Fried Green Papaya

Fried Green Papaya! Yep; It’s A Fruit And A Vegetable

I grow papaya and pick a lot of fruit. It’s a dependable food source as the fruit ripens continually— not all at once. So for months I eat both sweet and “green” papaya— a fruit OR a veggie.

It is not common knowledge that papaya is usually served “raw” around the world—as a vegetable. I’m guessing that’s because every critter in the world loves sweet papaya. So getting it picked and making it tasty is all in a cuisine’s manifesto.

I happened on this vegetable dish at a potluck and loved the tender-crispy texture and the deep spices built into the sauce. It’s a new type of papaya experience for me. The recipe is shared by James Garlanger, a fellow permaculturist and is now in my “repeat often” recipe file.

About papaya: for this dish we want green papaya, where the skin is green and the seeds are white (not black in ripened stage). Supermarkets and Asian markets sell and call them “green papaya.”

BONUS: Turn any leftovers into a cold salad by squeezing lime juice and garnishing with a fresh chopped herb, like cilantro. I think this is as good or better than the warm version.

Recipe #1: Papaya Masala Sauté



  • coconut oil- 2 TBS.
  • turmeric powder- 2 tsp.
  • coriander powder- 1 tsp.
  • garam masala spice blend- 1 TBS.
  • smoked paprika- 1 tsp.
  • scallions- 1 cup [4], white portion chopped, reserve green portion for garnish
  • garlic- 2 tsp. [2 cloves], chopped
  • papaya*- 1 small, (4 cups), peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch spears [or cubed]
  • tomato- 1 cup, diced
  • salt- 1 tsp.
  • pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • water- 1 cup [or coconut milk]

Papaya Sauté

* Note:
The papaya I used looked like a green papaya, but in fact was slightly sweet and had black, mature seeds. It was midway and I like to call it “blush!” The good news, the dish was also delicious, the spears were not soft, like ripened fruit–so the texture stayed crisp and flavors balanced perfectly.



  1. In a large skillet heat the oil for and sauté the spices for 30 seconds, then add the scallions and garlic. Cook until softened, a few minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, papaya, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook until tomatoes have dissolved into a sauce. Add water half way up the papaya planks and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the spears are al denté, still with a slight inner crispness.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning. Garnish with minced scallion tops.

Papaya Sauté
Papaya Sauté [upper right]
VARIATION: I’m tinkering with other spice combinations and bingo!

Recipe #2 Papaya Viva!

With only taco seasoning blend we’re off to Mexico. I use a premium blend I purchase online as a whole spice blend and then grind before using. Or make your own.

  • oil- 2 TBS. neutral or olive oil
  • taco seasoning blend- 1 TBS.
  • onions- 1-1/2 cups, crescent slices
  • garlic- 2 tsp.
  • salt- 1 tsp.
  • papaya- 4 cups, peeled, seeded, 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch x 2-inch long planks [or cubes]
  • water- about 1-1/2 cups
  • lime juice- 2 TBS.
  • cilantro- for garnish
  1. Sauté taco seasoning in oil for a 30 seconds then add in the onion and garlic and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
  2. Add the papaya planks and nearly cover with water. Add a tsp. salt and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered, until most the water has cooked off. The papaya should have a little bite left.
  3. Squeeze in lime juice and top with cilantro.
Fried Green Papaya
Papaya Viva

Both recipes are great warm, cold, or as a taco filling.

Note: For this recipe I used papaya that was not quite ripe. There is a lovely nuanced sweetness—a big plus. Now you can use papaya in three different states: green, blush, and ripe.

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