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This super fresh Vietnamese-inspired green papaya salad is packed with crunchy raw veggies, roasted peanuts, and fried shallots and tossed with a bright and citrusy lime dressing! It’s easy to prepare, refreshing, and plant-based!

Vietnamese green papaya salad with carrots, mint, and peanuts.

Papaya is one of my favorite fruits for a few reasons. First, it’s fruity, juicy, and super refreshing. And second, it helps a lot with digestion, which I tend to have issues with.

During my third trip to Vietnam, as I was strolling through a local market, I noticed many sellers selling green papayas in addition to the ripe ones. Since my ability to speak Vietnamese was at the lowest level (it still is), I was unable to ask the sellers about how Vietnamese people use the unripe variety.

I discovered one way to use green papaya later when I got invited to my Vietnamese in-laws’ house. For lunch, my mother-in-law served us a wonderful green papaya salad that was packed with fresh herbs, juicy cucumber, and crunchy peanuts. It tasted super fresh, a bit sweet, and a bit spicy. I loved it!

As you can guess, I asked for her recipe and had my wife translate it, so you can be sure this recipe is as authentic as it gets!

⭐️ Why This Recipe Works

Loaded with freshness.

There is a reason why green papaya salad is so popular. While it’s true that it is quite unique in its genre (to the exception of green mango salad, few salads use unripe fruits), it’s truly a flavor bomb. Unripe papaya is like a blank canvas that is ready to absorb all the complex flavors of the dressing. That starts with an umami-packed fish sauce, followed by lime juice for some tang, and chili for spiciness. Follows, nutty peanuts and crispy fried shallots for a contrast of texture, and plenty of fresh herbs for a freshness.

Each bite is infused with sweet, salty, and savory goodness, yum!

As authentic as possible.

Remember, this is not your Westernized version of papaya salad. I tried to make it as authentic as possible, first by using the recipe given by my mother-in-law and secondly by testing other green papaya salads in Vietnam to ensure it tasted as best as possible.

Vietnamese vs. Thai Papaya Salad

Both versions of this salad are quite similar. However, unlike the Vietnamese version, Thai papaya salad (Som Tam) features long beans, tomatoes, and a dressing made with tamarind juice.

Simple to whip up.

This salad takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, and most of that time is spent waiting for the papaya to soak! I will be honest, the ingredients are not the easiest to find, but if you have an Asian grocery store nearby, it shouldn’t be a problem.

📘 What Is Papaya Salad

Originating from Southeast Asia, papaya salad is a dish prepared from unripe papaya. It usually features other vegetables like carrots, cucumber, and fresh herbs and comes with a dressing made with lime, fish sauce, and sugar. The result is a fresh, slightly crunchy salad with a sweet, salty, and sour dressing!

Many different versions of this salad exist, varying from country to country. Here, we will be making a Vietnamese-inspired papaya salad.

Ingredients like green papaya, cucumber, fish sauce, peanuts, and lime.

🥜 Ingredient Notes

Here is what you will need:

Green Papaya

You are most probably familiar with the ripe kind – the papaya you can buy at the supermarket with very sweet orange flesh and large black seeds. Well, in this recipe, we will be using the unripe one, which has firm, light green flesh and small yellow seeds. Unripe papaya is basically flavorless, making it the perfect vehicle of flavor for this salad!

Where to buy it: You can find green papaya in Asian grocery stores (don’t hesitate to ask them to order it for you if they don’t have it) or sometimes in Farmers’ markets. There are many varieties of papaya, so the shape can go from a long log, as shown in the photo above, to a round shape similar to a melon.

How to pick a good green papaya?

Try to look for green papaya with smooth skin and a firm texture. It should also feel quite heavy. Most green papayas weigh at least 2 pounds. Note: Since some ripe papayas can also have a green appearance, I recommend asking the shop to make sure it is actually unripe.

Carrot

Not all recipes for papaya salad include carrots but because my mother-in-law uses them in her recipe, I’m not going to argue. Not only do they add extra sweetness, but they also make the salad more colorful, bringing a pop of color to the sad faded green of the papaya.

Cucumber

I recommend using Persian cucumbers, as this variety tends to have thinner skin and is not bitter. You can use other kinds of cucumbers, but if they have thick skin, it’s best to peel them.

Fish sauce

Traditionally, the dressing for this salad calls for fish sauce to add saltiness, umami, and complex flavors. If you are not vegan, feel free to use traditional fish sauce; however, to keep this recipe plant-based, I replaced it with vegan fish sauce. Many alternatives exist, some made from soybeans, others from pineapple. You can learn how to make your own vegan fish sauce here, where I show you how to make it from pineapple.

Substitute: I understand that you may not have vegan fish sauce on hand, so if you are looking for a substitute, soy sauce works. It’s not traditional and won’t give you the same depth of flavor but it’s an option.

Garlic

Fresh garlic adds a pungent flavor to the dressing. I use 4 whole cloves as I’m a garlic lover, but feel free to use only half if you want the salad less garlicky.

Chili

For spiciness. Yes, green papaya salad is, most of the time, spicy. I recommend starting with 1/4 of a Thai chili (also called Bird’s eye chili) if you are not used to spicy dishes.

Note: You can replace the fresh chili with a teaspoon of your favorite chili paste or sauce.

Lime

Lime juice brings a ton of freshness and tanginess to the dressing. I tried this recipe with white rice vinegar as well, and while it works, it’s not as tasty so I recommend only using fresh lime juice.

Sugar

To balance the saltiness and sourness. I used light brown sugar, but you can use palm sugar, coconut sugar, or regular granulated sugar.

Fresh herbs

Vietnamese papaya salad almost always features Thai basil, which is a cousin of Italian basil. It’s a bit more peppery and has a strong anise flavor.

Another herb often present in Vietnamese versions of this salad is Vietnamese coriander, also called laksa leaves. This herb is citrusy, slightly tangy, and has a natural sweetness.

Where to buy it: You can find both of these herbs in Asian grocery stores.

Substitutes: Thai basil can be replaced with regular basil or with fresh cilantro (although your salad will taste different). Regarding the laksa leaves, I didn’t add them to the recipe as they can be hard to find outside Asia. If you find them, use about 1/4 cup of packed laksa leaves.

Peanuts

Roasted peanuts add crunch and a nutty flavor. If you don’t have peanuts on hand, you can use roasted cashews. I like to keep them whole, but you can slightly crunch them if you prefer.

Fried shallots

Although they are optional, fried shallots add an extra layer of texture and natural sweetness. You can also use fried onions.

🥣 How to Make It

This recipe is easy and involves just three steps: preparing and chopping the vegetables, making the dressing, and tossing everything together.

1. Prepare the green papaya

  1. Peel and slice the papaya. Start by peeling the papaya skin using a vegetable peeler. Then, slice it in half lengthwise. Using an ice cream scoop or a regular spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them.
  2. Let it soak. Transfer the green papaya halves to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.

Why should you soak the papaya?

Green papayas, unlike ripe ones, have a milky and slightly sticky liquid that contains latex. Since this liquid can cause irritation for some people, I recommend soaking the papaya and rinsing it once after soaking. This will remove most of the latex from the papaya.

  1. Grate it into thin strips. Next, drain the papaya well and pat it dry using kitchen paper towels. Using a vegetable grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disk, grate the papaya into long and thin strips (also called julienne).
Grating green papaya using a grater.
  1. Soak the papaya strips. Transfer the papaya strips to a large bowl, cover with ice-cold water, and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes (this step helps crisp up the papaya by extracting some of the water, as well as more latex). Drain and squeeze firmly with your hands to remove excess water. Transfer the drained papaya strips to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slice the other vegetables. In the meantime, julienne the carrot (grate it into long strips) and thinly slice the cucumber. Transfer to the mixing bowl.

2. Make the dressing & assemble

The dressing for this salad is citrusy, sweet, and a bit spicy. As opposed to most Western salads, it doesn’t contain any oil! Actually, that’s not something unusual for Vietnamese salads.

  1. Mince the aromatics. Finely mince the garlic and chili. Alternatively, you can crush them in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Combine everything. Add the minced garlic, chili, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice to a small bowl. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing. Finally, toss the green papaya and carrots with the dressing. Incorporate the fresh herbs, peanuts, and fried shallots, and toss again. Serve immediately!
Stirring vegan fish sauce, sugar, and garlic in a bowl.

📔 Tips

  • Use frozen green papaya: Most Asian grocery stores will carry grated frozen green papaya. While it obviously won’t taste as good as the fresh one, it’s still a good alternative. To use the frozen one, thaw it on the counter for about 1 hour before using it. Rinse it well and squeeze it with your hands to remove as much water as possible (it’s more watery than the fresh one).
  • Enjoy immediately: For optimal texture and flavor, enjoy this salad within 30 minutes of making it.

🌶 Variations

What I am sharing here is a simple green papaya recipe that Vietnamese make at home, hence it’s not complicated and relies on just a few ingredients. You can, however, tweak it to your liking by adding:

  • Extra veggies: Like bell pepper strips, sliced tomatoes, or even sautéed mushrooms!
  • Protein: To add extra protein and make the salad heartier, incorporate fried tofu, shredded vegan chicken, or thinly sliced seitan.

❄️ Storing and Freezing

  • To store: Papaya salad tastes best on day one. Leftovers can be stored for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. You can also keep the salad undressed for up to 2 days in the refrigerator and toss it with the dressing just before serving.
  • To freeze: This salad tastes best fresh. I do not recommend freezing it.

💬 FAQ

Is it safe to eat green papaya salad during pregnancy?

It is not recommended to eat papaya salad during pregnancy. The latex contained in green papaya can be harmful and may cause contractions. I recommend asking your doctor for more advice regarding this subject.

What does green papaya taste like?

Green, unripe papaya has a very neutral flavor. It doesn’t taste much on its own and has basically no sweetness. However, it is a great vehicle for flavor.

Can I use ripe papaya instead of green papaya?

Unfortunately, it won’t work. While it will still taste good, the salad will be much sweeter and not as crispy.

If you are looking for a vibrant and crunchy salad with a great balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, you will love this green papaya salad! Plus, it’s oil and mayo-free!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Vietnamese green papaya salad with carrots, mint, and peanuts.
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Recipe
Easy Vietnamese Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad (Vietnamese-Inspired!)

5 from 5 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
This super fresh Vietnamese-inspired green papaya salad is packed with crunchy raw veggies, roasted peanuts, and fried shallots and tossed with a bright and citrusy lime dressing! It's easy to prepare, refreshing, and plant-based!
Prep Time : 30 minutes
Total Time : 30 minutes
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 247 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium green unripe papaya
  • 1 medium carrot julienned
  • 1 small Persian cucumber thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts whole or slightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots

Dressing

  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 Thai chili finely minced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp vegan fish sauce

Instructions
 

  • Peel and slice the papaya. Start by peeling the papaya skin using a vegetable peeler. Then, slice it in half lengthwise. Using an ice cream scoop or a regular spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them.
  • Let it soak. Transfer the green papaya halves to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.
  • Grate it into thin strips. Next, drain the papaya well and pat it dry using kitchen paper towels. Using a vegetable grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disk, grate the papaya into long and thin strips (also called julienne).
  • Soak the papaya strips. Transfer the papaya strips to a large bowl, cover with ice-cold water, and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes (this step helps crisp up the papaya by extracting some of the water, as well as more latex). Drain and squeeze firmly with your hands to remove excess water. Transfer the drained papaya strips to a large mixing bowl.
  • Slice the other vegetables. In the meantime, julienne the carrot (grate it into long strips) and thinly slice the cucumber. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
  • Mince the aromatics. Finely mince the garlic and chili. Alternatively, you can crush them in a mortar and pestle.
  • Combine everything. Add the minced garlic, chili, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce to a small bowl. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing. Finally, toss the green papaya and carrots with the dressing. Incorporate the fresh herbs, peanuts, and fried shallots, and toss again. Serve immediately!
  • Papaya salad tastes best on day one. Leftovers can be stored for up to 1 day in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • Use frozen green papaya: Most Asian grocery stores will carry grated frozen green papaya. While it obviously won’t taste as good as the fresh one, it’s still a good alternative. To use the frozen one, thaw it on the counter for about 1 hour before using it. Rinse it well and squeeze it with your hands to remove as much water as possible (it’s more watery than the fresh one).
  • Enjoy immediately: For optimal texture and flavor, enjoy this salad within 30 minutes of making it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving (with dressing and toppings) | Calories: 247 kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.2 g | Protein: 4.5 g | Fat: 14.9 g | Fiber: 3.5 g | Sugar: 13.4 g
Course : Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine : Asian, Vietnamese
Did you make this recipe? Tag @fullofplants on Instagram and hashtag it #fullofplants
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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Omg, this salad look incredible! I’m definitely adding it to my to-try list!

5 stars
Tried and I absolutely love it! The mint gave it a clean taste.

This is inspired Vietnamese papaya salad. A papaya salad is made of shredded green papaya(Vietnamese, Laotian or Thai papaya salad)

5 stars
A really delicious recipe, thanks Thomas! It’s fresh, sweet, crunchy and wonderfully light. Well balanced with the lime juice. I used sambal oelek in the dressing as that’s what I had on hand, and included some cold, fried tofu leftover from the previous days’ Vietnamese noodle salad. Yum!

Can you tell me how to make the fried onions – or did you just use
The ones in a can???

5 stars
It look delicious. I’ll try it this sunday. Thank you Thomas!

5 stars
I waited too long to make this and then the green papaya started to ripen. I happened to have a green mango so just used that instead and it was really good. My husband was craving a salad his grandma makes like this that she put cooked cold shrimp on top of. After one bite, I knew he’d love it because it tasted just like that minus the shrimp.

On another note, I wanted to use raw honey instead of sugar and was a bit worried the flavour would be too strong but it wasn’t. It was perfectly balanced.

5 stars
I have made this salad at least 5 times since I n Asian saw this recipe. Since I am not vegan, I added spicy beef jerky. I love this salad and since I am one mile from an Asian market that carries green papaya, I can have it often.