Chilled, flavorful and incredibly fresh, this spicy Asian cucumber salad, made with cilantro, sesame oil and soy sauce, is the perfect summer side dish.
When I'm feeling too lazy to cook vegetables, especially in the summer, I often slice a cucumber, sprinkle it with salt, and serve it as a very lazy side dish. When I'm willing to make just a little more effort, I make this tasty salad. Chilled, flavorful and incredibly fresh, it's the perfect summer side dish.
When making cucumber salad, I almost always default to my trusted recipe for creamy cucumber salad. It's an easy recipe that pairs well with almost any main dish. But when I make an Asian-style meal, this salad is certainly more appropriate. I like to serve it when I make Asian meatballs, Asian glazed salmon, and baked soy sauce chicken.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty Asian-style cucumber salad. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Rice vinegar: If you don't have any on hand, it's OK to use white wine vinegar instead. I don't recommend using plain distilled vinegar, though. It's too sour, in my opinion.
Soy sauce: I use reduced-sodium soy sauce in most of my recipes. I find that traditional soy sauce is too salty. Obviously, you can also use a gluten-free alternative.
Sesame oil: Toasted sesame oil is the most flavorful. I get it at Whole Foods.
Garlic: Mince it yourself or use the stuff that comes in a jar. Both work.
Red pepper flakes: They don't make the salad very spicy. They just add an interesting layer of flavor.
English cucumbers: See the discussion below on why I prefer to use English cucumbers in this recipe. Although if you can't get any, regular cucumbers work too.
Cilantro: I know that some people dislike cilantro. If you're one of them, you can use parsley instead.
How to make Asian cucumber salad? It's so easy! The detailed instructions are in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
You start by mixing the dressing ingredients (everything but the cucumbers and cilantro) in a salad bowl.
Now add the cucumber slices and the chopped cilantro and mix.
Let the salad rest for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Expert tip: Serve it chilled
Like all cucumber salads, this salad is best if allowed to sit a little and marinate. It is also best when served cold. So do let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the rest of your dinner. Then mix it one more time, and serve.
Frequently asked questions
English cucumbers are the elongated cucumbers that come wrapped in plastic to protect their unwaxed skin. They have fewer seeds than regular cucumbers and they are firmer and not as watery.
Having said that, if you can't get English cucumbers, regular cucumbers are fine.
There's no need to peel the cucumbers. Their skin is soft and edible (but be sure to wash the cucumbers). However, if you prefer to peel them, that's fine too.
White vinegar is very acidic. Rice vinegar has a noticeably gentler flavor profile. It's very mild - almost sweet.
Not surprisingly, I like to serve this salad with Asian-style main dishes such as:
Storing the leftovers
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 2-3 days. Toss them gently before serving.
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Asian Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce (or use a gluten-free alternative and add salt as needed)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 large English cucumbers, thinly sliced (1 lb.)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- In a salad bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Add the sliced cucumbers and the cilantro.
- Gently mix to coat.
- Cover and let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge while you make the rest of your meal.
- Mix again and serve.