A quick, no-cook summer salad with lots of crunch.
This Asian cucumber salad recipe is everything you need in late summer: a crunchy broken cucumber salad with fresh herbs, sesame, and the perfect amount of heat.
July and August mean finding great snacks, sides, and mains that do not require much cooking — and ideally, require none. This Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad is a spin on traditional Chinese smashed cucumber salad.
Lightly-salted cucumbers get tossed with a little oil and vinegar, hot pepper, fresh scallions, cilantro, and some sesame seeds. Fifteen minutes later, you have your new favorite summer side dish.
In Praise of the Asian Cucumber Salad
We often relegate cucumbers to the underrated, take-for-granted department (hello, celery). But a great cucumber tastes crisp and refreshing and has lots of nutritional value. Cucumbers are native to India, and have been cultivated for over 3,000 years, including in ancient Egypt and throughout the Roman Empire.
This cucumber salad recipe makes a crunchy, nourishing vegan side dish with flavors from salt, cilantro, scallions, sesame, and hot red pepper flakes.
Are Cucumbers Healthy? (+ More Fun Facts)
Some fun cucumber facts you didn’t know you always needed:
- Cucumbers are a gourd, in the same group as zucchini and squash. Note the family resemblance.
- The largest cuke ever was over five feet long and weighed 154 pounds
- The inside of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the inside. Hence, the expression “cool as a cucumber.”
- Despite being 96% water, cucumbers also contain lots of healthy nutrients, like magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C and K.
Notes on This Asian Cucumber Salad Recipe
It’s ok to eliminate the cilantro. And the hot pepper. It’s not your fault if you’re a “cilantro tastes like soap” person. But you may want to add a little extra scallion instead. And this tastes plenty delicious without the hot pepper, and makes a more kid-friendly option.
Salt your cucumbers! This is an important first step to any great cucumber salad recipe for two reasons. First, salting the cucumbers adds flavor. Second, salting draws out some of the moisture and actually makes the cucumbers even crunchier. To do this, toss your broken cucumbers in a generous tablespoon of salt, then let them drain for about 15 minutes in a colander. Then pat them with a few paper towels. No need to rinse.
Choose your cucumber wisely. I strongly suggest seeking out small Persian cucumbers or English hothouse cucumbers — the long ones that are inevitably shrink-wrapped in plastic. These have a more concentrated flavor than the large, “regular” ones. And, they have much thinner skin, so you do not have to peel them. This saves time, and also offers a great color contrast.
Spicy Broken Cucumber Salad is best served immediately, but will still taste good the next day, though the cucumbers will continue to release liquid overnight.
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Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad With Fresh Scallions and Cilantro
- 1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers, from about two English hothouse cucumbers or small Persian cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 scallions, sliced very thin
- 1/4 cup loosely-packed cilantro, chopped
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Trim the ends from the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then slice each half again lengthwise if they are thick. Break the cucumber strips into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2" in length, more or less.
- Place the cucumber pieces in a colander. Salt with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Toss and let stand for 15 minutes over a bowl. After 15 minutes, pat the cucumbers with paper towels to remove the excess water.
- While the cucumbers are salting, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, canola oil, and sesame oil and whisk. Stir in the cilantro, sesame seeds, and scallions, reserving a little of each for garnish.
- Place the salted, drained cucumbers in a bowl. Toss with the dressing and taste for seasoning. You may need a touch more salt. Garnish and serve immediately.