Can I make a confession? We have a new Sunday tradition.
It used to be pizza; now, it’s Pad Thai and papaya salad. OK, that’s not so bad. But the bad part is we get it delivered while sitting at home in our stretchy pants. And the worst part is it’s every Sunday.
I think you know where this is going.
Origins of Green Papaya Salad
Green papaya salad, also known as som tum, is a popular dish in Thailand. It’s believed to have originated from a similar dish from Laos called tam maak hung. Variations of green papaya salad are also popular in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Our recipe is inspired by the Thai version, but is made with plant-based ingredients that were more readily available to us. You can find a more traditional recipe for som tum from Hot Thai Kitchen.
How to Make Vegan Papaya Salad
I have eaten papaya salad so many times at this point that I needed to know how to make it at home.
And before anyone jumps to the comments and yells, “Papaya salad is made with green papaya! Not pink papaya,” I say this:
“I know! I tried, but guess what? I couldn’t find an underripe green papaya. So just find the greenest papaya you can and it’ll still work out.”
In an ideal world, you would walk into a store that sells underripe green papaya. But that doesn’t always happen. And the good news is I tried it with a barely ripe papaya and it was still ridiculously delicious. I mean, ridiculously.
See how everything works out in the end? I knew you’d come around.
OK, on to the important stuff.
This recipe comes together in just 30 minutes! And it’s easy!
I was sure this recipe was going to fail because Thai dishes can sometimes be a little complicated and intimidating. But not this one! Trust me, you can do it.
The sauce is where the magic happens. Honestly, even if you can’t find a papaya and just end up using carrots, cabbage, and tomato, it’s still insanely delicious, because the sauce is where it’s at.
Peanuts, garlic, Thai chilies, coconut sugar, salt, lime juice, and vegan fish sauce (see the notes for a quick + easy recipe). Talk about a flavor bomb.
I think you guys are going to LOVE this salad! It’s:
& Just amazingly delicious
This would make the perfect side dish to entrées like Spring Rolls, Creamy Thai Carrot Soup, Singapore Noodles, and Pad Thai (our go-to recipe is in 31 Meals!). Or, you could add my favorite crispy peanut tofu and call it a meal in itself!
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
Vegan Papaya Salad
- 1 small underripe (green) papaya*
- 3 large whole carrots (peeled)
- 1 cup green cabbage (chopped into bite-size pieces)
- 2 medium plum tomatoes (halved and cut into bite-size pieces)
- 2 leaves romaine lettuce (optional // loosely chopped // for garnish/serving)
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 2 Tbsp dry-roasted salted peanuts (plus more for serving)
- 2 medium fresh or dried bird’s eye chilies (or 1 serrano pepper (amount as original recipe is written) // thinly sliced // reduce for less heat)
- 1 heaping Tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/4 heaping tsp salt
- 1/4 cup lime juice (~2 small limes as original recipe is written)
- 3-4 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (I LOVE this recipe from Vegan Miam)
- If you haven’t already, prepare vegan fish sauce and set aside (find link above).
- See notes for tips on finding a green papaya (mine wasn’t quite green, but it still worked!). Then move onto prepping the vegetables.
- To prepare papaya, peel off the skin using a vegetable peeler, then halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds.
- Cut into small segments and shred into small strips using your mandoline or julienne peeler. Add to mixing bowl.
- Chop cabbage and tomatoes and add to mixing bowl as well. Set aside.
- To prepare sauce, add garlic, peanuts, chilies, coconut sugar, and salt to a mortar or small food processor and mash or pulse until it’s a fine paste.
- Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add lime juice and vegan fish sauce. Whisk to combine, then sample and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Add sauce to vegetables and toss to combine. To serve, lay down romaine lettuce on serving dish(es) (optional), and top with papaya salad. Garnish with additional crushed peanuts and lime wedges.
- Best when fresh, though leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Papaya salad would make an excellent side dish to spring rolls and Pad Thai!
*If you don’t have a vegetable julienne peeler or mandoline, you can alternatively use a large sharp knife and chop the papaya and carrot very finely, though this takes quite a bit longer.
*2 garlic cloves yield ~1 Tbsp minced garlic.
*Recipe adapted from The New York Times.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.