Asian cucumber salad is a crunchy, refreshing, and flavorful side dish perfect for any occasion.
Make it with smacked cucumbers coated in a tangy and flavorful dressing; this salad is a delicious way to add some excitement to your meal.
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Whether you are looking for a healthy and light lunch or a flavorful side dish to complement your favorite main course, this easy Asian cucumber salad recipe is sure to please.
With its combination of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, it’s a dish that will awaken your taste buds and leave you feeling satisfied.
Our Asian cucumber salad dressing is inspired by Japanese flavors. However, we’ll give you ideas on how to change some of the ingredients and make delicious variations of this wonderful dish.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to make this delicious salad!
You can use any cucumber. We tested Kirby cucumber, English cucumber, American cucumber, Italian cucumber, and Persian cucumbers, and they were all delicious.
Japanese cucumbers and mini cucumbers are excellent, too, as they have thin skin.
Of course, it’s best if the cucumbers are firm and fresh, so they’ll have a nice crunch and won’t be bitter.
Salt is essential in this recipe because we use it to drain some water out of the cucumbers.
Sesame seeds are for garnishing the salad, and we like to add a sprinkle on top. They look wonderful and add a nice crunch and sesame flavor.
Pickled red onion
We like to make our own quick 10-minute pickled red onion with lemon, salt, and red pepper flakes.
They add a wonderful bright purple color and a fresh, zesty, and tangy flavor that is perfect with the cucumbers.
Substitute thinly sliced green onions for the pickled red onions.
Asian cucumber salad dressing
- Rice vinegar: substitute apple cider vinegar, lime juice, or white wine vinegar for rice vinegar.
- Soy sauce: substitute tamari or coconut aminos for gluten-free.
- Sesame oil: if you don’t have sesame oil, you can leave it out. Substitute fish sauce for sesame oil to make your salad more Thai and less Japanese. Fish sauce is not vegan, so keep that in mind if you serve this dish to vegans.
- Garlic: use grated fresh garlic or garlic paste. Garlic powder doesn’t add the same zesty and fresh flavor.
- Ginger: use fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated. You can substitute store-bought minced ginger for grated ginger.
- Maple syrup: substitute honey, agave syrup, palm sugar, brown sugar, and coconut sugar for maple syrup.
- Sriracha sauce: substitute chili oil or red pepper flakes for sriracha sauce.
Check out the “variations” chapter below for more ideas and inspiration.
1. The pickled onions
Thinly slice the red onions and add them to a bowl with lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes.
Massage them with your fingertips to distribute the condiments, then set them aside for 15 minutes while you prepare the salad.
2. The cucumbers
Wash and dry the cucumbers, remove the tips as they can be bitter, then put them flat on a cutting board and smack them with a wooden spoon until they crack.
Smacking the cucumbers improves their textures making them more rugged so that the dressing sticks to them.
Note: don’t do this with a knife; the blade might snap and cut you. There’s no need to peel the cucumbers.
Cut the smacked cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, if any, with a teaspoon.
Slice cucumbers into small bite-size chunks.
Transfer the cucumber into a colander and toss it with salt. Now let drain for 15 minutes.
Tip: salt will drain out some of the excess moisture in the cucumbers, making them crunchier. Also, this step helps make your Asian cucumber salad less watery.
2. The dressing
To a small bowl, add rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, grated garlic, grated ginger, maple syrup, and sriracha sauce. Whisk and set aside.
Shake the water off the cucumbers (do not rinse them with water), then transfer them into a bowl and toss them with the dressing.
Garnish with sesame seeds and pickled red onions.
Thai-inspired cucumber salad
To turn this delicious Japanese-inspired cucumber salad into a Thai-inspired one, you only have to change the dressing and garnishing.
For the dressing, substitute the ingredients as follows:
- Palm sugar for maple syrup
- Lime juice for rice vinegar
- Tamarind juice for sesame oil
- Fish sauce for soy sauce
- The other ingredients stay the same.
For the garnish, substitute toasted peanuts for sesame seeds and fresh coriander for pickled onions.
Asian cucumber tomato salad
Add halved cherry or plum tomatoes to make this recipe even more colorful and delicious. They are delicious with cucumbers and with the dressing.
If you are in the mood for Mediterranean flavors, check out our Italian-inspired cucumber tomato salad made with delicious olive oil, mustard dressing, and plenty of fresh herbs like parsley or basil.
Serve it with peanut sauce or next to other Asian-inspired meals, such as:
- Yaki udon (udon noodles, tofu, mushrooms, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, etc.)
- Tofu stir fry (sesame oil, bell pepper, broccoli, scallions, garlic, ginger, etc.)
- Braised tofu (tofu, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, mushrooms, cornstarch, etc.)
- Thai red curry (coconut milk tofu, garlic, ginger, red curry paste, eggplant, peas, etc.)
- Lentil curry (onion, garlic, ginger, lentils, crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, curry, etc.)
Make Ahead & Storage
Make ahead: Asian cucumber salad is not the greatest recipe to make ahead because as the cucumbers touch the salt, they start and keep releasing moisture, making the salad watery. You can cut the cucumbers and let them drain for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, but I wouldn’t recommend mixing the salad ahead of time.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours. After that, the cucumber starts getting soggy.
Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.
More cucumber recipes
Get more spring and summer-friendly recipe ideas with these cucumber recipes:
- Tzatziki (greek yogurt, mint, lemon juice, cucumber, olive oil, garlic, etc.)
- Panzanella salad (stale bread, red onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, basil, etc.)
- Tomato cucumber salad (balsamic vinegar, cucumber, tomato, red onion, olive oil, etc.)
- Shirazi salad (lime juice, tomato, cucumber, dried mint, white onion, olive oil, etc.)
- Greek salad (olives, red onion, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, feta or dairy-free feta, etc.)
More Asian recipe ideas
Try these easy dinners as a healthier and tastier alternative to Asian takeaway:
- Orange tofu (tofu, orange juice, cornstarch, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, etc.)
- Tofu curry (onion, garlic, turmeric, curry, coconut milk, crushed tomatoes, tofu, etc.)
- Easy tofu soup (sesame oil, tofu, vegetable broth, soy sauce, broccoli, zucchini, etc.)
- Kung pao tofu (peanuts, soy sauce, tofu, bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, etc.)
- Sweet and sour eggplant (eggplant, pine nuts, olive oil, sugar, garlic, vinegar, etc.)
For many more side dish ideas, check out our sides category page.
Asian Cucumber Salad
- 1½ pounds cucumbers
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
PICKLED RED ONIONS
- 1 red onion
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- Thinly slice 1 red onion and add it to a bowl with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.Massage them with your fingertips to distribute the condiments, then set them aside for 15 minutes while you prepare the salad.
- Wash and dry 1½ pounds cucumbers, remove the tips as they can be bitter, then put them flat on a cutting board and smack them with a wooden spoon until they crack.
- Cut the smacked cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, if any, with a teaspoon.
- Slice cucumbers into small bite-size chunks.
- Transfer the cucumber into a colander and toss it with 2 teaspoons salt. Now let drain for 15 minutes.
- To a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoons maple syrup, ½ tablespoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce, 1 inch ginger (grated), and 1 clove garlic (grated). Whisk and set aside.
- Shake the water off the cucumbers (do not rinse them with water), then transfer them into a bowl and toss them with the dressing.
- Garnish with 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and pickled red onions.
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