This delicious vegan Thai green papaya salad recipe is everything you could want in a salad: crunchy, salty, sour, spicy and sweet. Also known as Som Tam, this delicious, healthy salad is sure to spice up your step.

Why I like this recipe

As spring approaches, I tend to crave crisp, fresh flavors and all the fruits and veg I can get my hands on.

This delicious green papaya salad recipe hits all the right notes for my cravings. It’s loaded with crunchy ingredients and mixed with a spicy, tangy dressing that’s addictive.

I also like the simplicity of this recipe to prepare. With just a few minutes of effort, I can have a large bowl of tasty goodness ready to devour.

Since the green papaya salad is also quite healthy, I can eat as much as I want without feeling guilty.

So what are you waiting for? Take what you need to make this delicious papaya salad and go to the kitchen!

Ingredients you need

Once you try this green papaya salad recipe, you will be hooked on the delicious flavor. Also, don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list. Although it may sound a bit long, the ingredients are quite easy to find.

Some notes to take into account for the ingredients:

  • Green Papaya – Green papaya is the unripe version of this papaya fruit. Look for a uniform, bright green appearance and a firm consistency when choosing your papaya. It should not give in to pressure when you squeeze.
  • Tamarind – in green papaya salad this is a key ingredient and I don’t recommend you to omit it. From dried tamarind pulp, I make my own tamarind water.
  • Soy Sauce – I use soy sauce to give my som tam a vegetarian umami flavor without using fish sauce, which is a more traditional ingredient.
  • Lemon juice – when possible, use fresh lemon juice on a bottle for superior flavor.
  • Bird’s Eye Peppers – Native to Southeast Asia, bird’s eye peppers are about 10 to 20 times spicier than jalapeño peppers and have an almost fruity flavor behind all their heat.
  • Sea Salt – Like most recipes, in this Thai som tam recipe also salt brings all the flavors together. Make sure to taste the final product and add more salt if needed.
  • Palm sugar: Traditionally, the sweet notes in salad come from palm sugar and that’s what I always add.

Ingredient exchange

  • Sour Taste: If you don’t have dried tamarind, use ½ to 1 tablespoon of packaged tamarind sauce (depending on how acidic it is). If you can’t find tamarind, increase the lemon juice used to somewhat mimic the tart flavor.
  • Do it gluten-free: If you avoid gluten, you can go with Tamari. If soy is not on the table, opt for coconut aminos instead.
  • Change the spiciness: you can use piri piri peppers instead of peppers depending on what you have. Also, don’t hesitate to increase or decrease the amount used depending on your heat tolerance.
  • Salt: Although I use sea salt as the main seasoning, you can choose to use kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, or table salt instead.
  • Sweeteners: Other sweeteners like coconut sugar, jaggery, raw sugar also work well in the recipe.
  • Long beans and carrots – we don’t eat raw beans, so I left them out of my recipe. However, feel free to add them if you want a more traditional Thai papaya salad. You can also add grated carrots to the mixture if you want.

How to make a green papaya salad

Make tamarind water

1. For tamarind water, soak ½ teaspoon of dried tamarind for 15 to 20 minutes in 2 tablespoons of hot water.

2. With clean fingers, squeeze the tamarind and add the pulp to the water in the bowl. Put aside.

Grate the papaya

3. Rinse, dry and peel the green papaya (400 grams). Halve it vertically. Remove the tiny white seeds and pith. Grate or shred using a food processor or can grater.

Make green papaya vinaigrette

4. In a mortar, take 3 to 4 small bird’s eye chillies, coarsely chopped and 2 medium cloves of garlic.

5. Using a pestle and mortar, crush the peppers and garlic together. If you are using long beans, add 2-3 beans (chopped) at this step.

6. Add the following savory ingredients. Crush and mix everything into a loose paste.

  • prepared tamarind water or ½ to 1 tablespoon packed tamarind sauce (adjust for acidity)
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar (replace with brown sugar or coconut sugar or white sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (or tamari for a gluten-free vinaigrette)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • sea salt as needed (or kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, or edible food grade rock salt)

7. Add 1 small chopped tomato or 3 to 4 cherry tomatoes cut in half.

8. Crush the tomatoes a little, but not too much.

Make a green papaya salad

9. Pour this mixture into the bowl containing the grated papaya.

10. Mix very well and mash a little to make the unripe papaya soft. Check the taste and add more salt, palm sugar, lemon juice, crushed chicken peppers or tamarind pulp if needed.

11. Serve garnished with 1 tablespoon chopped or crushed roasted peanuts and 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (cilantro leaves). Enjoy!

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