Refreshing and crunchy, this spicy Asian cucumber salad is the perfect quick appetizer for busy days. Loaded with garlic, sesame seeds, chili paste, and soy sauce, it’s got all your favorite Asian ingredients in one bite.
Easy Asian Cucumber Salad Recipe
Prepped a day ahead, this Asian cucumber salad is a simple but flavorful side dish or appetizer idea full of crunchy cucumbers, chili paste, and soy sauce. Topped with black sesame seeds, every bite is just the right amount of garlicky, spicy, and earthy.
Don’t worry if you don’t have enough time to salt and marinate the salad a day ahead— you can skip it all and then toss everything together at once. You can cut a few corners by slicing thicker cucumbers and serving this recipe in the same bowl you made it in.
With a combination of Korean Gochujang and gochugaru chili powder, every bite packs your favorite Asian flavors. Once it hits the table, you might find yourself pushing the main dishes aside in order to load up on this refreshing cucumber salad.
What You’ll Need
Time to dig into the Asian ingredients in your pantry. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.
- Persian cucumbers
- Apple cider vinegar
- Granulated sugar – Light brown sugar works too.
- Gochujang chili paste
- Gochugaru chili powder – Japanese Shichimi togarashi is a great substitute.
- Sesame oil – Feel free to use peanut oil.
- Soy sauce
- Black sesame seeds – It’s okay to use white sesame seeds.
What Cucumbers Should I Use?
Persian, Japanese, English, or Turkish cucumbers are best for this recipe because they’ve got fewer seeds and thinner skin. Some stores sell them as “mini cucumbers”. They’re ideal for this salad because they can remain crunchy for a longer period of time.
These recipe variations will help you use up whatever you have on hand.
- Use regular chili powder. If you can’t find Korean Gochujang or Gochugaru, use regular chili powder to taste instead.
- Sprinkle with green onion. This adds pungent spiciness, similar to garlic, and a nice crunch.
- Use garlic powder. Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder for every clove in the recipe.
- Grate some ginger. Freshly grate 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and mix it with the rest of the ingredients for spicy earthiness.
- Add chili oil. Make it spicier by adding 1/2 teaspoon of chili oil to the salad and giving it a good mix. Sriracha also works.
How to Make Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
Salting the cucumbers is the “hardest” part of this recipe. The rest is just tossing and serving.
- Salt the cucumbers. Cut the cucumbers into 1/4″ slices and place them in a bowl. You can make them thinner or thicker, but 1/4″ will give you the ultimate crunch while still absorbing most of the flavors. Sprinkle them with salt and give them a good mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours to allow them to release excess moisture.
- Rinse them. Remove the cucumbers from the fridge and run them over cold water for a few minutes, stirring them with your hands constantly. Remove all the salt, drain, and place them back in the bowl. You can also do a taste test. If the cucumbers are still salty, you need to keep rinsing them.
- Add the sauces. Add the garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, Gochujang chili paste, Gochugaru chili powder, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Use a spoon or your hands to combine the ingredients with the cucumbers. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.
- Serve. Remove from the fridge and serve the salad chilled. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to taste and enjoy.
Tips for Success
One of these tips is a time saver when you’re in a hurry.
- Thinly slice. The thinner the cucumbers, the more flavor they’ll absorb. However, they will be less crunchy.
- Skip the resting time. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip salting the cucumbers and letting them marinate in the sauce. Excess moisture won’t be a problem later on if you’re eating the salad right away.
- Use the same bowl. You can reduce clean-up by serving the salad in the same bowl you made it in.
What to Serve With Asian Cucumber Salad
This salad is perfect for all of your Asian-inspired meals and take-out cravings.
For chicken, I love to pair it with my Easy Kung Pao Chicken Recipe, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Chinese Chicken and Broccoli. For beef and shrimp, try it with my Pepper Steak Stir Fry Recipe, Bang Bang Shrimp, and Sweet Korean BBQ Beef Tacos.
Can This Be Made in Advance?
- Yes! This Asian cucumber salad tastes best when made and refrigerated one day in advance because the flavors come together much better. While you can technically make it up to 2 days in advance, I don’t recommend it because the cucumbers will begin to lose their crunch.
More Easy Side Dishes
Cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle them with salt and give them a good mix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours to allow them to release excess moisture.
Remove the cucumbers from the fridge and run them under cold water for a few minutes, stirring them with your hands constantly. Remove all the salt from the cucumbers, drain, and place them back in the bowl.
To the cucumbers, add the garlic, soy sauce, sugar, apple cider vinegar, Gochujang chili paste, Gochugaru chili powder, and sesame oil. Use a spoon to combine the ingredients with the cucumbers.
Cover the bowl again and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.
Remove from the fridge.
Garnish with black sesame seeds and serve.
- Cucumbers: I like to use Persian or English cucumbers to make this salad because the skin is thinner, and they have fewer seeds.
- Gochugaru is a Korean chili powder. If you can’t find Gochugaru, use regular chili powder.
- Gochujang Chili Paste is a thick condiment that is spicy and very concentrated. If you don’t like spicy foods, I suggest using tomato paste. If you can’t find Gochujang, you can use Thai chili paste.
- If you have time, make this cucumber salad one day ahead.
Calories: 41 kcal | Carbohydrates: 6 g | Protein: 1 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: 0.2 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 837 mg | Potassium: 114 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 4 g | Vitamin A: 99 IU | Vitamin C: 2 mg | Calcium: 25 mg | Iron: 0.5 mg | Net Carbs: 5 g
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.