This refreshing smashed Asian cucumber salad is an easy appetizer to pair with dinners or take-out-inspired feasts. It’s easy to make in 20 minutes or less and packs crunchy, savory, and zippy flavors into every bite. Naturally vegan and oil free.
Asian cucumber salad is a classic appetizer that’s light and refreshing and full of vibrant and zesty flavors. Chopped and smashed cucumbers marinate in a tangy 7-ingredient dressing before they’re garnished with toasted sesame seeds and green onions. Best of all, this crunchy, flavor-packed salad is naturally vegan and is ready to serve in 20 minutes or less!
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Why you’ll love this recipe
- Cool and refreshing. Crisp and juicy cucumbers make this a refreshing appetizer you can serve on a hot day or as a cooling side dish for spicy main dishes, like spicy noodles or Szechuan chicken.
- Only 7 ingredients. A handful of pantry-staple ingredients and fresh cucumbers are all you need to make this smashed cucumber salad. You may have most or all of them in your kitchen already!
- Healthy. Like a shrimp salad or chicken salad with grapes, this one is wholesome and healthy!
- Vegan and oil free. It’s a crowd-pleasing appetizer because it’s naturally vegan, oil free, nut free, and easy to make gluten free.
Just like fresh summer rolls, this simple and refreshing meal fits in on every occasion! Serve it for the start of your take-out-inspired meal with Mongolian chicken and beef bulgogi or as a quick and easy lunch.
Cucumbers are the star of this recipe, of course. Their mild and refreshing flavor helps them pair well with the tangy Asian-inspired flavors in the salad dressing, leaving you with a flavor-rich meal that has plenty of crunch. These are the ingredients you need:
- Cucumbers. While you can use any kind of cucumber for cucumber salad, small Persian cucumbers are the best. They’re crunchy, sweet, and have thin skin, which means they soak in the marinade with ease, don’t need to be peeled ahead of time, and won’t become soggy as quickly as other varieties. Turkish and English cucumbers work well, too.
- Garlic. Fresh cloves.
- Soy sauce. Or tamari if you’re gluten free.
- Vinegar. You can use rice vinegar or white vinegar.
- Sweet chili sauce. Use your favorite store-bought brand.
- Sesame seeds. For a subtle nutty flavor and light crunch. You can toast these yourself or buy toasted sesame seeds instead.
- Green onions. To freshen up every bite.
How to make Asian cucumber salad
The depth of flavor in this salad is apparent in every bite thanks to one simple step: marinating the cucumbers! It takes minutes to do and leaves you with the best cucumber salad every time. Follow these steps to try it yourself:
Step 1 – Smash the cucumbers
Place the cucumbers on a cutting board and gently smash them with a rolling pin or the flat side of a large knife. From there, cut the smashed cucumbers into bite-sized pieces.
Step 2 – Make the dressing
Stir the minced garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and sweet chili sauce in a small bowl.
Step 3 – Marinate the cucumbers
Toss the chopped cucumbers and dressing together in a medium mixing bowl. Let them sit and marinate for at least 10 minutes so all of the flavors can meld together.
Step 4 – Toast the sesame seeds
Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they turn golden brown. Don’t walk away from the stove because they can burn easily!
Step 5 – Assemble
Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the marinated cucumbers and salad dressing, then garnish with sliced green onions. Toss gently, then serve!
Tips to make the best recipe
- Low on time? Skip the marinade, and serve right after tossing the dressing, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and green onions together. Just know that the salad won’t have as much depth!
- For a crunchier cucumber salad, salt the cucumbers to drain the excess water. Add the chopped cucumbers to a colander and sprinkle salt on top. Let them sit and drain for 5 minutes, then rinse with cold water, pat dry, and marinate.
- For a stronger flavor, let the cucumbers soak in the marinade for up to 30 minutes.
- For a sweeter dressing, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons of maple syrup or agave.
- To make it spicy, add a pinch of red chili flakes to the dressing.
- Garnish the salad with fresh cilantro or parsley, crushed peanuts, Thai basil, or chives.
What to serve with this dish
Cucumber salad is a quick and simple appetizer you can serve before any main meal, just like egg drop soup and crab rangoon. Make the salad a part of a well-rounded and Asian-inspired dinner by serving it with chicken chow mein, sauteed eggplant, and pad see ew.
To make ahead: Make the cucumber salad dressing but keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 1 week. When it’s time to eat, toss the smashed cucumbers in the dressing, let them marinate, then garnish and serve!
To store: You can store the assembled salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you plan on making the salad ahead of time, only add the toasted sesame seeds and green onions right before serving.
Recommended tools to make this recipe
- Rolling pin. To gently smash the cucumbers.
- Mixing bowls. You need 1 or 2 medium-sized mixing bowls to make the salad and dressing.
- Non-stick skillet. To toast the sesame seeds.
More refreshing salads to try
Frequently asked questions
Smashed cucumbers are a star in this recipe! The reason why they’re smashed with a rolling pin is because this releases some of their juices during the process and it creates more interesting textured bites.
The only time when peeling the cucumbers is necessary is if you use a waxy or thick-skinned cucumber.
Asian Cucumber Salad
- Place the cucumbers on a cutting board and use a rolling pin to slightly flatten in. Slice up the smashed cucumbers.
- In a separate small bowl, combine the minced garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and sweet chili sauce. Stir well to combine the ingredients and create the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the smashed cucumbers in the mixing bowl and toss gently to coat the vegetable. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes to marinate.
- While marinating, add the sesame seeds to a non-stick pan or skillet and toast them for 1-2 minutes until they crackle.
- Sprinkle the salad with the toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
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