Achara, or atchara as it is sometimes written, is a Filipino green papaya slaw with the perfect blend of sweet, tangy, spicy, and savory flavors. If you've spent time in the Philippines, chances are you've had Achara served as a condiment. This recipe is dialed in to be intense and has the best texture to serve with your favorite grilled foods!
🤔 What is Achara?
The name Achara actually comes from the Malay word "acar," which translates to pickle or pickled in English. It's a condiment made with the crispness of julienned green papaya, the vibrant hues of julienne-cut carrots and thinly sliced bell peppers, all harmonizing in a symphony of colors.
Achara goes by different names across the Philippines, such as Atsara, and Acharsa. Like sambal matah, sambal dabu dabu, oi muchim, and yamagobo, the green papaya in acharya is not technically fermented. It’s more of a quick pickle relish, if that makes sense. And the freshness of the raw ingredients is what makes it such a nice complement to grilled food.
Don't just read about it, let’s whip up some Achara together!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
Brine Wizardry: The unique method of brining, and then rinsing the green papaya for 30 minutes ensures the perfect texture - crisp, yet tender.
🥸 Foolproof Fusion: The perfect balance of grated ginger, white pepper, and red pepper flakes in the pickling liquid ensures a flavor explosion that's both bold and reliable. Each bite is a harmonious fusion of spices, elevating your Achara game to new heights.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Just like every recipe on my blog, I have made this atchara recipe for years, and got it working perfectly. After that, I shared it with a big group of recipe testers from all over the world who made it and loved it!
🥭Notable ingredients and substitutions
I’m not talking about the sweet, fruity papaya with soft orange flesh inside. Green unripe papaya makes up the bulk of the acharya, and it has a tangy flesh that is firm enough to survive being julienne cut (I use a mandolin for that).
Carrots bring a burst of color and natural sweetness to the achara. Some folks use daikon radish, which has a similar texture but a less sweet flavor.
Optional but delightful, as raisins add a hint of sweetness to counterbalance the acidity. While I love the texture of the soaked raisins, my kids don’t! So leave them out if you don’t like raisins. You can use regular raisins, but I prefer using the greenish hunza raisins from northern India.
White Pepper (Paminta)
I didn’t cook much with white pepper until I got deep into Southeast Asian cooking. Now I use it in everything from Indonesian bangers like bihun goreng to Thai dishes like pad woon sen, and khao pad. White pepper imparts a subtle heat without the visual presence of black specks that black pepper brings. Of course, if you don't have white pepper and don’t care about the specks, go for the ground black pepper by all means!
Vinegar provides the necessary acidity to balance the sweetness in the pickling liquid. Traditionally, cane vinegar is used, but because that's hard to find in the USA, I wrote this recipe to work with distilled white vinegar. If you prefer, you can use rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar in its place.
I like using natural evaporated cane juice in this recipe (and it also makes the best caramel popcorn), but you can use regular ol’ granulated sugar here if you like. If you stay away from refined sugars you can substitute with coconut sugar, or palm sugar which make the best filling for klepon and kuih dadar.
When you look at the recipe, don’t freak out. Just like the process for making kimchi, the massive amount of salt in the initial brining stage will not end up in your food. It will draw moisture out of the papaya, and then be rinsed down the drain along with the bacteria it helps destroy for better shelf life.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
- Binalot Style Achara (Wrapped Acharsa): In this variation hailing from the Philippines, Achara is traditionally served wrapped in banana leaves. If you buy frozen banana leaves and don’t know what to do with the rest of them after making this, whip up some tupig, budbud or lontong. Thank me later 😘
- Sinamak-Inspired Achara (Spiced Vinegar Atchara): Drawing inspiration from the Ilonggo cuisine, this variation infuses the pickling liquid with the flavors of Sinamak - a spiced vinegar. Incorporate additional spices such as bay leaves, peppercorns, and even a touch of soy sauce for a deeper, savory dimension.
📖 How to make perfect Achara
Nail this green papaya slaw on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Brine before you Dine:
Whisk together 6 cups of water and ¼ cup salt. Soak green papaya for 30 minutes. You may want to submerge it in the brine with a clean heavy bowl or plate placed on top.
In a colander or wire mesh strainer, very thoroughly rinse papaya under cold water until it is no longer salty. Allow it to sit in the colander for a minute or two for all excess liquid to drain.
In a large bowl, mix rinsed papaya, carrot, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and optional raisins.
In a saucepan, blend ginger, white pepper, red pepper flakes, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Stir over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolve.
Take a Warm Bath:
Pour hot pickling liquid over veggies, and give it a good stir with a metal mixing spoon.
Take a Chill Pill:
Allow the achara to cool, then pack into a jar and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. The achara will stay good for a few weeks if stored in a well-sanitized jar with a tight-fitting lid under refrigeration.
Pair your Achara with classic Filipino favorites like Sitaw, Ginisang Munggo, Tofu Sisig, Ginitaang Kalabasa, or Ensaladang Talong for an authentic and satisfying meal. The vibrant, tangy flavors of Achara complement these dishes so naturally!
🔪Precision in Papaya Prep: Achieve the perfect texture by evenly julienning the green papaya. If your knife skills aren’t the stuff of legends, carefully use a mandolin. The 30-minute brining, followed by thorough rinsing, is imperative if you want the best texture and quality.
Storing Achara in very clean jars is essential for a longer shelf life. To clean your jars, follow one of these methods:
Option 1: Start by washing jars, lids, and seals in hot, soapy water to eliminate any residue. Submerge them in a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes, ensuring a clean foundation for your Achara. You may want to place a clean kitchen towel at the bottom of the pot to prevent accidental cracking of the jars as they boil. Afterwards, let them air-dry upside down on a clean surface to avoid potential contamination.
Option 2: You can use a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle to streamline the process. Place already washed and cleaned jars, lids, and seals in the dishwasher and run the sanitize cycle. This method provides efficient sterilization, saving time while ensuring your jars stay pristine for storing the delectable Achara.
Green papaya is crucial for the desired texture and taste. Ripe papaya lacks the firmness needed for the crispness in Achara. You can use daikon radish in its place.
While sugar balances the vinegar in the brine, you can adjust sugar to taste. Achara can also be made with coconut sugar or palm sugar in place of refined granulated sugar if you avoid processed sweeteners.
While the traditional Filipino Pickled Green Papaya Apsara recipe is inherently vegan, some variations or personal adaptations sometimes include non-vegan ingredients.
Common non-vegan additions can include fish sauce (patis) or shrimp paste (bagoong), which are occasionally used in Filipino cuisine. It's essential to check the specific recipe or inquire about the ingredients used if ordering or enjoying Achara outside of a plant-based context to ensure it causes no harm to our precious friends in the sea.
✌️My faves to serve with this dish:
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Achara (Filipino Pickled Green Papaya Apsara)
- 2 pounds green papaya julienned
- ¼ cup salt don’t worry, you will not consume this!
- 6 cups water
- 1 carrot julienne cut or shredded
- 1 small red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ½ cup raisins optional
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ⅔ cups white vinegar
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Whisk together the 6 cups of water and ¼ cup of salt and submerge the green papaya in it for 30 minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly under cold running water until no longer salty.
- Place the rinsed brined papaya in a large bowl along with the julienned carrot, thinly sliced red bell pepper, shallot, sliced garlic, and optional raisins. Toss the vegetables together.
- In a saucepan, combine grated ginger, white pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Stir over medium heat until the sugar and salt completely dissolve.
- Pour the hot pickling liquid over the vegetable mix, ensuring all vegetables are submerged.
- Allow the achara to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours or, ideally, overnight.
- Serve as a side dish or condiment.