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This 10-ingredient crunchy cucumber salad requires just minutes of prep and is light, crunchy, refreshing, and packed with well-balanced spicy, tangy, salty, and sweet flavors!

completed Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad plated on a white plate against a white background

Humble cucumber is a versatile ingredient that can be elevated to new heights with just a few simple ingredients, creating fresh, crisp, vibrant salads like this spicy cucumber salad! Combining popular flavors like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes (Regular or Korean gochujang), this spicy cucumber salad tastes super bold but has a refreshing crunch in every bite.

There are actually several regional marinated cucumber recipes/salads (like this vinegar dill cucumber salad or cucumber Pico de Gallo), but our version is most similar to Korean cucumber salad (Oi Muchim/ 오이무침), which is a popular ‘banchan’ (side dish) made with Korean chili flakes and great as part of a larger meal or an appetizer.

Best of all, this spicy cucumber salad recipe comes together in just a couple of bowls and a few minutes, with no peeling or de-seeding necessary, and tastes delicious when served chilled on warmer days.

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The Ingredients and Substitutes

ingredients for Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad measured out against a white surface

The Sesame Cucumber Salad

  • Cucumber: Use low-seed, thin peel varieties like Persian, Korean, or English cucumbers or small pickling cucumbers.
  • Green onion: To add a mild oniony flavor to the healthy cucumber salad.
  • Sesame seeds: Raw or lightly toasted to garnish the Asian spicy cucumber salad.

The Salad Dressing

  • Aromatics: Chili cucumber salad relies on garlic and ginger for its aromatic base.
  • Soy sauce: Dark soy sauce adds the most flavor, though use light/reduced-sodium soy sauce if preferred. Alternatively, tamari or coconut aminos work best for a gluten-free spicy cucumber salad.
  • Rice vinegar: Adds a tangy, slightly sweet flavor for a super ‘bright’ cucumber rice vinegar salad. Alternatively, try apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. Regular white vinegar may work, but you’ll likely need extra sweetener.
  • Sesame oil: Toasted sesame oil adds a rich, toasty, nutty flavor.
  • Sweetener: To balance the flavors. We like maple syrup or agave, though regular white sugar or a sugar alternative will work. Adjust the amount to taste.
  • Red pepper flakes: For a traditional Korean cucumber salad (oi muchim), use Korean chili powder ‘gochugaru’ (which is a vibrant red but has a fairly mild, fruity heat). Regular red pepper flakes will work (and are what we used this time) but are 3-5x hotter, so adjust accordingly.
  • Salt: If needed, to further season.

What Else Could I Add to this Cucumber Salad?

  • Chili paste: A small amount of regular Korean chili paste (or a chili sauce) will add flavor depth to make a delicious cucumber salad.
  • More vegetables: To add extra crunch and flavor, try shredded/ribboned/sliced carrot, radish, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, and/or red onion.
  • Avocado: For a rich, creamy addition. Add it just before serving.
  • Fruit: Add juicy sweetness with the addition of pineapple or mango.
  • Fresh herbs: Cilantro or parsley could work.
  • Thai-inspired cucumber salad: Replace the vinegar and sesame seeds with lime juice, crushed peanuts, and garnish with Thai basil.
  • Wakame/seaweed seasoning: For a Japanese-inspired cucumber salad, sprinkle this over to garnish. Optionally, also omit the sesame oil.

How to Make Spicy Cucumber Salad

  • 1) First, wash and thinly slice the cucumber into around 1/8th-inch slices using a knife or mandoline, and transfer them to a large bowl. Then, peel and mince the garlic and ginger, and thinly slice the green onion.

There are several ways to slice the cucumber for cucumber salad, including simple round slices, at a bias, or in ribbons. Use a fork to scrape lines down the side of the cucumber for ridges where the dressing can cling.

  • 2) In a separate small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients (garlic, ginger, soy sauce, salt, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sweetener, and red pepper flakes). Stir well, then leave it for 5 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Alternatively, omit the salt at this point and only add it just before serving, after tasting the saltiness of the overall salad.

  • 3) Pour the dressing over the cucumber and toss well, then serve garnished with green onions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and additional red pepper flakes.

For even better flavor (and to make it extra refreshing), allow the cucumber salad to marinate/meld for an hour or two in the fridge before serving.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • Don’t slice the cucumber too thin: Otherwise, it will become soggy/limp faster.
  • Prepare the dressing first: This allows all the flavors to meld. We recommend preparing it 1-2 hours ahead if you have time.
  • To speed up prep: A mandoline, food chopper, or food processor slicing/shredding disks will speed up the cucumber slicing and help to make perfectly even slices every single time.
  • Tweak the dressing: Allow it to sit first for the flavors to meld, then either taste and adjust any ingredients immediately OR assemble this simple cucumber salad first, then taste and adjust before serving.   

FAQs

What cucumbers are best for cucumber salad?

It’s best to use cucumbers with a thin peel (so it’s not overly tough/requires peeling) and low-seed variety (which can make the salad soggy faster, so it would require deseeding first).

English, Persian, or small Korean/Japanese cucumbers work very well. Small pickling cucumbers like Kirby cucumbers tend to remain fresh/crisp the longest.

Do I need to peel the cucumber for the cucumber salad?

Unless you’re using cucumber with thick, tough skin, then leave the peel on, as it will add a lovely crunch to this vegan cucumber salad.

How to avoid watery cucumber salad?

If you don’t plan to consume it all immediately, it’s a good idea to salt the cucumber slices so they release excess water. To do so, transfer the cucumber to a colander, sprinkle it with salt, and then leave them to sweat and naturally drain for 15 minutes (30 minutes for thicker slices). Afterward, pat to remove excess salt and dry the slices.

completed Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad plated on a white plate against a white background

Serving Suggestions

This easy cucumber salad is a light, refreshing, and flavor-packed addition to any dinner table, BBQ, picnic, potluck, and more. Especially with dishes that provide balance and contrast in texture and flavor, like:

How to Store this Cucumber Salad?

We highly recommend preparing the dressing (or the entire assembled salad) 1-2 hours before serving.

Once prepared, this cucumber salad will remain freshest, with the most crisp texture, in the first 24 hours. However, leftovers should store okay for an additional 1-2 days (possibly slightly longer if you salted the cucumber).

Taste it between servings and liven it up if needed with extra vinegar and/or fresh cucumber slices.

More Easy Vegan Salad Recipes

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

completed Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad plated on a white plate against a white background

Spicy Cucumber Salad

5 from 47 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
This 10-ingredient crunchy cucumber salad requires just minutes of prep and is light, crunchy, refreshing, and packed with well-balanced spicy, tangy, salty, and sweet flavors!

Ingredients 

  • 6 mini cucumbers sliced or 3 large regular cucumbers
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon of agave or maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, garnish
  • Green onions, thinly sliced, garnish
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, garnish

Instructions 

  • Wash and slice the cucumbers. Put them in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl add the salt, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave or maple syrup, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix well and let it sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to combine.
  • Add the dressing to the bowl with the cucumbers and mix well.
  • Serve and top with green onions, sesame seeds, and crushed red peppers.

Video

Notes

  • Don’t slice the cucumber too thin: Otherwise, it will become soggy/limp faster.
  • Prepare the dressing first: This allows all the flavors to meld. We recommend preparing it 1-2 hours ahead if you have time.
  • To speed up prep: A mandoline, food chopper, or food processor slicing/shredding disks will speed up the cucumber slicing and help to make perfectly even slices every single time.
  • Tweak the dressing: Allow it to sit first for the flavors to meld, then either taste and adjust any ingredients immediately OR assemble this simple cucumber salad first, then taste and adjust before serving.   

Nutrition

Calories: 50kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.3gSodium: 552mgPotassium: 349mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 267IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Asian
Method: No Cook
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorite PBOAB recipes! I make it all the time. I feel like it’s goes with anything. So fresh and delicious 🙂