This 10 minute Asian Cucumber Salad recipe is so easy and perfect for summer! This refreshing dish features crisp coins of cucumber, thin slices of pungent red onions, fresh herbs and a silky Asian vinaigrette made with a few secret ingredients! It’s a healthy and delicious versatile side that’s always a hit with a crowd!
Try serving this fresh cucumber salad with Honey Sriracha Spicy Salmon, Garlic Honey Shrimp, Crock Pot Korean Ribs or Chinese Chicken Wings for an easy and delicious dinner your entire family will love!
Update: This post was originally published in March 2015. I made updates to the post below to include more information about Asian cucumber salad. Plus, I took new photos and made slight tweaks to the recipe below!
Hi, friends! Is it just me or are you having a hard time finding good looking produce lately? Whenever I go to the grocery store all the produce looks sad, picked over or expired. It makes my heart hurt!
However, the other day I did happen to wonder upon some very good looking cucumbers! I took it as a sign that I should share one of my favorite summer salads with you guys! This Asian cucumber salad is fresh, fabulous and totally simple to prepare! I legitimately crave it all the time once the weather gets warm and I know after one bite it will become a staple in your summer rotation!
Asian cucumber salad: overview
This simple Asian, or more specifically, Japanese cucumber salad is similar to Sunomono, just jazzed up with a No Spoon touch.
Delicate, crisp coins of cucumbers, thin slices of pungent red onions and fragrant fresh herbs are tossed in a silky, tangy, slightly spicy and sweet umami-packed vinegar sauce. Garnished with creamy avocado, nutty sesame seeds and salty peanuts, this salad is terrifically tasty! It’s light and incredibly refreshing, with a depth of cool, crisp and clean flavors.
While this salad is great as a side dish, you can also add in chopped rotisserie chicken, flaked salmon or canned tuna and eat it as a light meal! Or, it’s terrific over sticky white rice or a seaweed salad!
The simplicity of flavors and ease of preparation, is what makes this Japanese cucumber salad recipe not only delicious, but also super appealing!
Why you will love this easy cucumber salad recipe
- Quick and easy! This recipe is incredibly easy to throw together and requires just 10-15 minutes of active preparation!
- Healthy: This cucumber salad is nutritious and full of healthy, good-for-you ingredients!
- Delicious: This salad is bursting with fresh and fragrant flavors! Trust me, healthy never tasted so good!!
- Crowd-pleaser: Everyone always goes for second and third helping of this simple cucumber salad!
- Versatile: This salad so versatile and pairs well with everything – from grilled meats, fish and poultry to your favorite Asian dishes!
What is Asian cucumber salad (sunomono)?
Asian cucumber salad is very similar to sunomono, also known ad Japanese cucumber salad. There are many different variations of Asian cucumber salad; however, the base of the salad “dressing” is typically rice vinegar, soy sauce and garlic.
This cucumber salad recipe includes rice vinegar and garlic; however, it swaps the soy sauce for aromatic sesame oil. Plus, there are a few tasty additions which make this Japanese salad full of fresh, bold flavor!
Ingredients for Asian cucumber salad
This recipe relies on just 7 easy-to-find ingredients along with a couple pantry staples to create a dish that is refreshing and bursting with flavor!
What you need to make cucumber salad recipe
- Cucumber: While Japanese cucumbers are ideal for this salad, they are extremely difficult to find near me! English cucumbers, also known as European or seedless cucumbers, are also great choice for this salad! (See below for more information of varieties of cucumbers to use in salad!)
- Salt: You need approximately one teaspoon of coarse sea salt to purge the cucumbers before preparing the salad. Purging prevents the dressing from getting watered down by the juice from the cucumbers.
- Onion: Half a red onion adds a pop of beautiful deep purple color as well as a mild onion flavor.
- Vinegar: Rice vinegar is a staple in Asian cucumber salad and it adds a very mild, slightly sweet acidic flavor. I prefer to use plain rice vinegar; however you can substitute seasoned rice vinegar if you prefer!
- Sesame Oil: Toasted sesame oil adds a punch of rich, nutty, toasty flavor to that really makes this salad shine! A little bit of sesame oil goes a long way, so make sure you don’t over do it!
- Mirin: Mirin is a type of rice wine that is a common staple in Japanese cooking. It adds a unique delicate sweetness that can’t be beat!
- Garlic: One clove of fresh garlic provide a distinctive, punchy taste. Make sure you use fresh garlic, not the minced variety sold in a jar!
- Red Pepper Flakes: Crushed red pepper flakes add a touch of slightly earthy, sharp flavor with a small dose of spicy heat. I like to use a heaping 1/2 teaspoon to my cucumber salad dressing, but I encourage you to use red pepper flakes according to your specific taste!
- Honey: A touch of honey helps to balance out the acidity in the dressing – so don’t skip adding a sweetener to the dressing.
Cucumber salad variations
Want to make a few changes or additions to this cucumber onion salad? Wonderful – I encourage you to make this recipe your own! Get creative or simply eliminate the ingredients you don’t like and substitute the ones you love! Below are a few easy ideas to get you started!
- Cucumbers: If you can’t find English cucumbers at the store, you can use Persian cucumbers or mini cucumbers instead!
- Onion: You can swap out red onion for shallots if you prefer a more garlicky-onion flavor!
- Ginger: If you love ginger, try adding freshly grated ginger to your dressing for a delicious dose of warm, welcoming flavor!
- Spice: If you prefer a lot of spicy heat, try substituting the red pepper flakes for ghost pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or sriracha!
- Sweetener: Did you just notice you are fresh out of honey? No worries – try using agave or granulated sugar instead!
- Soy sauce: If I’m looking to shake things up, I often add a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce to the dressing – the addition provides a touch of salty, umami flavor!
- Feeding a crowd: This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled!
Toppings or garnishes are the best way to add a variety of texture and really customize your Asian cucumber salad! Feel free to keep it safe, or get creative and load up your cucumber salad with all the yummy garnishes!!
Best toppings for cucumber salad
- Herbs: Delicate green onions (scallions) and citrusy cilantro are a great way to add a ton of fresh flavor!
- Sesame Seeds: If you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing topping, black sesame seeds are a must!!
- Nuts: Peanuts are a non-negotiable addition for me! The pops of crunchy, nutty flavor pair perfectly with this refreshing salad!
- Avocado: Rich slices or cubes of avocado add a delicious creamy texture which perfectly contrasts the crunchy cucumbers!
- Chile Peppers: For those who like it hot and spicy, adding chile peppers are a must! I love to add sliced jalapeños or red Thai chiles (birdseye chile peppers) depending upon what I have on hand.
- Radishes: Thinly sliced radishes are a great way to add a layer of zesty flavor and crisp flavor!
- Carrots: While totally not traditional, shredded sweet carrots are a delicious topping option!
Cucumber salad dressing
There are two different versions of cucumber salad dressing – one is a light vinegar sauce (vinaigrette) and the other is a creamy sauce (sour cream dressing). Asian cucumber salads typically use the vinegar version.
- Asian vinegar dressing: This cucumber salad uses a simple light Asian vinegar sauce made with rice vinegar, sesame oil, Mirin, honey, garlic and red pepper flakes. The dressing gives this cucumber salad a tangy flavor profile with notes of delicious Asian flavors!
- German creamy dressing: Creamy dressings are typically used on German cucumber salads. Creamy cucumber salad dressings are made with sour cream (or yogurt), fresh dill, garlic and very little vinegar.
What kind of cucumber should I use for salad?
The best types of cucumbers to use for cucumber salad are seedless varieties. Using seedless cucumbers helps cut down the preparation time tremendously since you don’t need to peel or remove the seeds prior to making the salad.
Varieties of cucumbers
- Japanese cucumbers: Japanese cucumbers, also known as Kyuri in Japanese, are slender with a thin, beautiful deep forest green skin. They are typically 7 to 8 inches long and can be found in specialty markets. Japanese cucumbers do not contain any developed seeds. They have a delightfully crisp texture with a mild, slightly fruity-sweet flavor.
- English cucumbers: English cucumbers, also known as hot-house or seedless cucumbers, are about 10 to 12 inches long and typically sold in plastic sleeves. They are long and thin with a dark green skin. English cucumbers are prized for their thin skin and minimal underdeveloped seeds. They are extremely mild with almost no taste. Their lack of flavor makes them a great choice for cucumber salads since they will soak up all the flavors in the dressing!
- Persian cucumbers: Persian cucumbers are extremely similar to English cucumbers; however, they are available in a wider range of lengths. Persian cucumbers have a slightly bumpy, thin skin and very mild flavor.
- Kirby cucumbers: Kirby cucumber, also known as waxy or classic cucumbers are short in length and vary in thickness. They are wonderfully crunchy, which make them ideal for pickling or snacking! While you can use Kirby cucumbers to make cucumber salad, you will need to peel them and de-seed them before preparing the salad. To seed, halve cucumbers lengthwise and use a melon baller or small spoon to drag down the middle of each half, removing and discarding the seeds.
How to select and store cucumbers?
Cucumbers are the star ingredient in this salad; therefore, it’s important you select the best cucumbers at the grocery store or farmer’s market!
How to buy cucumbers?
Selecting the best cucumber at the store is easy to do once you know what to look for! It’s important to note, that while cucumbers are available year-round, summertime is when you will find the best choice of varieties at the store!
- Touch: Choose cucumbers that are firm to the touch throughout. Pass on any cucumbers that have soft spots pr give way under slight pressure.
- Blemishes: Cucumbers should be uniform in color, with an even dark green hue all over. Avoid cucumbers that are splotchy or mottled with any yellow spots or blemishes, as this can be a sign the is becoming overly ripe.
- Odor: Cucumbers should be relatively odorless with a slight fresh, aqueous aroma. If your cucumber smells bitter or produces any off-putting odors it has gone bad!
How to store cucumbers?
Once you have purchased the perfect cucumbers at the market, it’s time to store them!
Make sure you do not wash, rinse or slice the cucumbers until you are ready to use them. Place (unwashed) cucumbers in a plastic bag and seal the bag before storing them in the warmest spot of your refrigerator – this is typically the door or the front of your fridge.
Fresh whole cucumbers will keep well for up to a week.
Do you peel cucumbers for salad?
Whether or not you need to peel your cucumbers directly depends upon the variety of cucumber.
Japanese, English and Persian cucumbers have thin skins, which you do not need to peel off. However, Regular or Classic Kirby cucumbers have thicker skin that is tough and bitter; therefore, you need to peel and discard the skin.
The skin of cucumbers is rich in Vitamin A and a good source of fiber! Plus, it provides a delicious crunch, so I recommend using Japanese, English or Persian cucumbers so you can keep the skin on!
Are cucumbers healthy?
Cucumbers are low in calories, carbohydrates and sodium! Plus, they’re chockfull of vitamins and nutrients! Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and manganese! And, since cucumbers are a natural diuretic they can help the body absorb calcium!
How to make the best cucumber salad recipe?
This cucumber salad with rice vinegar is so easy to make and only requires 10-15 minutes of hands on, active preparation! To make prepping super easy and to ensure your cucumber slices are even in thickness, I recommend using a mandoline for slicing if you have one!
- Prep cucumbers: Thinly slice the cucumbers using a mandoline or sharp Chef’s knife.
- Purge cucumbers: Place cucumbers in a colander. Generously sprinkle with salt and toss the cucumbers well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or up to overnight.
- Make the Asian dressing: Combine rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, mirin, garlic, red pepper flakes and honey. Using a whisk, stir well to combine.
- Dry cucumbers: Drain the cucumbers and pat thoroughly dry.
- Prep the salad: Transfer cucumbers to a medium bowl and add the red onions and scallions. Add the dressing and gently toss to combine.
- Serve or Store: Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop and marry. Enjoy!
Expert tips for making the best Asian Cucumber Salad
- Cucumbers: Make sure you use seedless (or semi-seedless) cucumbers in this recipe. I used English cucumbers because that is what was freshest and readily available at my market. However, if you can get your hands on seedless, Japanese cucumbers, that would be my first choice! As well, Persian cucumbers will work here too. If you use English cucumbers like I did here, there is no need to scoop out or remove the seeds.
- Slicing cucumbers: Aim to slice the cucumbers about 1/8-inch thick. If you slice the cucumbers too thin they will become too watery; however, if you slice the cucumbers too thick, the Asian dressing won’t permeate the cucumbers very well. If you have a mandoline, now is a great time to use it! If not, don’t worry, you can use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the cucumbers as thin as possible.
- Salting cucumbers: Make sure you salt the sliced cucumbers to draw out as much excess liquid as possible!! The sweet, tangy dressing is a major component of this easy Asian cucumber salad. If you don’t take the extra (hands off) time to salt the cucumbers, draining them of all excess moisture, you will end up with a watered down dressing!
- Refrigerate the cucumber salad and stir occasionally: To ensure you have a tasty cucumber salad, I highly recommend refrigerating the salad for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours, before serving. Make sure to stir you stir the cucumbers at least once during refrigeration, to ensure the cucumbers are evenly infusing with the tangy dressing!
Step by step photos for making cucumber salad recipe at home:
Troubleshooting: Asian cucumber salad
How do you keep cucumber salad from getting watery?
There are three crucial tips for preventing your cucumber salad from getting watery!
- Make sure you slice your cucumbers to be roughly 1/8-inch thick! If you slice your cucumbers any thinner they will become watery. However, make sure you don’t slice them too thick or they won’t soak up all the delicious vinegar dressing!
- Salting the slices of cucumber (a process known as purging) prevents your salad from getting watery! Salting helps draw the moisture out of the cucumber so you are left with a flavorful dressing that isn’t water-logged from excess cucumber water. Make sure you salt your cucumber slices in batches and lay them down in the colander in layers – this will ensure you are evenly salting the cucumbers! layer them on top
- To keep you cucumber salad from getting watery, it’s best to serve the salad within a few hours of preparing it! If you let the cucumbers sit for too long in the dressing they will lose their crispness and the salad will become watery.
Tips for serving cucumber salad
Are you looking for new and exciting ways to serve you tangy cucumber salad? Below are a few of my family’s favorite ways to serve and enjoy this recipe!
What goes with cucumber salad?
This sliced cucumber salad recipe is light, refreshing and incredibly versatile! This salad is the perfect side to serve with just about anything, from grilled chicken, fish and burgers to your favorite stir-fry or Asian beef!
- Meat: seared steaks, roasted pork tenderloin, barbecue ribs
- Chicken: grilled chicken, asian chicken wings or teriyaki chicken
- Fish: cedar plank salmon, seared tuna, grilled shrimp
- Burgers: salmon burgers, classic cheese burgers, chicken burgers
- Sushi: sushi rolls, spicy tuna, sushi bowls
- Stir-Fry: Asian noodles, fried rice, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour chicken
Can I make Asian cucumber salad ahead of time?
The great thing about this simple salad – it gets better with a little time! This Oriental cucumber salad actually tastes better if you purge the cucumbers and then allow them to sit in the Asian dressing for a little while. Making cucumber salad ahead of time will allow the flavors to develop and meld! There are two different ways you can make this salad in advance.
- Purge cucumbers (making cucumber salad 1 day in advance): If you want to get a head start on prepping this salad, slice the cucumbers, season them with salt and place them in a colander sitting in or suspended over a bowl. Cover and refrigerate the cucumbers overnight. Salting the cucumbers (a process known as purging) allows the salt to draw out the excess moisture.
- Preparing the salad (can be done 4+ hours in advance): For the best taste, make the salad 4 hours before you are ready to serve it! This allows the pickled flavors to get stronger while the cucumbers remain crunchy. Note: You can make the salad a day before you plan on serving it; however, the cucumbers will release a little bit of liquid as they sit, so your dressing will be ever-so-slightly more watery the next day.
Tips for storing Asian cucumber salad
Food safety is of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to storage! Please follow the simple tips below to ensure you are properly storing your cucumber salad!
How long does it last?
To maximize the shelf life of your salad, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, cucumber salad will stay fresh for 4 to 5 days.
Please note, the tangy, pickled flavors get better each day; however, the cucumber’s cell walls also begin to soften with time. If you like a crunchy Asian marinated cucumbers, I recommend eating this salad within 3 days of preparation. After 3 days the cucumbers will start to lose their delicious crispness!
This Asian cucumber salad recipe is the perfect light and healthy dish for spring and summer! It’s quick and easy to throw together, yet satisfying and jam packed with refreshing flavors! Basically, it’s a side dish I know you won’t be able to resist!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to cool cucumbers!
Looking for more cucumber recipes?
If you love this fresh cucumber salad, try one of these delicious recipes next:
Recipe testimonials – What people are saying about this recipe
See below to find out what readers are saying about this tried and true Sesame Cucumber Salad!
- “Quick and easy and keeps well in the fridge!” – Rachael
- “Great recipe. I’ve been looking for a good recipe since I have tons of Asian cucumbers that I grew from seeds this year that I picked up at the local Asian store.” – Anita
Rate and Comment!
Did you make this recipe? WONDERFUL! Please rate the recipe below!
How to make Asian Cucumber Salad at home 👇
Asian Cucumber Salad
- Mixing Bowls (two)
- 2 English Cucumbers – thinly slice into 1/8-inch thick coins or cut crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise into ribbons
- ½ large Red Onion – thinly sliced (about 3/4 Cup)
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt - plus more to taste
- ½ Cup Rice Vinegar
- 2 1/2 TBS Mirin
- 1 TBS Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 clove Garlic - minced
- ¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes - more or less, to taste
- 1 tsp Honey - more or less , to taste (you can substitute Agave or Granulated Sugar)
- 2-4 whole Scallions - thinly sliced
- 2 -4 TBS Cilantro - roughly chopped
- 1-2 TBS Sesame Seeds
- 1/3- 1/2 Cup Unsalted Peanuts – coarsely chopped
- 1 Avocado - sliced of diced
- Salt cucumbers: Place 1/3 of the cucumbers in a colander or fine-mesh strainer suspended inside a medium-size bowl (you need to bowl to catch the excess cucumber juice!). Season the cucumbers with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Layer another 1/3 of the cucumbers over top and season them with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Repeat one more time - laying down the remaining cucumbers and salting them with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Use your hands to gently toss the cucumbers to ensure they have light contact with the salt.Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes or up to overnight - this process will purge the cucumbers of all excess moisture which helps prevent your salad from becoming watery!NOTE: I like to season the cucumbers in three batches to ensure they all get evenly coated with the salt.
- Meanwhile, make the vinegar sauce: In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing (vinegar through honey). Whisk well and set aside.
- Dry cucumbers: When cucumbers have been drained of excess moisture, remove them from fridge and discard excess liquid. Transfer the cucumbers to a clean surface lined with paper towels, a tea towel or kitchen towel. Pat the cucumbers thoroughly dry. (I like to do this in two batches to ensure I get the cucumbers very dry!)
- Toss cucumber salad: Transfer the cucumbers to a medium sized bowl. Add the red onions, scallions and cilantro. Add 3/4 of the sauce and toss well to coat.
- For Best Results - Chill: Place the salad in the refrigerator and allow the flavors to develop, for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours, stirring the cucumbers occasionally.
- Serve: When ready to serve, taste the salad and add more of the sauce as desired. Adjust for taste with salt if needed and garnish with sesame seeds, peanuts and avocado if using. Enjoy!
- Purchasing cucumbers: Make sure you use seedless (or semi-seedless) cucumbers in this recipe. I used English cucumbers because that is what was freshest and readily available at my market. However, if you can get your hands on seedless, Japanese cucumbers, that would be my first choice! As well, Persian cucumbers will work here too. If you use English cucumbers like I did here, there is no need to scoop out or remove the seeds.
- Slicing cucumbers: Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible! If you have a mandoline, I recommend using it. If not, no worries - just slice them by hand and take a little extra care to slice them as thin as you can get them.
- Salt: Make sure you salt the sliced cucumbers to draw out as much excess liquid as possible!! The sweet, tangy dressing is a major component of this easy Asian cucumber salad. If you don't take the extra (hands off) time to salt the cucumbers and allow them to drain, you will be watering down the dressing, which is a crying shame!! It's ridiculously easy to apply a little salt to the cucumbers, toss them and place them in a fine-mesh sieve to drain, so do NOT skip this step!
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