Asian Cucumber Salad

This light and fresh Asian cucumber salad is our new favorite healthy side dish, complete with a sweet and tangy vinegar dressing.

Earlier this year I was working on an Asian steak marinade and I was playing around with the idea of using black vinegar in it. The final recipe was tested when Cade’s mom came into town and it was a total hit. Without even realizing it though, I’d added black vinegar to the cucumbers instead of the steak marinade that morning. It turned out both dishes needed something a little different than what I was doing and it was awesome!

You can read below for a substitute as we still love cucumber salad with just straight up rice or apple cider vinegar. In fact, we often use both. 

a photo of a glass bowl full of thinly sliced cucumberrs and red onion topped with a sesame seed dressing.

Ingredients for Asian Cucumber Salad

It only takes 7 ingredients to make this simple but refreshing salad recipe. Here is what you will need:

  • English Cucumber – I just to just slice them thin by hand, but feel free to remove the seeds if you want
  • Red Onion – totally optional but I love the zip it adds, do a fine slice on a mandolin
  • Rice Vinegar – mild, sweet and sour flavor
  • Chinese Black Vinegar – a dark mild vinegar with a slightly fruity flavor
  • Honey – adds sweetness and balances the saltiness and tang
  • Sesame Seeds – give them a little toast to enhance the nutty flavor
  • Fine Sea Salt – dissolves easily into the dressing and adds flavor
The full recipe with all the measurements and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.
a photo of a large glass bowl full of Asian cucumber salad topped with a tangy sesame seed vinaigrette.

WHAT KIND OF CUCUMBERS TO USE?

Using thin-skinned cucumbers like Persian, Turkish or English Cucumbers are best for an Asian or really any style of cucumber salad. These cucumbers give the least bitterness in a salad and offer the best flavor.

Waxy cucumbers will also work in a pinch but you will need to peel them first as the thick and often bitter flavors will end up a bit off-putting in your salad. 

Black Vinegar Substitute

Rice vinegar, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used if you can’t find black vinegar.

a photo of an asian cucumber salad in a large glass bowl with some thinly sliced red onion mixed in and all topped with a sesame dressing.

The Most Important Step in Cucumber Salad

  1. Salting cucumbers before using in dishes helps release their water content and absorb more flavor. Otherwise the water leaks out into the vinegar mixture. Think about ice in a glass of soda. At first it’s no biggie, but by the time it has sat around you’ve got watered down nothingness. 
  2. In a local Asian restaurant there was always scoring along the cucumber peel so I have started doing the same. I’ve found that with the tines of a fork before slicing, the dressing actually clings to the cucumbers versus just sliding off. This makes the cucumbers go from yummy to totally flavorful! 

Do I HAVE TO Salt My Cucumbers?

In a pinch you can skip it but the cucumbers should be served within the hour.

a photo of a bowl full of Asian cucumber salad topped with a sesame seed dressing with a small bowl of sliced red onions in the background.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

  • Fast: this salad can be done in a matter of minutes, though we recommend letting it sit for a few hours for optimal flavor
  • Versatile: you can add other vegetables, peanuts, feta crumbles or spice it up with some red pepper flakes or sriracha
  • Healthy: cucumbers are great for you and with no oil in the dressing, this recipe is low on fat and carbs, it’s also gluten free and works for vegetarian and vegan diets
  • Delicious: I love Asian flavors and this salad is so cool and crunchy

 

If sweet and sour chicken or beef and broccoli are the menu tonight, go with this Asian cucumber salad on the side and it might just be your favorite part of the meal!

What to Serve with Asian Cucumber Salad

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a photo of a glass bowl full of thinly sliced cucumberrs and red onion topped with a sesame seed dressing.

Print

Asian Cucumber Salad

Course 100 + Salad Recipes to Obsess Over, 200+ Easy Side Dish Recipes Every Mom Needs, 50 + Best Easy Asian Recipes
Cuisine Asian
Keyword asian, cucumber, salad
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Optional Resting Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 28kcal
Author Sweet Basil

Ingredients

  • 1 English Cucumber , sliced thin, *see note
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Red Onion , sliced thin with a mandolin
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Chinese Black Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt

Instructions

  • Toast the seeds in a nonstick pan over medium heat until turning nutty and place in a small dish to cool.
  • Sprinkle salt in the cucumbers, toss and set aside while the seeds cool. Squeeze with a paper towel after 5-10 minutes to remove excess water.
  • In the seeds dish, add vinegars and honey and whisk to combine. Combine the onions and cucumbers and then pour the dressing over the top and toss well.
  • Allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours if possible but serving immediately is ok, they just won’t be as flavorful.

Notes

*If you don’t like the seeds, half and scoop out seeds and chop the cucumber instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 28kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 98mg | Potassium: 87mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 53IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg

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