This light and refreshing Thai green papaya salad (som tam) taste just like the one you tasted at one of the restaurants in Thailand. Check out my post for lots of tips and tricks to make this in the most authentic way in your kitchen (can be easily made vegan and gluten-free).
Salads are my go-to meal for summers and therefore you will find a huge variety of salad recipes on my feed. Here are some of them listed for you – Malaysian Mango Salad, Strawberry Walnut Salad, Kale Mango Salad, Watermelon Feta Salad, and Cucumber Avocado Salad.
About This Recipe
Thai green papaya salad (som tam) is a popular classic Thai salad that is made using shredded green unripe papaya. This delicious papaya salad has sweet, sour, spicy, and savory flavors going on at the same time.
Som Tam is one of the most popular salads that you will find on the menu of every Thai restaurant, but believe me, this homemade version is even better! By keeping a few tips and tricks in consideration, you can make a fabulous version at home.
A popular food on the streets of Bangkok, this Thai papaya salad is light on the stomach and can also be topped with some chicken or shrimp for a full meal. I often serve it on the side with my comforting meal of Thai curry and jasmine rice.
It can be easily made vegan and gluten-free. Double or triple the recipe if you are making it for a gathering.
Vegetables -You will need green papaya, carrots, yard long beans (or green beans), cilantro, and bean sprouts to make this salad. If green papaya is not available in your regular grocery store, then check out the Asian grocery store near you. They will have it stoked.
When you select green (unripe) papaya, make sure that it is dark solid green in color and is very firm to touch. It should not have any soft patches or black blemishes. When you peel it, the inside fruit should have a pale green color without any patches of pink or orange.
Green papaya is crisp and it has a very mild flavor, even milder than cucumbers.
Traditionally, yard long beans are used to make this salad but green beans will be great as well.
There are multiple ways in which you can shred the green papaya.
1. Using a knife – Make long cuts in the raw papaya flesh by constantly tapping with the knife, then thinly slice the top layer into the bowl until all the papaya is shredded.
2. Using a julienne peeler – This is my fav way to prepare the papaya for this recipe. Peel the papaya and cut it in half. Remove the seeds using a spoon. Not using a julienne pepper, julienne the papaya. If the juliennes are too long, cut them into smaller pieces.
3. Using a mandoline slicer – Cut the peeled papaya into very thin slices using a mandoline slicer. Stack up the slices and julienne them into thin strips.
Peanuts – Crushed roasted peanuts add a crunch and bite to any recipe, and I just love how well they come together with the other ingredients of this salad. For best flavor, roast the raw peanuts until they are crispy and use them in the salad
Spread the raw peanuts on a baking tray and toast at 350°F (175°C) in a pre-heated oven for 15-18 minutes until they’re golden and crispy. Stir them halfway through for even roasting.
You can also toast them in a pan over stove top.
Dried shrimp – Chopped dried shrimp gives a very unique flavor to this salad and they are traditionally added to this recipe. I am personally not a fan of dried shrimp so did not include them but you must definitely add a tbsp of chopped dried shrimp along with the veggies.
Dressing – The dressing for this papaya salad is made with simple ingredients such as garlic, Thai red chilies, vegetable oil, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and salt.
If Thai chilies are not easily available, use red pepper flakes instead.
Use freshly squeezed lemon juice for the best taste. Also, you can adjust the quantity of ingredients in the dressing to suit your taste.
For a vegan version, skip adding fish sauce and chopped dried shrimp, and to make it gluten-free, replace soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos. For a healthier salad, replace brown sugar with honey or maple syrup.
How to Make Thai Green Papaya Salad
Wash a small green papaya and peel it using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife.
Cut the peeled papaya into half and remove the seeds using a spoon.
Use a julienne peeler, shred the papaya into juliennes. If the juliennes are too long, cut them into small pieces (3-4 inch). We will need 1-½ cups of papaya juliennes.
Similarly, wash a small carrot and peel it using a vegetable peeler.
Shred it into juliennes using a julienne peeler.
Soak the papaya and carrot juliennes in ice water for 10-15 minutes until they are firmer.
Drain the soaked papaya and carrot well and place in a plate lined with 2 layers of paper towel to absorb excess water. You want to have as little water on the papaya and carrot as possible so as to not dilute the dressing.
Add 2-3 chopped long beans (or 4-5 green beans) to a mortar and pestle and gently bruises them.
Transfer the papaya and carrot to a large mixing bowl along with bruised beans, ½ cup bean sprouts, and 2 tbsp chopped cilantro and toss well.
Stir together 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar, ½ tsp minced garlic, 1 finely chopped Thai bird’s eye chilli, and salt to taste in a small bowl to make the dressing.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to coat the vegetables with the dressing.
Sprinkle the crushed toasted peanuts on top. Serve immediately.
You can use green mango instead of papaya along with carrots, bean sprouts and green beans.
Add in other vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, or bell peppers. It won’t be traditional, but it will be as delicious as the original one.
Shredded cabbage can also be added to this salad.
Thai green papaya salad is a flavorful salad that can be served on its own for a light and refreshing meal.
It is traditionally served with sticky rice. Take a ball of sticky rice, make a slight indent with your thumb and use it to pinch or scoop up the papaya salad.
You can even serve it as a side dish with your Thai meals, especially with Thai curry and jasmine rice.
This salad also makes for a great snack or quick bite to eat between your meals or whenever the hunger strikes. Just make sure to pack the dressing in a separate box and mix it with the salad when you are ready to relish it.
I often pack it in my lunch boxes too, as it is refreshing to eat in summer afternoons.
Papaya salad tastes best when made fresh. It looses it crunchiness when stored.
But in case you have leftovers, then store them in airtight container and the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Top with some roasted crushed peanuts while serving.
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Green Papaya Salad Recipe
- 1 and ½ cups shredded green papaya
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- 2-3 long beans (or 4-5 green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces)
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- ¼ cup crushed toasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (skip for vegan)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 finely chopped Thai bird's eye chili
- salt to taste
- Soak the papaya and carrot juliennes in ice water for 10-15 minutes until they are firmer.
- Add chopped long beans (or green beans) to a mortar and pestle and gently bruises them.
- Drain the soaked papaya and carrot well and place in a plate lined with 2 layers of paper towel to absorb excess water. You want to have as little water on the papaya and carrot as possible so as to not dilute the dressing.
- Transfer the papaya and carrot to a large mixing bowl along with bruised beans, bean sprouts, and chopped cilantro and toss well.
- Stir together vegetable oil, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, finely chopped Thai bird’s eye chili, and salt in a small bowl to make the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to coat the vegetables with the dressing.
- Sprinkle the crushed toasted peanuts on top. Serve immediately.