Pawpaw Pie - Dessert Ideas To Use Pawpaw Fruit This Thanksgiving

Peeled And Unpeeled Pawpaw Fruit
(Image credit: hawk111)

Pawpaws are tropical tasting fruits native to North America. They aren't super hardy, so you may not find them in your backyard, but if you do, make a pawpaw fruit pie. The bold flavors in pawpaw fruit combine to make excellent desserts. If you are new to this fruit, learn how to prepare pawpaw fruit for a variety of delicious recipes. 

Pawpaw trees are relatively small and found as understory plants in forests. The plant is hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zone 5, but it doesn't travel well, so it is rarely found in supermarkets. Wonder how to eat pawpaw fruit? Well first you have to get your hands on a nice ripe specimen, probably only available at seasonal farmer's markets. 

How to Eat Pawpaw Fruit

In areas where the trees grow wild, foraging for pawpaw fruit may turn up a few specimens. However, wild animals love the fruit and you have to beat them to the harvest. If you do stumble upon some fruit, pick it when the skin has begun to turn from green to yellow-brown. It should have a soft feel and is generally ripe in September. You can eat the pawpaw raw, just like an apple, just watch out for the huge seeds. The flavor is similar to a banana, but with notes of vanilla, mango, and citrus. The after notes are floral and slightly yeasty. For raw fruit, peel the skin and eat it naturally, avoiding the big seeds. 

How to Prepare Pawpaw Fruit

Pawpaw dessert requires a little fruit preparation before using in recipes. When ripe, pawpaw flesh is almost a puree. To extract the fruit you can mash it through a sieve which will catch the seeds and skin. The resulting puree is ready to use in any pawpaw fruit pie or other dessert. If you are storing the pulp in the refrigerator, it oxidizes and turns brown like a banana. Add a little lemon juice to help it retain color. The puree also freezes beautifully and can be enjoyed for months. Most pawpaw desserts are made without cooking, although it does work well in baked goods. 

Using Pawpaw

Recently craft beer makers have been using pawpaw to flavor their brew. The home cook is more likely to stick with smoothies, puddings, or frozen sorbet. Cakes, cookies, and quick breads are also great recipes to incorporate pawpaw. Although many recipes are not cooked, a classic is pawpaw fruit pie. 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cup pawpaw puree

Cook the ingredients over medium heat until it thickens, stirring throughout to prevent burning and sticking. Put into an unbaked pie shell. Add pecans to the top if you wish and bake until the crust is done, about 30 minutes. 

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.