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Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)




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Japanese cucumber salad

Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono) is a crunchy salad that makes a refreshing side dish to Asian recipes, sandwiches, burgers, etc.  These healthy sweet and sour pickled cucumbers are packed with flavor.

 

Japanese cucumber salad in a white bowl

I’ve always loved to eat out, and now during these crazy times I’m really missing it.  I miss not only the chance to get out of the house and to be served a meal for a change, but I miss being exposed to new foods and flavors.  We got some Japanese curry take in this week and they sent along a wonderful crisp cucumber salad to go with it.  What a perfect way to use summer cukes and make any meal a little healthier at the same time.  The zingy Asian combo of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame and chile is so yummy.

Sunomono (soon-oh-MONO)

refers to a style of raw vinegar marinated dishes in Japanese cuisine that are served as sides or appetizers. They can range from veggies to seafood.  The sweet ~ sour ~ crunchy effect is super refreshing and enhances the appetite.

 

small cucumbers for cucumber salad

shopping list for Japanese cucumber salad

  • Slender thin skinned cucumbers, aka pickling, Persian, Kirby, Lebanese, English. These types of cucumbers have thin skins that aren’t bitter, and fewer seeds than the common garden cuke ~ perfect for this salad.
  • roasted peanuts ~ you can also use toasted sesame seeds
  • soy sauce ~ I love Tamari
  • rice wine vinegar ~ rice vinegar is milder than other vinegars, and I recommend it, but you can also use cider vinegar.
  • garlic
  • chili oil
  • sesame oil
  • sugar
  • red pepper flakes
  • cilantro ~ cilantro haters leave it out.

slicing cucumbers on the diagonal for cucumber salad

Prepping cucumbers is easy and fun, there are so many ways to do it.

  1. Don’t peel them, the skin is thin and delicious, and gives the cucumbers structure.  If you like you can partially peel them by running a zesting tool down the sides.  My mom used to scrape the sides with the tines of a fork.  It makes a decorative edging.
  2. Slice them on a diagonal, which is not only pretty, but exposes more flesh to the dressing.
  3. Slice them up to an hour before serving. I don’t advise doing this very far in advance because cukes release water and become less crisp after being cut.

sliced cucumbers in a white bowl

How to make Japanese dressing

The dressing is a star of this recipe, it’s simple, but so flavorful. It’s a great idea to make up a jar of it for the fridge to have cucumber salad on demand for a week or more. Use it on regular green salad as well.

  • Mix equal parts soy sauce with rice wine vinegar for the base, it’s essentially a simple pickling brine.
  • Add other ingredients to taste like chile oil, red pepper flakes, toasted sesame oil, and a pinch of sugar.

There’s room for variation here, but start with the basic ingredients to experience the classic flavor.

Japanese cucumber salad with a spicy peanut dressing

Questions?

  • Can you make this ahead of time?  I don’t recommend making this more than a few hours ahead, the cukes will be at their crunchiest then.  You will still enjoy the leftovers the next day, but the salad is best the same day.

 

  • Are you allergic to peanuts?  Use sesame seeds instead, black or white will work.

 

  • Can you use regular cucumbers for this salad?  Smaller cucumbers are best but larger ones can be used.  I suggest using a small spoon to scoop out the center seeds before slicing. And with regular cukes you’ll want to peel or partially peel the tough skins.

 

  • What can you add?  How about some shredded seaweed (wakame), or pickled ginger. Add tiny shrimp, crabmeat, or even canned tuna to make it a delicious lunch.

 

  • What goes well with this salad? In Japanese cuisine salads like this are served with just about everything.  It’s wonderful with any kind of curry, or fried rice, or stir fry dish. I use it just like I would coleslaw or a side salad with sandwiches, burgers, grilled chicken and steak, etc.

simple Japanese cucumber salad with chopsticks

More Japanese inspired recipes to explore

Japanese cucumber salad
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5 from 4 votes

Japanese Cucumber Salad

Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono) made with soy sauce, vinegar, and a touch of sugar and spice is a healthy side dish packed with flavor!
Course Salad
Cuisine Japanese
Yield 8 servings
Calories 56kcal

Ingredients

dressing

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chile oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

salad

  • 12 ounces small cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • red chile flakes to taste

Instructions

  • Whisk the dressing together and be sure to taste it to adjust anything you like.
    ingredients for Japanese dressing
  • Finely grind the peanuts in a food processor using the pulsing button. You want them to be very fine but be careful not to go too far and turn them into peanut butter!
    ground peanuts
  • Thinly slice the cucumbers on the diagonal. If you would like to remove part of the peel first, you can run a zesting tool down the sides, or simply run the tines of a fork down the sides to create a decorative edge.
    slicing cucumbers on the diagonal for cucumber salad
  • Put the cucumbers in a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat thoroughly, you may not need all of it. Toss with the crushed peanuts, sprinkle with chile flakes,and top with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. I like to serve this within a few hours of making, but it will keep overnight.
    cucumber salad with dressing

Notes

Tips for prepping cukes
  1. Don't peel them, the skin is thin and delicious, and gives the cucumbers structure.  If you like you can partially peel them by running a zesting tool down the sides.  My mom used to scrape the sides with the tines of a fork.  It makes a decorative edging.
  2. Slice them on a diagonal, which is not only pretty, but exposes more flesh to the dressing.
  3. Slice them up to an hour before serving. I don't advise doing this very far in advance because cukes release water and become less crisp after being cut.

Nutrition

Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 404mg | Potassium: 124mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 45IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

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9 Comments

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  • Reply
    Lisa
    September 13, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    5 stars
    Made A double batch of this with Kirbys today and it’s delicious! We all sampled it – and went back for seconds- it’s that good! I’m worried that my crew will nibble away at this and not leave enough to use for our dinner side-dish. We’re definitely going to make this again.

  • Reply
    neil sharples
    August 27, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    Nom nom nom 🙂

  • Reply
    Nancy
    August 17, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    5 stars
    Yum! I’ve made this recipe a second time without the cucumbers and used as a dressing for my nightly dinner salad! I add fresh chopped ginger and Thai basal leaves. This is a keeper in my growing cookbook!

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 17, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      Great idea!

  • Reply
    Joycelyn
    August 11, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Sue
    Wondering if you could say what the brand of rice vinegar you used as knowing from experience, using the wrong brand can oftentimes results in the finished dish/salad not tasting as it was intended to taste.
    Also have never seen the wording rice wine vinegar in my Asian supermarkets here it is rice vinegar ( even though I know they are both the same thing ) I use rice vinegar quite often preferring the Kong Yen brand from Taiwan if it’s in stock as we enjoy the taste. I make sure to always have regular rice vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar, and Mirin on hand for spur of the moment recipes or recipes I receive from bloggers like you!
    Thanks Sue

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 11, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same, as far as I know Joycelyn, they’re both made from rice wine. I will buy what’s available, and usually that’s Marukan, or Kikkoman brand. My all time favorite comes from a California company called O Olive Oil, and they make a lovely rice vinegar, here. I use cider vinegar when I happen to be out of rice vinegar. Hope that helps!

      • Reply
        Joycelyn
        August 12, 2020 at 11:55 am

        Thanks Sue. I was particularly interested in your favourite being the O Yuzu rice vinegar so checked it out. Loved the sound of the touch of citrus added especially the Meyer lemon, so sought it out with a local kitchenware and imported food warehouse store that imports food from around the world as I was pretty sure I’d find it there.
        It was listed on their site although $5 more (CD and USD difference thing ) but they’re out of stock at the moment due to coronavirus causing delays in stock/orders arriving in a timely manner so can’t say when it will be available again. In the meantime I’ll use the unseasoned rice vinegar I have on hand which should suffice.
        Thanks again for taking the time to respond, Sue.
        Stay well

  • Reply
    low and slow
    August 11, 2020 at 11:34 am

    For the rice vinegar is it the seasoned or unseasoned? Seasoned is a little sweeter I think and the recipe has some sugar and wouldn’t want it too sweet.Thanks.

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm

      I use unseasoned, regular rice vinegar.