This easy Asian cucumber salad has minimal ingredients, is quick to make, and can be made in advance. It is a great no-cook BBQ side dish and tastes delicious on tacos!
Thinly sliced cucumbers are marinated in an Asian-style dressing of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and honey. With some pepper flakes it adds a slight heat to every bite.
This easy no-heat side dish came out of necessity. In my old apartment I had no A/C, and a small kitchen with no air circulation. No-heat dishes became a way of life, and I couldn’t get enough recipes!
I needed quick dishes to keep me cool and refreshed. Nothing felt worse than sweating bullets while I cooked my meal, or ate it! This asian cucumber salad recipe came out of desperation - I wanted something to taste good and also be delicious. It’s since then become a staple in my household!
This easy cucumber salad recipe only takes a few steps and minimal ingredients!
STEP ONE: Slice cucumbers on a mandoline or thinly with a knife.
STEP TWO: Create the Asian dressing.
STEP THREE: Combine dressing and cucumbers and into the fridge!
STEP FOUR: Enjoy cold.
Rice Wine Vinegar
A good rice wine vinegar really makes the difference. My favorite is an Organic Rice Wine Vinegar from Marukan. If you don't have rice wine vinegar and really don't want to buy any (totally get it, I hate having bottles of random ingredients I use only once!), a good replacement is Apple Cider Vinegar.
Toasted Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is probably my favorite finishing oil. Made from toasted sesame seeds, it has so much flavor! It has a rich, nutty and toasty taste to it. A substitute for sesame oil would be olive oil, although you will miss out on the nutty flavor.
This helps add a slight crunch and texture to every bite! If you can’t find any or don’t like sesame seeds, you can omit.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes add a sense of heat and dimension of flavor. You can remove or use less if you’re worried about too much heat. I strongly suggest using at least a portion of the flakes. If you want extra spice, top with chili oil or chili sesame oil!
The honey helps balance out the tartness of the rice wine vinegar and the nuttiness of the toasted sesame oil. Substitute for agave syrup.
What type of cucumber to use
English or Hothouse
They are typically thinner skinned and have minimal seeds, making them great for a salad like this asian cucumber recipe.
Similar to English cucumbers, they have a thinner skin. They are often smaller and mild in taste. These are a great substitute for hothouse cucumbers, although may have more seeds.
How to prepare cucumbers: Knife vs. Mandoline
My favorite way to thinly slice cucumbers is a mandoline. It comes out with perfectly even, consistent cucumbers. It also cuts every cucumber so thinly so that they can look pretty and also soak up more dressing!
Mandolines can be scary because of the blade. Moving the ingredients back and forth to quickly can cause accidents. Always be really careful when using a mandoline. Mine from OXO has a safe guard to use on the food to prevent cuts or you can alway purchase no cut gloves!
If you don’t have a mandoline (I highly recommend one and this one from OXO is the one I use!) then using a knife works. It may be harder to cut as thinly or evenly and be careful!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to peel cucumbers before using?
No! I actually prefer my cucumber in this salad with the skins. If you don’t like the skins, you can always remove them in advance.
How do I store this salad?
I like to store leftover or prepped cucumber salad in an airtight container in the fridge.
How long do marinated cucumbers last in the fridge?
Cucumbers in any type of vinegar-based dressing or marinade will last about 3-days in the refrigerator. Any more than 3-days and it will be sour-tasting.
How do I make this in advance?
If making in advance for a large crowd, just put the sauce and cucumbers separately until about 20-30 minutes prior to eating.
What’s the best bowl to prepare this in?
Use a wide and flat bowl or plate with raised sides. This will allow more of the cucumbers to soak in the dressing and be covered with the flavors.
Can I used smashed cucumbers?
Yes! You can always cut cucumbers into large chunks and smash it with a large spoon or rolling pin.
Can I make this spicy?
Yes, for extra spice, I suggest using chili sesame oil, or topping with a small drizzle of chili oil.
What to pair with an Asian Cucumber Salad
- Beef Bulgogi
- Grilled Swordfish Tacos
- Teriyaki Shrimp, Chicken or Beef
Easy Asian Cucumber Salad
- 3 Hothouse or English Cucumbers washed thoroughly
- ½ Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
- 2 TBSP Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 TBSP Honey
- ¼ TSP Salt
- 1 TSP Sesame Seeds
- ¼ TSP Red Pepper Flakes
- Cut the cucumbers into thin slices using a mandoline or knife.
- Mix together the dressing of: rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Place cucumber slices in a bowl - the wider and flatter the bowl, the better, so that each piece can soak up the sauce.
- Pour the sauce over the cucumbers and mix together gently.
- Place in the fridge for at least 30-minutes.
- Stir the marinated cucumber again right before eating, sprinkle extra sesame seeds on top and enjoy!