Cooking with Paw Paws: Indiana Bananas

She’s “pawing” her way into the kitchen this morning with an Indiana Banana, knows as the Paw Paw.

Eat Drink Indy’s Jolene Ketzenberger tells us more about this fruit that’s odd in both taste and texture, but can be really good!

About Paw Paws:

Paw paw trees are native to the south-central United States and are found from New York to Florida, from Michigan to Texas. They produce the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. it’s a very sweet, very fragrant tropical-tasting fruit. (Will make the whole place smell like a cross between a mango and a banana!)

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were fond of the custard-like fruit. Lewis and Clark made note of it and lived on it for a while.

But the fruit doesn’t last long; it’s ripe for just a few weeks, usually in September to October, and quickly turns from green to black. It doesn’t ship well. It’s not good looking, and has lots of seeds that makes it hard to process. So it isn’t commercially viable, although some places do grow the trees and sell the fruit, such as Lost Forty Tree Farm near Greenfield.

As for using it, it’s best eaten raw. Heat tends to diminish the flavor.

But it works great in ice cream.

Paw Paw Recipes

Paw paws are native to Indiana; in fact, they’re sometimes called a Hoosier banana, due to their unique tropical flavor. The large green fruits typically ripen in September or October, and the season doesn’t last long. The fruit itself doesn’t last long either. Just picked paw paws quickly turn brown, though they will last up to a week in the fridge. To best retain their flavor, use peeled and seeded paw paws raw or cook them very briefly, as in these recipes for ice cream, salsa and barbecue sauce.

Paw Paw Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

Scant 1 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups mashed paw paw pulp, from about 4 or 5 paw paws

To make the custard base, heat the cream, milk and sugar with split vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan over medium heat to the steaming point, about 165 degrees. Remove from heat. With the tip of a knife, scrape out vanilla bean seeds; discard pod.

In a bowl, beat egg yolks. Slowly add a ladle of hot mixture to the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Repeat with another ladle of hot mixture. Pour tempered egg yolks into hot cream.

Return saucepan to medium heat, stirring often until just until mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract if using. Pour custard into bowl set over a larger bowl filled with ice to help mixture cool. Place plastic wrap on the surface of custard mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.

When the custard mixture is cool, whisk in the mashed paw paws until well combined. Pour mixture into canister of ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is done, place in covered plastic container and store in freezer.

Adapted from

Paw Paw Salsa Recipe

Makes about 2 cups

3 fresh ripe paw paws

1 small green bell pepper, diced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 medium tomato, diced (optional)

1 small jalapeno pepper, minced

1/2 medium red onion chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Minced cilantro to taste

Salt to taste

Peel, seed and chop paw paws. Add remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt to taste.

For best flavor, refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

Adapted from

Paw Paw Barbeque Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

2 cups ketchup (I like Batch No. 2 Curry Catsup)

1 cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup molasses

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

½ to 1 cup water

1 yellow onion, minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 fresh paw paws peeled, seeded and chopped

In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients except paw paws. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until sauce reaches desired consistency. Remove from heat and add chopped paw paws. Adjust seasoning. If desired, blend with immersion blender until smooth.

Adapted from

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