Homemade Papaya Barbecue Sauce Recipe

This Papaya Barbecue Sauce Recipe is sure to make your next backyard cookout unforgettable. Its natural fruity flavor is intriguing and surprisingly delightful!

Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of papaya. Its mild flavor doesn’t excite me like other tropical fruit, but when I purée some in a barbecue sauce that makes my eyes widen in disbelief, I know I’m onto something. 

It’s a barbecue sauce like no other–one that explodes in a new fantastic flavor of the fruit. It has an exotic, fresh sweetness that’s complemented by the warm addition of cinnamon and hot sauce. It’s bright, lightly sweet, and just an awesome sauce overall. Seriously dude, don’t knock it ’til you try it! 

I took inspiration from store-bought Papaya Barbecue Sauce. In the two brands I reviewed, I was struggling to taste the papaya. But when added to a meal, they did have a subtle fruity note. But what I really wanted to taste was the papaya upfront, and that’s exactly what you’ll experience in my homemade version. 

In this fruity barbecue sauce recipe, I use a whole cup of fresh ripe papaya, so there’s NO WAY you’ll miss it. The other ingredients are similar enough to barbecue sauce like ketchup, garlic, and chili powder. But I didn’t use molasses or brown sugar because I wanted to keep an orange hue reminiscent of the fruit that’s in it. 

Speaking of which…don’t feel limited to the recipe. Make this Papaya Barbecue Sauce YOUR sauce. Experiment with what you like. Switch the honey with brown sugar, or the ketchup with canned tomatoes. Add a shot of rum or tropical fruit liqueur. By all means, expand its horizons. As long as you add the papaya you’ll experience a unique, surprisingly pleasant natural flavor. It takes your sauce out of the barbecue realm and into gourmet innovation. 

And best of all, if you happen to have half a papaya in the fridge that you don’t know what to do with, this will solve your problem. 



Mise en Place

  • 1 cup cubed ripe papaya (from about half a papaya) 
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • Pinch of nutmeg 

COOK’S NOTE Having trouble finding fresh papaya? Frozen papaya works too. Just make sure to thaw it before you proceed with the recipe. 



Place all the ingredients into a pot and stir to combined.



Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer until the fruit is softened, about 10 minutes. 



Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes then pureé in a blender or with an immersion blender. If too thick, thin it out with water. Start with 2 tablespoons, adding until you’ve reached your desired consistency. 



Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 



Looking for other ways to repurpose your Papaya? 

  • Add to salsa or guacamole 
  • Stir into a cocktail or homemade Sangria
  • Combine with other fruit and make a fruit salad 
  • Mash it up and add to muffins or banana bread  
  • Scoop out the seeds and use the papaya as a serving bowl for rice or salad
  • Keep the seeds! Dry them out in the oven and use them just like peppercorns



Layman’s Variation: Place 2 cups store-bought barbecue sauce in a pot. Add 1 cup diced papaya. Continue to Step 2. 

Prickly Pear Variation: Replace papaya with 1 cup prickly pear purée. 

Red Wine Variation: Omit the papaya. Increase your ketchup to 2 cups and add 2 tablespoons red wine flour

Have you made Papaya Barbecue Sauce? Let me know how it went, and leave a comment below. 

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