This Asian Cucumber Salad is made with basic pantry ingredients. It is spicy, salty, tangy, sweet, light, easy in a super flavorful sauce.
Asian Cucumber Salad
A simple recipe that is not boring or bland you'll fall in love with. It contains sliced cucumbers tossed in a sweet, tangy and spicy dressing, hitting all the flavor notes - such a great combo! It’s fast, easy, light, delicious and uses no special ingredients so it can be easily made at home.
Salads are generally associated with summer barbecues or pot lucks (have you tried my favorite Mexican quinoa salad or broccoli salad recipe?) But, this no-cook recipe is perfect to served year round as easy appetizer or as aside dish for dinner with your favorite Asian inspired dishes like Egg Fried Rice, Curried Carrot Soup and Chicken Green Bean Stir Fry.
Believed to have originating in Germany or Poland, it is also hugely popular in Asian countries like India, Japan, Thai and Korea. Our favorite part is that this version is made without dairy, onion, dill or mayo, making it a healthier option.
There are two main styles out there - creamy and vinegar based! This Asian inspired recipe falls into the vinegary category featuring a combination of flavor packed ingredients that is so delicious as a sauce.
The secret to this salad recipe is salting the vegetable. Cucumber contains 95% water, so by salting them, we draw out excess water intensifying the flavor before tossing with the dressing. It also does not water down the dressing, .
Sprinkle the sliced vegetable liberally with salt and toss to coat, drain off excess water after about 15 minutes. This process is the main secret.
The key to making a great salad is in the dressing. It is spicy, sweet, garlicky, savory, with a touch of tartness, so every bite is bursting with flavors like toasted sesame oil, soy and rice vinegar.
Sugar adds sweetness helps in balancing the spicy red pepper flakes and cayenne. The saltiness from soy and tanginess from rice vinegar compliments the subtle garlic notes from garlic powder without over powering. Toasted sesame seeds adds texture and mild crunch.
Best Cucumbers to use
Use thin-skinned variety like English, Persian or Turkish, for the least bitterness, best flavor and minimal tender seeds. Waxy ones will work in a pinch but they need to be peeled first. Mini Japanese also work well.
If you are using a seedy kind like the American variety, then make sure to remove the skin using a spoon.
To Peel or not to Peel?
That is a personal preference. We love the color contrast along with the texture from the skin, when using thin skin varieties like the English ow Persian variety.
Although the skin is totally edible, it might not agree with everyone causing some digestive issues.
HOW TO CUT?
Several American recipes call for thinly sliced when combined with a sour cream or mayo based dressing. We prefer thicker slices for this recipe as they are smashed before cutting. This helps them not wilt too much into the vinegar based sauce.
How about leftovers?
This recipe uses only one large cucumber, so you will not end up with any leftovers. It is best when freshly made because the salt in the dressing will draw the moisture out causing it to get watery if refrigerated for a day or more.
- Cucumber - I prefer to use large English variety as they have less seeds, plus their skin is thinner and more tender.
- Rice vinegar - Mild and delicately sweet, it is a must have for authentic Asian dishes.
- Sugar - White sugar helps the balance the spiciness and adds a wonderful taste.
- Red pepper flakes - Adds texture and taste.
- Sesame oil - Toasted sesame oil adds a bold nutty flavor.
- Soy sauce - Regular soy sauce. Use tamari to make it gluten free.
- Garlic powder - Adds subtle garlic flavor.
- Cayenne - It adds a spicy kick.
- Sesame seeds - Use toasted white sesame seeds.
PRO TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- In a hurry? Smash and slice vegetable, skip salting and toss with the spicy sauce, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes and then serve.
- Refrigerate leftovers and serve in under 2 hours.
- Use thin skinned cucumbers like English or Persian variety.
Here are some of my favorite ways to customize the recipe:
- Thai - Top with chopped roasted peanuts and use lime juice instead of rice vinegar.
- Korean - Use Taekyung Chili Powder and gochugaru chili flakes instead of red pepper flakes and cayenne.
- Japanese - Sprinkle toasted nori to garnish.
HOW TO MAKE?
You'll find the full recipe below with step-by-step instructions, but here's a simple outline of how to make.
- Begin by lightly smashing the vegetable with a meat mallet or a heavy flat bottom sauce pan. Cut into thick slices and then toss in a bowl and leave aside for about 15 minutes.
- Drain off the excess salt water and then toss with the combined dressing.
What to serve with this salad?
This salad makes a tasty appetizer, snack or side dish when served along with the sauce. Here are some pairing suggestions:
- Tomato egg Drop Soup
- Eggplant in garlic sauce
- Air Fryer Fried Rice
- Ground Chicken Stir Fry
- Black Sesame Ice Cream
CAN YOU MAKE AHEAD?
This recipe needs to be served immediately. The dressing can be made ahead (add red pepper flakes and cayenne just before serving, so that it does not get way too spicy) and refrigerated for up 2 days.
HOW LONG WILL THIS LAST?
We recommend eating this right away or refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. We do not recommend storing longer.
Asian Cucumber Salad - SPICY
- 1 large English cucumber
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Wash and pat dry cucumber. Place cucumber on a cutting board and smash it lightly along its full length using a meat mallet, flat side of a large knife or a your hand, until it cracks lightly.
- Cut into ½-inch thick slices, transfer to a large bowl and mix gently with salt, until thoroughly combined. Leave aside for 10-15 minutes and prepare dressing in the mean time.
- Add all dressing ingredients into a small bowl or jar and mix until sugar is dissolved.
- Drain all the excess water from cucumber and then toss the dressing, until well coated. Serve after about 5 minutes.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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