Green Papaya Salad

My friends Harry and Maew at the Simmons Family Farms are one-of-a-kind organic farmers. In addition to standard crops like greens, tomatoes, and peppers, they also grow many unusual vegetables and herbs like Thai basil, Chinese broccoli, and even papaya. This past week I was lucky enough to grab a green papaya from their stand at the farmer’s market. I guess they had to go ahead and pick them before they were ripe since Texas is known for its freak cold-snaps and papayas don’t like to freeze. I was so excited. My first chance to make Green Papaya Salad!

I’d heard about green papaya salad before, but never tried it. Maew is from Thailand so she gave me the gist of it before I headed home. After some mixing and tasting and adjusting, I came up with a delicious dressing to go over my shredded papaya. Based on what Maew told me, I think it might even be pretty authentic.

If you’ve never dealt with a green papaya before, here’s some tips.

  • Make sure you peel all the skin from it, even though it can be hard to get it all off and you will be tempted to leave some behind. It’s extremely bitter and I imagine could ruin an otherwise well-balanced salad.
  • Shred it, don’t grate it. The texture of a green papaya is similar to an unripe nectarine — firm and crunchy without being crispy like an apple. Toothsome is the word that comes to mind. To take advantage of this, shred the papaya into julienne (1/8″ x 1/8″) either with a mandoline slicer or a sharp knife. I ended up doing mine by hand with a knife because my crappy V-slicer isn’t really up to par.
  • Surprisingly, green papaya doesn’t have the characteristic tartness of other unripe fruit. In fact, it’s really very bland, so don’t be shy with the seasoning in your dressing!

What if you can’t find a green papaya?! Don’t fret! I think this dressing would also favor shredded jicama, sliced unripe mangoes, or the aforementioned unripe nectarines. Maybe even fresh pineapple!


Green Papaya Salad

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A fresh, lively Thai salad made with green papaya

  • Yield: 8 1x


  • 1 pound unripe papaya, peeled and shredded (see above for shredding info)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 carrot, grated or julienned like the papaya
  • Roasted peanuts or cashews for toppin’
  • Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground shrimp
  • 46 Thai bird chilies or chile pequins or 12 serrano chilies, minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust to your liking. You may want more sugar, more chilies, or a little salt.
  2. Add the vegetables and toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with peanuts right before serving.


This will keep in the fridge a week or so. Makes about 8 cups of slaw.

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  1. VictoriaO on November 20, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I had this salad a couple years ago at a food truck in Hawaii with some garlic shrimp and rice! It was so good and different. I always wanted to try to make it at home, but was never sure about what was in it or where I could get a green papaya. I am definitely keeping this recipe handy to try with jicama or some of the other fruits you mentioned! Thank you Hilah!

    • Hilah on November 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Hey Victoria!
      That sounds delicious with shrimp and rice! Wow, makes me wish I had some left over. 🙂
      Let me know how it goes with the other suggestions. Thanks for writing!

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