Ohio University found an effective anti-cancer drug and a safe natural pesticide from pawpaw twigs and branches. Later research seemed to reinforce these findings:

Ability of methanolic seed extracts of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) to inhibit n-3 fatty acid oxidation initiated by peroxyl radicals and reactive oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. By Brannan, Robert G. and Salabak, Dane E. School of Human and Consumer Sciences, Ohio University, W324 Grover Center, Athens, OH 45701, USA .

Summary of Results: Methanolic extracts from under-ripe, ripe, and ripe-dried pawpaw seeds (PPSE) were examined for the effectiveness of the antioxidant found in each of the three groups. Under-ripe seeds contained more total phenolic compounds than ripe seeds, but ripe seeds showed the highest reducing potential toward n-3 fatty acid.

My Note: Since obesity, fat, and some fatty acids have been linked to cancer risk, pawpaw seeds may offer some preventative help. In addition, pawpaw puree can used as a fat substitute in baking and other recipes, similar to applesauce. This is fighting fat in two ways: 1) as an antioxidant and 2) as a fat replacement.

Refreshingly Different Fruit Recipes with Pawpaws.

Chilled Pasta Pawpaw

Serves 6 to 8


  • 8 oz box of tri-color corkscrew pasta
  • ½ Cup pawpaw pulp
  • ¼ Cup lite salad oil
  • ¼ Cup chopped Spanish onion
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp celery seed
  • 1 TBSP white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 3 Ribs of celery, chopped


  • Blend all ingredients, except vegetables, until thoroughly smooth
  • Cook 8 ounces of tri-color pasta, following directions on package
  • Rinse with cold water and then drain.
  • Mix 1/3 dressing with pasta.
  • Chill several hours or overnight.
  • Just before serving:
  • Add bell pepper, tomato, and celery to the pasta base.
  • Add the rest of the dressing with the salad.

Pawpaw Muffins

Low fat! Pawpaw puree replaces the fat in this recipe.


  • 2 Cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Cup 2% milk
  • 2 Egg whites (use yolks for something else)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP soy oil
  • 1/2 Cup pawpaw puree


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In one mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well
  • In a second bowl, combine milk, egg whites, vanilla, soy oil, and pawpaw and mix well.
  • Carefully add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix for 17 strokes of a wooden spoon.
  • Cooking spray muffin pans and fill ¾ each compartment with batter.
  • Bake 20 minutes.

Pawpaw Pudding

You can substitute papaya for the pawpaw. In fact, papaya is called pawpaw in some regions.


  • 2 Cups diced pawpaw fruit
  • 1 Cup arrowroot powder
  • 1 TBSP sugar, or to taste
  • 1 Cup coconut milk and some sugar to taste, or sweetened condensed milk.


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel pawpaw and remove seeds.
  • Cut pawpaw into cubes.
  • Boil fruit until soft and then mash it; strain out the juice and let mashed fruit cool.
  • Mix in the arrowroot powder and sugar.
  • Bake for 1½ - 2 hours, uncovered or until done in the center (a knife blade comes out clean).
  • Cut the pudding into cubes.
  • Add additional sugar to the coconut cream, to taste, and pour over the pudding.

© 2009 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for letting us know!

    • profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago

      I have been getting ripe paw paws from trees in Maryland woodlands near my home. The wild paw paws are much smaller that cultivated ones, so it will take me a while to get a cup of fruit.

    • profile image

      Zoe 7 years ago

      Paw Paws can also be used in smoothies - a great way to enjoy the healthy antioxidant benefits of smoothies. Thanks for an interesting read.

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 8 years ago from Florida

      I don't know if there are paws paws in Florida I would like to taste one. And try a recipe too.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio produce a lot of pawpaws, so if you live in these states, call your local market and "pick our own" farms about when - or of - they will be in stock near you. You can also call your market, gourmet food store, or local University Extension Service to learn where to purchase canned pawpaw puree.

      Best cooking to you!

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thanks for all the information on the pawpaws, but where do you get them.? you have great recpies but where's the pawpaws to try out your wonderful recipes. have a blessed day. xreativeone59

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Kool tell us more

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      And I have never seen a jackfruit, so I'm off to read about it now. Thanks!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      This was really fascinating, Patty! I just wrote a hub on the jackfruit and the two look almost identical to one another. The jackfruit's seeds are also edible and high in nutrients. This is the first time I'm learning about the Pawpaw. Thanks!