Refreshing, bright, and garlicky! Chinese Cucumber Salad is packed with flavor and can be easily made in 15 minutes. Serve as a delicious side dish, or pair with rice for a simple and tasty meal ^_^
This salad is easy to make and easy to love.
It's basically cucumbers that are smashed and sliced. Then tossed with a simple sauce / dressing. That's it!
The sauce is made from a mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar (to give it a nice tang) and sesame oil. Does that combination sound familiar? It should! It's super tasty! It's a classic combination also featured in our Dumpling Dipping Sauce.
For the cucumber salad, we add lots of minced garlic, fresh cilantro and roasted sesame seeds. We include a little sugar (this helps balance the flavors), and chili oil for subtle heat.
It's a low effort, high reward dish that everyone will be excited to eat.
Here's what you'll need:
- Cucumbers - Use Japanese, Persian, or English cucumbers. Basically you want a seedless cucumber. If you only have regular cucumbers, just scoop out the seeds.
- Garlic - Minced.
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chili oil or chili crisp
- Cilantro - Chopped.
- Sesame seeds - Optional but a good idea.
See recipe card for quantities.
Let's get cooking:
Smash and slice cucumbers.
Wash and then cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a large flat knife (we use a cleaver) to gently smash the cucumber. Then slice the cucumber into ½-inch thick slices.
Salt and drain cucumbers.
Place the smashed and sliced cucumbers in a large bowl. Add the salt and lightly toss. Let sit for 10 minutes. The salt will help draw water from the cucumber. Drain the excess water.
Make the sauce / dressing.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil (or chili crisp), and sugar.
Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Mix, eat, and enjoy.
Pour the sauce mixture over the cucumbers and gently toss so that the cucumbers are all lightly coated in the sauce. Add the chopped cilantro and toss again.
Top with sesame seeds (optional). Then serve, eat, and enjoy!
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ideas we love:
- Chicken -When I make this for lunch/dinner by myself, I often add roasted, shredded chicken (dark meat only please) into the dish. Toss, toss, and eat! Super good.
- Carrots - Add shredded or julienned carrots to the dish.
- Green onions - Use chopped green onions in place of (or in addition to) the cilantro.
The only equipment you need is a large flat knife (aka a cleaver). We use the cleaver to help smash the cucumbers.
But! If you don't have a cleaver (or don't want to buy one just for this recipe), you can just use a regular knife. You can skip the "smashing" step and just do sliced cucumbers.
Smashing and then slicing the cucumbers gives the dish a wonderful texture and also helps the cucumber absorb more of the sauce. But it's still a delicious dish with "just" sliced (instead of smashed and sliced) cucumbers.
The dish is best enjoyed fresh, right after it's made! Leftovers will keep overnight. Served it chilled, straight from the fridge.
This recipe calls for chili oil (or chili crisp). We love it for the color and the bit of heat it adds to the dish.
If you don't want the heat, you can either omit the chili oil completely OR replace it with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Warm the avocado oil in a small pot on the stove and then mix it together with all the other sauce ingredients. It is delicious this way!
If you're in a rush you can skip this step. But if not, then it's worth the extra 10 minutes of waiting.
Salting the cucumbers not only gives it more flavor but also helps remove excess water/liquid from the cucumbers.
If you skip the salting step, you'll end up with a lot of extra liquid at the bottom of the bowl not long after preparing this dish. That'll end up diluting the sauce/dressing so the overall salad will be less flavorful. But still delicious ^_^
You can use a regular cucumber, just scoop out the seeds, then smash and slice.
We usually eat Chinese Cucumber Salad as a side dish. For example, for family dinner last week we served the salad with Yang Chow Fried Rice and Lotus Root Soup (which we made in the Instant Pot, super easy).
Sometimes we buy takeout roast duck from Asian Mix on Beretania Street in Honolulu. Go home cook rice. And then eat rice with the Chinese Cucumber Salad and roast duck. Always so good.
Chinese Cucumber Salad Recipe
Chinese Cucumber Salad
- Wash and then cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a large flat knife (we use a cleaver) to gently smash the cucumber. Then slice the cucumber into ½-inch thick slices.
- Place the smashed and sliced cucumbers in a large bowl. Add the salt and lightly toss. Let sit for 10 minutes. The salt will help draw water from the cucumber. Drain the excess water.
- In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil (or chili crisp), and sugar. Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Pour the sauce mixture over the cucumbers and gently toss so that the cucumbers are all lightly coated in the sauce. Add the chopped cilantro and toss again.
- Top with sesame seeds (optional). Then serve, eat, and enjoy!
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