If you ever visited your abuelita in Puerto Rico, there's a 100% chance that she tried to feed you some dulce de papaya (aka candied papaya, dulce de lechosa). And now, so that you can pass that tradition on in the family, we want to show you how to make this delicious, sweet treat. And this recipe is super easy!
1 medium semi-ripe papaya (~2.5 lbs)
8 cups of water
2 tbs baking soda
4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
⅛ tsp salt
Ok, the first thing we are going to do is get our papaya ready. Start by cutting off both ends of the papaya and then use a vegetable peeler to remove all of the skin. Make sure there is no more green left on your papaya, because the skin can have a very bitter taste.
As you can see from the end of the papaya, I’m using a semi-ripe papaya. This means that the outside of the papaya is still green and very hard, but the inside of the papaya is beginning to turn colors, so it’s slightly pink or orange. A lot of people use entirely green papayas, and we’ll talk about that at the end of the video, but I prefer to use semi-ripe papayas, as I think it has a better flavor.
Once your papaya is peeled, go ahead and cut it in half, in order to remove the seeds. Again, I like to use a semi-ripe papaya, where you see the inside beginning to turn orangish-pink, while the outside is still green.
Once your papaya is cut in half, use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds and to remove all of the inside membrane. Make sure to get all of this out, especially the seeds, as they too can be quite bitter. In the end, your papaya should look something like this.
Once your papaya is clean, cut it into strips about half an inch thick. Obviously you can adjust the thickness as you see fit, just don’t cut them too thin or they will fall apart as you are boiling them.
As you cut your papaya, move them to a clean bowl. Then, once your papaya is all cut, combine 8 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and pour that mixture over the papaya. You don’t need to use all of the mixture, but you want to make sure you cover the papaya entirely.
Let this mixture rest for 20 minutes, in order for the baking soda to leech into the papaya.
At the end of the 20 minutes, drain the papaya and wash it thoroughly with cold water. Now you want to get all of the baking soda off.
Once rinsed, transfer your papaya to a wide saucepan, spreading them evenly across the entire surface of the pan. You’ll want your water and sugar to completely submerge your papaya, so pack the papaya as tightly as possible.
Once your papaya is in place, add your cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Then pour in your sugar and water. Gently move the mixture, trying to evenly distribute the sugar and water without disturbing the papaya, and then turn your stove on to medium high heat. If your papaya isn’t completely covered, don’t worry. As it cooks down, the papaya will release additional water to increase the total volume of the liquid.
Once your mixture begins to boil, stir it gently, put the lid in place and turn the heat down to low.
We are now going to boil the papaya on low for about an hour and a half, checking it every twenty minutes or so, just to give it a little stir.
As the papaya cooks, you’ll begin to see the fruit get more and more transparent, until it almost looks like jelly. Again, it took me an hour and a half to get to this point, but it could be more or less for you, depending on your stove. The thing to look for is the consistency of the papaya.
Once your papaya is finished. Turn off the heat, and let the pot cool down to room temperature.
Once at room temperature, you can eat it immediately, or you can transfer it to a container and store it in the refrigerator until later. Given the large amount of sugar, this papaya stores very well and will last for a long time.
Check out our instructional video, showing how to make this recipe step-by-step HERE.