Authentic papaya jam recipe from Cape Verde. Doce de Papaia is made using fresh green papayas, sugar, lime, a touch of rum (optional) and no added pectin! Can be served with breakfast or as a snack. Spread it on bread, cookies, crackers or Cape Verdean cuscuz!
Papaya lovers, this is your new safe space. It’s definitely not the most popular fruit but I grew on on it and love the taste! Aside from being delicious, papaya contains antioxidants, and is said to improve digestion and reduce inflammation (read more about papaya’s nutritional benefits, here).
Doce de papaia translates to ‘sweet of papaya’. In my Cape Verdean culture we love sweets, and we love our tropical fruit. We have so many different versions of doces made from various fruits like guava, tamarind, and even coconut!
Some FAQ’s about Papaya
A green papaya is just papaya that isn’t ripe yet. It’s deep green in color and very firm to the touch. Unripe papaya has an off-white flesh and a mix of white and gray seeds inside.
This version of doce de papaia calls for unripe, green papaya but there are versions of doce that use ripe papaya. Neither version is more ‘correct’ or more ‘authentic’. It’s simply a matter of preference.
I personally prefer to make papaya jam with green papayas, because the texture of the green papaya holds up better during cooking.
Yes, papaya has pectin which is a chemical that is naturally released from the fruit and thickens the jam. For this reason, you don’t need to add store-bought pectin to this recipe!
This recipe for papaya jam contains only a handful of very simple ingredients listed below. Refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for exact measurements.
- 1 unripe fresh papaya: Try to find one that weighs about 2 pounds. Green papayas are just regular papayas that haven’t ripened. You can find then at Latin-American and Asian grocery stores. Chain supermarkets also carry them.
- 4 cups granulated (white) sugar, reserve 1 cup of sugar for caramelizing.
- 2 and ½ cups of water – for boiling the papaya and sugar.
- 1 or 2 limes: I usually peel 2 whole limes and juice only one of them. If you think this is wasteful just use 1 lime. Be careful because too much lime can compete with the flavor of the papaya!
- 2 tablespoons of rum: this is an optional ingredient, but it enhances the flavor of the jam. Light or dark rum is fine or feel free to omit it. Grogue (also called grogu) is Cape Verdean rum and is what is traditionally used.
- 1 tablespoon molasses: added for color
How to make papaya jam at home:
Step 1: Cut the papaya in half and scoop out the seeds
Rinse the papaya under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place on a flat surface and cut in half using a long sharp knife. Use a metal spoon to scoop/scrape the seeds out, and discard them.
Step 2: Peel the papaya and cut the flesh into strips
Peel the skin off the papaya using a vegetable peeler and cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Spoon the seeds out and discard the green peels and the seeds.
You can use your vegetable peeler to shred the papaya flesh, or you can cut the papaya into thin strips using a paring knife. The pieces should be about 1 inch wide and a couple of inches long.
Cutting/shredding the papaya takes about 15 minutes. You can use a box grater rather than a vegetable peeler to shred the papaya quickly. You’ll just end up with a slightly different texture than what’s shown in the photos.
Step 3: Peel and juice the lime(s)
Peel the limes and reserve the flesh of 1 lime for juicing. Tie up the peels in a cheese cloth and set aside. Alternatively, you can zest the limes right into the pot using a coarse grater, that way you wont need the cheese cloth.
Step 4: Combine all ingredients and let simmer
Place the shredded/cut papaya into an 8 quart stockpot. Add the water, 3 cups of the sugar, rum, lime juice, salt and citrus peels (or zest) to the pot and give everything a stir.
Bring the pot to a boil over a high flame. Once the the mixture starts to boil, turn the flame down low and cover the pot. Let simmer for 1 hour and stir the jam occasionally while it cooks.
Step 5: Caramelize the sugar
While the jam is cooking, heat the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a 2.5 quart saucepan over a medium-low heat.
Stir the sugar occasionally and watch it closely. You’ll start to notice an amber-colored pool of liquid where the sugar starts to melt. Keep stirring and the sugar will form small clumps.
Eventually more liquid will form and those clumps will start to dissolve. Keep stirring until all of the sugar clumps have dissolved and the liquified sugar is deep-amber in color.
Proceed quickly to the next step so the sugar doesn’t burn or harden!
Step 6: Discard the lime peels and add the caramelized sugar
Uncover the pot with the jam and quickly use a pair of tongs or large spoon to remove the lime peels/cheese cloth from the pot (if you used lime zest, don’t worry about this step!).
Then pour the caramelized sugar liquid to the pot without it touching the sides. The jam may sputter and the sugar may harden, but eventually the it will become liquid again. Just keep stirring!
Step 7: Add the molasses and cook for another 20-30 minutes
Once the mixture is liquid again, stir in the molasses, then cover the pot and let itsimmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. It’s ok if the papaya breaks down from stirring and cooking. The jam will be amber in color and the papaya will cook down in volume.
Step 8: Allow the papaya jam to cool and transfer to jars
Turn the heat off from under the pot and let the jam cool for 20-30 minutes. Transfer the jam into glass canning jars and let the jam finish cooling to room temperature before putting the lids on.
Doce can be served at room temperature or chilled. Make sure to cover each of the remaining jars with lids and store them in the refrigerator.
Here are some substitutions that you can make:
- Ripe papaya instead of green papaya – like I mentioned, you can use ripe papaya for this recipe. The jam will be sweeter, so you can cut the sugar down to 2 cups and skip the caramelization step. Also, you can cut down the amount of water, just use enough to cover the fresh papaya and cut the cooking time in half (30-45 minutes total).
- Rum – if you want to be really traditional substitute rum with grogue, which is Cape Verdean rum. Grogue is now also sold in the U.S. in areas where there’s a strong Cape Verdean presence.
Various cultures have their own versions of doce de papaia. You may have heard it referred to as these other names:
- Doce de mamão – is the Brazilian equivalent of doce de papaia. Mamão is the common name for papaya in Brazil, but actually refers to a specific type of papaya.
- Dulce de lechosa (or dulce de papaya) is the Latin american equivalent of doce de papaia. It can be described as jam or candied papaya cooked in syrup.
You don’t have to invest in anything fancy but here are some basics that you may already have in your kitchen:
- chef knife for cutting the papaya in half
- vegetable peeler or box grater – for shredding the papaya
- microplane grater to zest the limes.
- lemon/lime squeezer for juicing the limes
- cheesecloth – if you choose to use lime peels instead of zest.
- 6 quart stockpot or larger – for cooking the jam
- 1.5 quart saucepan – for caramelizing the sugar
- glass canning jars for storing. I usually use about 6, you may need more or fewer depending on the size of your papaya.
Store the papaya jam in glass canning jars with metal lids. Since we’re not actually canning this jam, you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator. It can refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
If you want to can this recipe, go for it! Here are some step-by step canning tips.
Use green papaya for best results! If you opt to use ripe papaya it will be just as delicious but you’ll have to make some modifications to the recipe which I outline above under substitutions.
You’ll love these other Cape Verdean treats!
- Traditional Cape Verdean Cuscuz (Cuscuz de milho)
- Cape Verdean Sweet Potato Gufong (Gufonginho)
- Mini Donuts – Cape Verdean Donetes
- Pudim de Leite – Cape Verdean Style Flan
Papaya Jam Recipe using Fresh Green Papayas (Doce de Papaia)
- 2 pound green papaya whole
- 4 cups granulated sugar reserve 1 cup for caramelizing
- 1-2 limes for juicing and peeling
- pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- Peel the papaya and cut in half. Spoon the seeds out and discard the seeds and peels.
- Shred the papaya flesh using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler or cut into thin pieces using a paring knife. The pieces should be about 1 inch wide and a couple of inches long. Or use a box grater to grate the flesh if you'd like.
- Peel the limes and reserve the flesh of 1 lime for juicing. Tie the peels up in cheese cloth and set aside. Alternatively, you can zest the limes using a coarse grater, that way you wont need the cheese-cloth.
- Add the shredded papaya, three cups of sugar, rum and water to a 6 quart stock pot. Bring the pot to a boil over high flame. Once the mixture starts boiling, cover the pot and turn the burner down low. Let simmer for 1 hour.
- While the papaya simmers, heat the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a small sauce pan over medium/low heat. Stir the sugar occasionally and watch it closely. You'll start to notice an amber pool of liquid where the sugar starts to melt. Keep stirring. The sugar will start to clumps. Eventually more liquid will form and those clumps will turn to liquid. Keep stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is deep-amber in color. Proceed quickly to the next step so the sugar doesn't harden!
- Uncover the pot with the jam and quickly use a pair of tongs or large spoon to remove the lime peels/cheesecloth from the pot (if you used lime zest, don't worry about this step!). Pour the caramelized sugar into the pot. The sugar may sputter and harden when it's added but it will become liquid again. Just keep stirring!
- Stir in the molasses and cover the pot again. Let the papaya jam cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. The papaya will reduce in volume and be coated in amber-colored syrup.
- Turn the heat off from under the pot and let the jam cool for 20-30 minutes before handling. Transfer the jam into glass canning jars and let them cool to room temperature. Once they are cool, cover each jar with a lid and store the papaya jam in the refrigerator.
- I peel 2 limes for this recipe, but I only juice 1. Too much lime juice can overpower the taste of papaya! If you want to peel only 1 lime, you can.
- Grogu (or grogue) is the national liquor of Cape Verde. Use it if you can find it! If not, light or dark rum is fine!
- Doce de papaia can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- If you wish to can this recipe, there is a link under this recipe card to a step-by-step canning article.
Just a few safety tips that pertain to this recipe
- Be very careful handling hot sugar. Allow the papaya jam to cool for about 1 hour prior to transferring to jars.
- Make sure to sterilize the jars by washing them in hot/soapy water prior to filling them with jam.
- Don’t leave the the jam sitting out at room temperature for extended periods. Put the jars in the refrigerator once the jam is fully cool.
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Lastly, because we are not canning the jam (i.e. sealing the jars in a bath with hot water), you will need to store the jam in the refrigerator.
If you wish to can this papaya jam, you can find step-by step canning tips here.