Green papaya salads have always been my go to order in any Thai restaurant. They are light and refreshing and have so much great salty, spicy and flavour.
Unfortunately finding a green papaya outside of a Thai restaurant is similar to spotting a unicorn. I have searched farmers markets, vegetable stands and Asian markets high and low for years and have yet to find one.
Last week, I was walking through Chinatown when I spotted a green papaya outside a grocery store. Passing tourists must have thought I had just won the lottery I was celebrating so much. I ran home and made this green papaya salad and realized 1) Green papaya salads are soooo good and 2) I needed to find an alternate ingredient that I could use in place of green papaya so that I can make this salad more often.
I experimented with a few different options including cucumber and cabbage, but this green apple version, was an absolute winner. The sweetness of the fruit works wonderfully with the sauce and the juicy texture of the apple is very similar to shredded green papaya.
To be honest… I actually liked the apple version more then green papaya. As you can see below the two fruits when julienned look very similar.
Traditionally the green papaya is pounded in a pestle and mortar until bruised to help release its sweet juices, but when making this with apple its best to skip that step to prevent ending up with Thai apple sauce.
Dried shrimp are typically a staple ingredient in a green papaya salad but I haven’t included them as they are also quite hard to find. If you want to make this recipe vegan, you can replace the fish sauce with soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos to create a similar tasting sauce.
The salad on the square plate is made with green papaya, and the rectangular one with apple. Both versions of this salad keep incredibly well in the fridge and the lime juice helps stop the shredded apple from turning brown. I love making a big batch of this salad to enjoy for lunch over a few days, but it would also be wonderful served alongside a green curry for dinner.
- 1 green papaya or 3 green apples
- 1 chilli, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (use tamari or coconut aminos if vegan)
- 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
- 1½ tbsp lime juice
- ½ tbsp tamarind paste
- ⅓ cup cherry tomates, halved
- 4 green beans, halved
- 1 carrot cut into matchsticks
- 2 tbsp chopped salted peanuts or cashews
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 2 tbsp chopped thai basil (optional)
- If using green papaya, peel off the skin and then use a julienne to cut the papaya. Alternatively you can also use a cheese greater to shred the papaya.
- If using apples, cut off the peel and then quarter and core the apples. Cut the apple into slices and then cut each slice into long thin pieces like a matchstick.
- In a pestle and mortar combine the chilli and garlic and pound into a paste then add in the fish sauce, honey, lime juice and tamarind paste and blend.
- Place the green beans and tomatoes in the pestle and mortar and gently pound to slightly bruise. Transfer the tomatoes and green beans to a bowl.
- If using green papaya, add it to the pestle and mortar and pound to infuse the sauce into the fruit. If using apple you can skip this step as the shredded apple will bruise too easily and become mush.
- In a large bowl combine the green papaya/apple, sauce, shredded carrots, tomatoes, beans and chopped nuts. Toss to combine and then sprinkle with chopped cilantro and optionally thai basil before serving.