Free-Form Papaya Boat

Free-Form Papaya Boat

One of my favorite parts of traveling and visiting other parts of the world is exploring the local cuisine and native foods. Recently, I have spent a lot of time in Hawaii and there is no shortage of native fruits and veggies to explore on these beautiful islands! One of the more popular and prevalent fruits here that I’ve come to love is papaya. Papayas are not overly sweet, like mangos and pineapples can be. They are also not very acidic, making them a great breakfast fruit, in my opinion. You will find at many restaurants on the islands that they serve something called a “papaya boat”. Thanks to the convenient way that papayas are shaped and how their seeds scoop out of the middle when sliced in half, they make a kind of boat-like shape. Restaurants will load them up with yogurt, granola, or even more fruit. Combined with their attractive color, they are transformed into beautiful culinary works of art!


I was inspired by this idea and decided to create my own paleo version of a papaya boat. It quickly turned into what I like to call a “Free-Form” Papaya Boat. I knew all of the coconut milk and toppings wouldn’t fit inside the “boat” so I chose to deconstruct it and put everything into a bowl. I find that this also makes it a little easier to eat. Feel free to experiment and make the “boat” your own by changing up the nuts, adding more fruit, and adjusting the coconut milk amount.

What makes papayas so nutritionally awesome? Papayas are rich in Vitamin A, C, and E, they are high in potassium and fiber, and they are also a great source of beta-carotene. Papayas also contain many enzymes that stimulate digestion, specifically, papain, which is helpful for digesting proteins.

If you enjoyed this real food recipe, please check out some of my other recipes!

Free-Form Papaya Boat

Free-Form Papaya Boat

(Paleo, Whole30, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)

Prep/Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves 2


*The option to use more or less coconut milk is up to you and how coco-nutty you want your papaya bowl. I prefer more coconut milk for a more yogurt-parfait style experience. Plus, it creates a more satisfying meal.

dry toasting pecans and coconut


  • Start by dry toasting the pecans and the coconut chips.  This will heighten their flavors and add some crunch to the papaya boat.
  • Add the pecan pieces to a large sauté pan and heat up to a medium heat on the stove. Do not add oil to the pan. Make sure to use a large enough pan that the pecan pieces and coconut chips will be able to fit in one layer.
  • After the pecan pieces have had about a 3-minute headstart, add the coconut chips to the pan. Keep a very close eye on the toasting and stir or toss frequently so that they don’t burn. You want to watch for the coconut chips to start to turn brown and for the mixture to become very aromatic.
  • While the pecans and coconut are toasting, cut the papaya in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out of the middle of both halves.
  • Then carefully score each half of the papaya with a sharp knife to create 1-inch size cubes, making sure to outline the edge so that the pieces will come away from the peel.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the cubes out of one half of the papaya into a bowl. Repeat with the other half into a second bowl.
  • Check on the pecan/coconut mixture as it will be close to done toasting and the coconut will be taking on a nice toasted “brown” color. Once the mixture is sufficiently toasted, remove the pan from the heat.
  • For a more fruit-forward papaya boat, drizzle ½ cup of coconut milk over the 2 bowls of papaya cubes. For a more coconut-forward papaya boat, use 1 cup of coconut milk divided between the 2 bowls.
  • Divide the toasted pecan/coconut mixture evenly between the two bowls and add a dash or two of salt to each bowl. Optional to add a dash or two of cinnamon as well!
  • Imagine you are lying on a beach while you savor the island flavor!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you! Spread the Love and share this post with someone!

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is not intended as medical advice, or to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional. Marcelle encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research, and in partnership with your doctor, licensed dietitian, or nutritionist. The information provided in this post and the entire contents of are based upon the opinions of Marcelle Phene and are for general educational purposes, and have not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.

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