Wholefood Dietitian & Nutritionist │ Personal Trainer

Basil & Mango Green Papaya Salad

I fell in love with Thai food a few years ago on my honeymoon. One of the places we visited on our adventure was Chiang Mai. I will never forget the vibrance and culture I experienced on every street corner that we explored. There was always a market stall, food truck or street vendor nearby selling fresh local food made with love. We went for a casual ride on our scooter one evening and stopped off at the back of a food market where the locals were playing cards and drinking their local brew. We decided we'd stay for a meal and ended up with a feast of food paying only $1.50 for the both of us - it was honestly one of the best meals I ever had! 

One of the dishes we ended up ordering at almost every meal was green papaya salad. It is traditionally made with crunchy grated green papaya and the typical Thai flavours of chilli, garlic, shrimp and fish sauce. It is pounded together using a mortar and pestle with fresh beans and tomatoes. I wanted to give this traditional dish a makeover by using something else that I adore about Thailand - the tropical fruit! 

What is good about green papaya?

You're basically eating a very fibrous low-sugar vegetable, as the papaya hasn't yet ripened or developed any of the sugars. It is packed with vitamins (A, C, E and B's) as well as minerals (magnesium and potassium) and contains two enzymes known as papain and chymopapain. They work in the same way as the enzymes that our bodies produce to break down proteins. Therefore, it may be beneficial in helping with digestions and nutrient uptake in some people. There is also some evidence to suggest that the enzymes in green papaya can help prevent the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria in our gut, thereby helping to regulate the bacterial balance of our gut microbiome - linked to immune function, brain health and overweight/obesity. 

This salad is just lovely on its own or as a side at a BBQ with friends. I've teamed it panfried haloumi (an old favourite!) and fresh lime. It goes wonderfully with fresh fish or grilled chicken - versatile!


1 large green papaya
½ cup coconut flakes
Juice of 2 limes
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tb maple syrup
1 large mango
½ cup basil/Thai basil roughly chopped


Peel the skin of the papaya and then use a julienne vegetable peeler to make thin strips of papaya for your salad. Next, squeeze out the limes onto the papaya and add the coconut flakes.  Gently “massage” it to soften and evenly coat it with the juice.

Combine the coconut milk, vanilla and maple syrup and pour over the salad. Mix until well combined. Chop the mango and add to the salad. Garnish with basil.