//Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

overhead shot of vegan Thai green papaya salad garnished with roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro leaves

This delicious vegan recipe for Thai Green Papaya Salad is everything you could possibly want from a salad: crunchy, sweet, sour, spicy and salty. Also known as Som Tam, this yummy, healthy salad is sure to put some pep in your step.

thai green papaya salad garnished with fresh cilantro and roasted peanuts in a black le creuset dish with a wooden spoonthai green papaya salad garnished with fresh cilantro and roasted peanuts in a black le creuset dish with a wooden spoon

Why I Love This Recipe

As spring approaches, I have a tendency to crave bright, fresh flavors and all the fruits and veggies I can get my hands on.

This delectable green papaya salad recipe hits all the right notes for my cravings. It is loaded with crunchy ingredients and tossed in a spicy, sour dressing that is positively addictive.

I also love how simple this recipe is to put together. With just a few minutes worth of effort, I can have a big bowl of flavorful goodness ready for me to devour.

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

So what are you waiting for? Grab what you need to make this yummy papaya salad and get to the kitchen!

Ingredients You Need

Once you try this green papaya salad recipe, you’ll be hooked on the awesome flavor. Also, don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list. While it might look a bit long, the ingredients are quite easy to find.

Just a few notes to consider for the ingredients:

  • Green Papaya – green papaya is the unripened version of this popular fruit. When choosing your papaya, look for a uniform, bright green appearance and a firm consistency. It shouldn’t yield to pressure when you squeeze.
  • Tamarind – this is a key ingredient in green papaya salad and I don’t recommend that you omit it. I make my own tamarind water from dried tamarind pulp.
  • Soy Sauce – I use soy sauce to impart vegetarian umami flavor to my som tam without using fish sauce, which is a more traditional ingredient.
  • Lemon Juice – wherever possible, use fresh lemon juice over bottled for a superior flavor.
  • Bird’s Eye Chilies – native to Southeast Asia, bird’s eye chiles are roughly 10-20 times spicier than jalapeños and have an almost fruity flavor behind all their heat.
  • Sea Salt – as with most recipes, salt brings all the flavors together in this Thai som tam recipe. Be sure to taste the final product and add more salt as necessary.
  • Palm Sugar: traditionally the sweet notes in the salad comes from palm sugar and this is what I always add.

Ingredient Swaps

  • Tart taste: If you do not have dried tamarind, then use ½ to 1 tablespoon of packaged tamarind sauce (depending on how sour it is). If you can’t find any tamarind, increase the lemon juice used to somewhat mimic the sour flavor.
  • Make it gluten-free: If you are avoiding gluten, you can opt for Tamari. If soy is off the table, reach for coconut aminos instead.
  • Alter the pungency: You can use piri piri peppers in place of bird’s eye chiles depending on what you have available. Also, feel free to increase or decrease the amount used depending on your heat tolerance.
  • Salt: While I reach for sea salt as my primary seasoning, you can opt to use kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt or table salt instead.
  • Sweeteners: Other sweeteners like coconut sugar, raw sugar, jaggery also work well in the recipe.
  • Long Beans & Carrots – we do not eat raw beans, so I omitted them from my recipe. However, if you want a more traditional Thai papaya salad, feel free to add them. You can also add grated carrots to the mix if you like.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Green Papaya Salad

Make Tamarind Water

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

dried tamarind soaking in hot waterdried tamarind soaking in hot water

2. Squeeze the tamarind with clean fingers and add the pulp to the water in the bowl. Set aside.

tamarind water after soaking and removing pulptamarind water after soaking and removing pulp

Grate Papaya

3. Rinse, pat dry and peel small to medium green papaya (400 grams). Halve it vertically. Remove any of the tiny white seeds and pith. Grate or shred using a food processor or a box grater.

shredded green papaya in a yellow bowlshredded green papaya in a yellow bowl

Make Green Papaya Salad Dressing

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

garlic cloves and bird's eye chilis in a mortargarlic cloves and bird's eye chilis in a mortar

5. Using a pestle and mortar, mash the bird’s eye chilies and garlic together. If using long beans, then add 2 to 3 beans (chopped) at this step. 

garlic and chilis after being mashed with mortar and pestlegarlic and chilis after being mashed with mortar and pestle

6. Add the following savory ingredients. Mash and mix everything to a loose paste. 

  • prepared tamarind water or ½ to 1 tablespoon packaged tamarind sauce (adjust depending on the sourness)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (replace with brown sugar or coconut sugar or white sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for a gluten-free dressing)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • sea salt as needed (or kosher salt, himalayan pink salt or edible food grade rock salt)
tamarind water, palm sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice and sea salt added to mashed garlic and chiletamarind water, palm sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice and sea salt added to mashed garlic and chile

7. Add 1 small chopped tomato or 3 to 4 halved cherry tomatoes. 

tomatoes added to mortar with som tam dressing ingredientstomatoes added to mortar with som tam dressing ingredients

8. Mash the tomatoes a bit, but not too much. 

lightly mashed tomatoes in mortar with green papaya salad dressinglightly mashed tomatoes in mortar with green papaya salad dressing

Make Green Papaya Salad

9. Pour this mixture in the bowl containing the shredded papaya.

som tam dressing added to green papaya in yellow bowlsom tam dressing added to green papaya in yellow bowl

10. Mix very well and mash a bit to soften the unripe papaya. Check the taste and add more salt, palm sugar, lemon juice, crushed bird’s eye chillies or tamarind pulp if needed.

green papaya salad after being tossed with som tam dressing in yellow bowlgreen papaya salad after being tossed with som tam dressing in yellow bowl

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

overhead shot of vegan Thai green papaya salad garnished with roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro leavesoverhead shot of vegan Thai green papaya salad garnished with roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro leaves

Tips

Tips + FAQs

How should I serve Thai green papaya salad?

I love som tam so much that I often eat it all by itself. You can opt to serve it as a side or as a starter. The flavors pair well with pan fried tofu, fried rice, tofu steaks, grilled or sautéed mushrooms, stir fried noodles or fresh, blanched, sautéed or roasted vegetables like carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn on the cobs, green beans, cauliflower, bell pepper or lettuce.

Can I make Som Tam ahead of time?

While this recipe tastes best when you eat it fresh, any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

What can I substitute for green papaya?

If you are unable to find green papaya (or you just don’t like the taste of papaya), you can opt to sub in cucumber, green mango, carrot or cabbage instead.

More Awesome Salad Inspirations!

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This delicious vegan recipe for Thai Green Papaya Salad also known as Som Tam is everything you could possibly want from a salad: crunchy, sweet, sour, spicy, salty and healthy. Easy to make and delicious to taste.

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 0 mins

Total Time 15 mins



Servings 4

Making salad dressing

  • In a mortar, take the birds eye chillies and garlic cloves. Using a pestle and mortar, mash the bird’s eye chilies and garlic together. If using long beans, then add 2 to 3 beans (chopped) at this step. 

  • Add the prepared tamarind water, palm sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice and sea salt as needed to the mortar. Mash and mix everything to a loose paste. 

  • Add chopped tomato or halved cherry tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes a bit, but not too much.

Making papaya salad

  • Pour dressing mixture in the bowl containing the shredded papaya. Mix very well and mash a bit to soften the unripe papaya. Check the taste and add more salt, palm sugar, lemon juice, crushed bird’s eye chillies or tamarind pulp if needed.

Serving suggestions

  • Serve garnished with chopped roasted peanuts and cilantro.

  • Som tam tastes awesome as it is. But you can choose to serve it as a side or as a starter with a Thai main course.

  • The papaya salad flavors pair well with pan fried tofu, fried rice, stir fried noodles, grilled or sautéed mushrooms, tofu steaks, or fresh, blanched, sautéed or roasted vegetables like carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn on the cobs, cabbage, green beans, cauliflower, bell pepper or lettuce. 

  1. Tamarind: If you are unable to find dried tamarind, substitute ½ to 1 tablespoon of packaged tamarind paste or sauce, depending on how sour it is.
  2. Soy sauce: Tamari or coconut aminos are acceptable substitutes for soy sauce.
  3. Alter the pungency: You can use piri piri peppers in place of bird’s eye chiles depending on what you have available. Also, feel free to increase or decrease the amount of chillies depending on your heat tolerance.
  4. Salt: While I prefer sea salt, you can opt to use kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt or table salt instead.
  5. Sweeteners: You can opt to use sweeteners like coconut sugar, raw sugar, jaggery, brown sugar that also work well in the recipe.
  6. Long Beans & Carrots – We do not eat raw beans, so I do not include them in my recipe. However, if you want a more traditional Thai green papaya salad, feel free to add them. You can also add grated carrots if you like.

Nutrition Facts

Green Papaya Salad

Amount Per Serving

Calories 470 Calories from Fat 144

% Daily Value*

Fat 16g25%

Saturated Fat 2g13%

Sodium 2277mg99%

Potassium 1304mg37%

Carbohydrates 78g26%

Fiber 11g46%

Sugar 51g57%

Protein 15g30%

Vitamin A 4503IU90%

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 8mg40%

Vitamin B6 1mg50%

Vitamin C 264mg320%

Vitamin E 3mg20%

Vitamin K 21µg20%

Calcium 120mg12%

Vitamin B9 (Folate) 206µg52%

Iron 3mg17%

Magnesium 161mg40%

Phosphorus 235mg24%

Zinc 2mg13%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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