Traditional recipes

Green Papaya Pad Thai Recipe

Green Papaya Pad Thai Recipe

Here's a refreshing take on traditional pad thai. Chef Hong Thaimee of Ngam Restaurant located in New York City, serves up modern comfort food from Thailand. Just be careful!


*Note: Pickled turnip is sold in jars and is available at Asian supermarkets (it may also be sold as pickled daikon).


For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup tamarind purée or paste
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce

For the pad thai

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for grilling
  • 4 jumbo (6-8 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 large egg, preferably organic
  • 6 ounces green papaya, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons extra-firm tofu, diced finely
  • 1 tablespoon pickled turnip*
  • 2 ounces chives, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 ounces bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, crushed
  • Ground dry red chile pepper, for garnish
  • 1 lime wedge, for garnish


Calories Per Serving3056

Folate equivalent (total)879µg100%

Green Papaya Pad Thai (ผัดไทยเส้นมะละกอ)

Pad Thai made with green papaya strands in lieu of rice noodles has been around for a while I have just recently come to appreciate it. For me, the turn around point was when I ceased seeing green papaya in this context as a low-carb, low-calorie, grain-free noodle substitute and came to acknowledge it as an ingredient that tastes great on its own merit in this newer version of Pad Thai.

I would be stating the obvious in saying that green papaya doesn’t taste anything like rice noodles “the chew” and the carby comfort just aren’t there. But what green papaya brings to this classic dish is the crunchy freshness that is surprisingly pleasant.

Pad Thai Ari restaurant (ผัดไทยอารีย์), lauded as one of the best Pad Thai restaurants in Bangkok [1] , makes outstanding green papaya Pad Thai. It was at this place where I discovered the joy of this unorthodox version of one of Thailand’s most famous dishes. Huge, huge river prawns with rich tomalley that come with it are a bonus.

To make green papaya Pad Thai, simply grate green papaya into thin strands as shown. My earlier post on Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) may come in handy here. Note that while it’s more traditional to grate green papaya with a large knife (I always cheat, though) when you make Som Tam, that method doesn’t work well in this case. You want long, thin, noodle-like strands that can only be achieved with the use of a hand-grater.

A nice thing about green papaya is that it’s much more forgiving than rice noodles when it comes to Pad Thai. No soaking is required. No need to monitor the heat or the rate of absorption and evaporation so closely. There is no starch that would cause gumminess. All you have to do is make sure you don’t overcook the papaya to the point where it’s too soft, assuming, of course, that you like your papaya fresh and somewhat crunchy.

Follow my Pad Thai recipe exactly, replacing 4 ounces of dried noodles which the recipe calls for with one pound of grated green papaya strands.

[1] Pad Thai Ari was named such because of its original location on Soi Ari (Phahon Yothin 7). The restaurant has recently moved to a new location nearby (it still retains its original name). To get there, take the BTS to Ari station. Exit on the side of Thai Farmers Bank (Kasikorn). Walk north for a few yards. Enter a small soi right next to the north side of the bank, and the restaurant will be on your right, a few steps away from the soi entrance.

Alternatively, you can enjoy this dish at Pad Thai Ari’s storefront at the Emporium food court. It’s kind of nice to eat this in an air-conditioned environment while enjoying the view of Benjasiri Park next door.

Vegetable Pad Thai is delicious for lunch and dinner!

Thai food is a cuisine that I haven’t had much experience in eating or cooking. For a short period of time, I worked next to a Thai restaurant and the smells were always tantalizing. I tried a few different dishes – one of them being Vegetable Pad Thai. The owner made a milder version for me to start with as I can’t handle overly spicy food. You can adjust the spiciness to your liking of this recipe by adding jalapenos or Sriracha, too!

This recipe calls for rice noodles. You can choose brown or white. It’s all a personal preference. The brown typically offers more protein and fiber. I didn’t include bean sprouts, but they are often included. My family isn’t overly fond of them, but personally, I love them!

A typical Thai dish includes five flavors – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. If they don’t include all five of these aspects, then it’s not considered satisfying. Rice is more commonly used and can be used interchangeably with the noodles.

Thai Green Papaya Salad Step-by-Step DIY Recipe (with pictures!)

I was preparing a Thai-themed dinner for my sister’s birthday, complete with Pad Thai and Green Curry from The Baos. But it felt like something was missing… (aka my mom said the food I prepared wasn’t enough), so I decided to add one more appetizer aka Thai Green Papaya Salad. The ingredients and recipe itself seemed fairly straightforward, so I was quite excited to try it! Well, I’m not sure if it’s a smashing success – it’s certainly edible, it’s certainly tasty, but I’m not super sure if I achieved the right taste HAHA

My parents are convinced that this is actually atsara, and kept telling me that I should’ve added more vinegar… But it’s not atsara?! I’m pretty sure Thai Green Papaya Salad is supposed to be alternating between sweet and sour. Ugh, never mind. I’m posting the recipe here for my future reference, in case I ever get to taste what Thai Green Papaya Salad tastes like and can therefore come back and check whether or not my version is correct.


DIFFICULTY: Super easy




These are literally unripe papayas, so they’re still hard and green, as opposed to the orange (and sweet) papayas that we’re accustomed to eating. Not only is the look different, but it also tastes completely different. Green papayas have a neutral flavor, similar to cucumbers I supposed

  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 5 chili (up to you how many depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (patis)
  • 5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced (the original recipe called for lime, but I only had lemon)
  • 4 small tomatoes, sliced


STEP 1: Prepare the green papaya and carrots

  • Wash the green papaya and carrots, then peel off the outer skin skin. Afterwards, use a cheese grater to julienne the green papaya and carrot

STEP 2: Prepare the dressing

  • Add 6 cloves of peeled garlic and 5 chillies (or however many you like) to the mortar. Pound them for a few seconds until the garlic is crushed and chilies are reduced to small bits. This allows the flavor to escape and really makes a difference in your salad
  • Add the crushed garlic and chili, the 5 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp of fish sauce, and squeeze the juice from 1/4 of a lemon into the bowl. You can keep adding to the seasoning depending on your preference. Honestly, I’m sure I put more than 5 tbsp brown sugar… I really like my salad sweet
  • Mix the dressing well, to make sure all the flavors are well-incorporated

STEP 3: Mix the salad

  • Finally, toss in your green papaya and carrot shavings, as well as your sliced tomatoes, then mix everything together. Make sure the green papaya is coated with the dressing, and that everything is evenly mixed all throughout

Step 4: Bon Appetit!

It turned out a bit too liquid-y (I ended up putting in 1 whole lemon because I didn’t know what to do with the remaining half. BIG mistake. Stick to 1/4 of a lemon…

Finished salad

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-2 red Thai bird's eye chilies
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp
  • Thai palm sugar to taste
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
  • 6 oz. (170 g) green papaya strands
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, I used grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup long green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • fresh lime juice to taste
  • fish sauce to taste
  1. Pound the garlic and bird's eye chilies until they form a smooth paste.
  2. Add the dried shrimp and pound until the pieces are broken up, but not completely pulverized.
  3. Add the palm sugar (cut into small pieces), maybe 2-3 teaspoons at first. More more to taste later.
  4. Add the peanuts and lightly pound until they are broken into tiny pieces, but not to the point where they form a thick paste.
  5. Add the green beans and crush them with the mortar until they're splitting and lightly bruised.
  6. Add the papaya and tomatoes and pound on them to bruise them. You want to crush the tomatoes so they release their juices and give their flavor and color.
  7. Add a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce and a couple of teaspoons of lime juice to the mix.
  8. Have in one hand a large spoon to help flip things over in and scrape down the sides of the mortar while your other hand pounds away with the pestle.
  9. Keep pounding and flipping for a few seconds, add more fish sauce, lime juice, or palm sugar as needed.
  10. Dish out and serve immediately.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size

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Step 1

Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Set dressing aside.

Step 2

Cook beans in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Using julienne peeler, peel enough papaya to measure 6 cups. Place in large bowl. Add tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, chile, and green beans. Pour dressing over toss. Sprinkle peanuts over and serve.

How would you rate Thai Green Papaya Salad?

This is a great recipe, I've made it so many times because we have papayas growing in the garden but they are available in most groceries. The recipe strikes the right balance among tart, crunchy and colourful with the right amount of sweetness. When I skip the dried shrimp, it also works.

Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.

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Som Tam Recipe (ส้มตำ): Thai Green Papaya Salad With or Without a Mortar

Some of the requests I’ve been getting in the past several months include, “ How do you make X without Y (Y = a cooking apparatus with which X is traditionally prepared) ?” Ranked number one among such requests is, “ How do you make Thai green papaya salad without a mortar and a pestle ?”

On a bad day, I would cringe and wonder, in this day and age when even the most exotic of cooking tools can be purchased online, what would be the excuses for not investing in such tools if the success in creating one’s favorite dishes depends on them? But on a good day, I tell my sometimes impatient, self-righteous self to shut the heck up. True, the tools may be more readily available these days, but there are issues of shipping costs (would anyone care to calculate how much it costs to ship a granite mortar across the country?), storage space, etc. Besides, I am a trouble-shooter by nature. The process of figuring out creative solutions to a problem thrills me to no end. Macgyver is my kitchen patron saint.

Well, guess what. Today’s one of those good days.

Those who have never been to Thailand may not be aware of the fact that what is featured here is only one of the many versions of Som Tam (ส้มตำ)* or Thai green papaya salad (most often transliterated Som Tum which is linguistically messed up or Som Tom which is wrong in multiple levels). This more “friendly,” peanutty version happens to be the most prevalent one outside of Thailand.

Why ? Well, it’s less intimidating than some versions that are flavored with the Northeastern-style fermented fresh water fish (ปลาร้า) the smell of which could send the uninitiated running for their mommies. Then there are some versions that are flavored with pickled fresh water crabs (ปูเค็ม) featuring severed and crushed body parts of brined decapod crustaceans peeking through the strands of green papaya as if to say, “ Can you put me back together? ” (These versions do exist in Thai restaurants outside of Thailand, but people who order them are usually native Thais or non-Thai secret menu seekers.)

There are also some that are made with vegetables other than green papaya** (which, strictly speaking, is a fruit). And some are made entirely out of fresh fruits.

I needed to get that out of the way lest anyone think that this version of Som Tam is the definitive version.

I also need to talk about one other thing before going into the recipe. (Please know that I’m not wasting your time with these little tidbits of background information I actually have a point.) It should be noted that the “Tam” in Som Tam means “to crush” or “to pound” — a verb that is most commonly used when a mortar and a pestle are involved. “ Som Tammade without a mortar and a pestle,” therefore, is oxymoronic.

How to Make Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam or — shudder — Som Tum, Som Tom) with or without a Mortar
Printable Version

To make a single serving of this version of Som Tam, you need:

1. 6 ounces of green papaya strands – To make green papaya strands, peel a green papaya (choose one that’s really, really firm and doesn’t yield easily when pressed with your thumb) and shred its flesh with this incredible tool that holds the universe together – the Kiwi shredder . There is a very inexpensive handy dandy shredder which is much more affordable. Or you can go for the more expensive brand – Kiwi Pro-Slice Thai Peeler.

2. 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
3. 1/4 cups of dry-roasted peanuts (unsweetened)
4. 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp (omit if you’re a vegetarian)
5. About 1/3 cup of fresh green beans or yardlong beansthat have been cut into 1-inch sticks
6. One of two any color Thai bird’s eye chillies (serrano works too, but not jalapeño), depending on your heat tolerance
7. Fresh lime juice, to taste

8. Good Thai fish sauce, to taste (use salt if you’re a strict vegetarian/vegan, but soy sauce in Som Tam would seriously undermine our friendship)
9. One medium clove of garlic, peeled
10. Palm sugar , to taste (brown or white sugar works as well, though not as authentic)

To make Som Tam with a mortar and a pestle:

1. Choose the right kind of mortar and pestle to avoid 1. producing a DOA Som Tam and, 2. an appearance of cluelessness.
2. Pound the garlic and chilies until they form a smooth paste.
3. Add the dried shrimp and pound until the pieces are broken up, but not completely pulverized.
4. Add the palm sugar (sometimes it is hardened and needs to be chopped into little pieces before being used in a recipe), maybe 2-3 teaspoons at first. You can always add more. The reason we’re adding the palm sugar now is because you want to pound it to a paste so that it can be dissolved more easily and blend more readily with the other flavoring agents which will be subsequently added.
5. Add the peanuts and lightly pound until they are broken into tiny pieces, but not to the point where they form a thick paste.
6. Add the green beans and crush them with the mortar until they’re splitting and lightly bruised.
7. Add the papaya and tomatoes and pound on them. This is strategic bruising. You want the papaya strands to soften up a bit so they can drink up the seasonings more readily. You also want to crush the tomatoes so they release their juices and give their flavor and beautiful red hue to the otherwise anemic-looking papaya strands.
8. Add a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce and a couple of teaspoons of lime juice to the mix.
9. Have in one hand a large spoonto help flip things over in and scrape down the sides of the mortar while your other hand pounds away with the pestle.
10. Keep pounding and flipping for a few seconds, just until the content of your mortar resembles Som Tam. Trust me, when you see it, you’ll recognize it.
11. Taste for seasoning. Add more fish sauce, lime juice, or sugar as needed.

That is the standard Som Tam protocol. But what if you don’t have a mortar and a pestle or — for reasons that escape my logic — you have one without the other? In that case, you will need to simulate the mortar-pestle action in the following manner:

1. With a garlic press , or a sharp knife and two skillful hands, mince the garlic into a paste. No chunks, not even small ones. Paste.
2. Place the chillies in a plastic ziploc or sandwich bag, seal the bag, place it on a folded kitchen towel, and pound it into a paste with your weapon of choice: a rolling pin, a baseball bat, or the bottom of a Mason jar. Be brutal. You’ve earned that right.

3. In a separate bag, do the same with the palm sugar. Make sure the sugar is pounded into a paste for better dissolution. Spare it no mercy.
4. Place the peanuts, green beans, and dried shrimp in one bag and pound them just until the peanuts are broken up, the dried shrimp is flattened, and the green beans are bruised and split up.
5. Place the green papaya strands in a large mixing bowl along with the halved cherry tomatoes. Empty the contents of the torture bags into the papaya bowl. Add lime juice and fish sauce to the bowl (start off with just a little you can add more).
6. With your eager, murderous, yet impeccably clean hands, mix and squeeze everything together, crushing the tomatoes in the process. With both hands, mix and squeeze, then mix and squeeze some more. Keep squishing until the papaya strands are softened, the tomatoes have released their juices, and everything melds together nicely. This should take a few seconds, depending on how hard you squeeze.
7. Correct seasoning as needed.
8. Trust me. In a side-by-side blind tasting, one will have a hard time differentiating Som Tam made the traditional way and Som Tam made without a mortar and pestle.

You have now entered the geeky area.

*For those who have the smallest semblance of interest in how to properly pronounce the name of this dish in Thai:

The first syllable, Som (ส้ม) has the same vowel quality of the long ô in “dome” or “Rome,” but is of smaller quantity. Say Rome or dome, but reduce the vowel quantity to half its length. Then replace the R and D with S, keeping the shortened vowel in place. That’s how you say it. As for the tone, the closest thing to the proper tone would be to turn it into a verb in the imperative mood and say it as if you’re making a command, “Som!” That should do it.

The second syllable, Tam (ตำ) has the same vowel quality and quantity as the word, “come.” Say “come” in the flattest tone possible. Then replace the “c” in “come” with “t.” That’s exactly the vocalization you’re looking for. For extra authenticity, make your “t” unaspirated/unvoiced. Place the tip of your tongue right behind your front teeth (or, in some cases, denture) and make the “t” sound without shooting out a breath of air between your upper and lower teeth as you would when pronouncing the English “t” (especially in the initial position).

**Some vegetables have been successfully used as substitutes for green papaya which may not be available in all areas of the world. Good candidates would be vegetables that are crisp, mild- and clean-flavored, not prone to oxidation and can hold their shape well. Carrot (as LimeCake has made it here), cabbage, and daikon work really well. In fact, my favorite Som Tam is made of grated carrots. I like even it better than I do the traditional green papaya.

Better For you Pad Thai with Red Papaya

Prepare sauce by whisking together tamari, almond butter, honey, fish sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice. If almond butter is too thick, warm to thin out and easily mix. Set aside.

Cook noodles to packet instructions. Drain well. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat a generous amount of cooking oil. Add eggs and tilt pan to spread. Use a spatula to frequently mix eggs around to scramble until cooked through. Set aside.

Add additional oil to frying pan and add garlic, your choice of protein and capsicum. Stir regularly over medium heat until cooked through.

Add cooked and drained noodles and scrambled egg. Toss to combine.

Add sauce and stir to mix through.

Add bean sprouts, spring onions, diced papaya and stir through just before serving.

Serve topped with crushed peanuts, chilli, coriander and lime wedges.

For a low carb version use kelp noodles, spiralled vegetables or konjac noodles.

For a grain free version use the above low carb option or sweet potato noodles.

To make this recipe peanut free leave out crushed peanuts and instead use crushed dry roasted almonds.

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Traditionally, Thai papaya salad is prepared in a wooden mortar with a wooden pestle, but a blender can be used as well. Pound or blend chilies, garlic, and dried shrimp, palm sugar. Then add and lightly crush peanuts and long beans.

Add lime juice, fish sauce, and tomatoes. Mix the ingredients with a spoon.

Add shredded green papaya, then mix all the ingredients lightly. Taste and adjust to your preferences.

Pick a firm, green papaya for crunchy texture.

add seasoning ingredients lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar, little by little.

1 or 2 Thai chilies can give you a kick already, so use it lightly – it’s easier to add and spice it up, rather than toning it down.

Watch the video: Superfood Σαλάτα. Άκης Πετρετζίκης (December 2021).