Light and refreshing, this slightly sweet and tangy Japanese Cucumber Salad is the perfect side dish or appetizer for spring, summer, or pretty much any time! Full of flavour, this cucumber sunomono is quick, healthy, and delicious. I just love this Japanese cucumber salad recipe!
Japanese Cucumber Salad
This cucumber salad is a vinegary, slightly sweet dish called kyuri no sunomono in Japanese. You may have seen it served as an appetizer at Japanese restaurants. But there’s no need to wait until you go out – Japanese cucumber salad is so easy to make at home!
Sunomono is super popular in Japan. Thinly sliced vegetables are mixed with vinegar, sugar and soy sauce. Millions of people enjoy it throughout summer. It’s also served at izakaya (Japanese bars that serve food) or even luxury Japanese restaurants as an appetizer.
There are a variety of sunomono recipes in Japanese cuisine. This cucumber sunomono is one of my favourites! It’s super easy to make, delicious and refreshing. I love it so much. I’ve taken to growing Japanese cucumbers in my garden for the various Japanese cucumber recipes I like.
The dish involves marinating finely sliced cucumbers with sunomono sauce, called sanbaizu. It’s one of the basic but important marinades for vegetarian recipes in Japanese cuisine. You’re going to master this tangy sweet Japanese sunomono sauce today.
I’ll also share a simple Japanese cooking technique to elevate this cucumber salad recipe to the next level. Bring joy in your life and share it with your loved ones! Read on!
Japanese Style Cucumber Salad
When I look for something light and refreshing, I reach for this Japanese cucumber salad. I enjoy sunomono salad recipes almost everyday during summer.
Once you master the basics, the variations are limitless. You can make your own cucumber salad or sunomono salad. Add your favourite ingredients and seasonings. Try adding:
- wakame (thin seaweed)
- cherry tomatoes
For spicy Japanese cucumber salad:
Japanese cucumber salad with sesame oil:
- sesame seeds
- sesame oil
The variations can be limitless. Let me know how yours went in the comment section below, and let others know if you liked!
Ingredients for the Best Cucumber Sunomono
How to choose the right cucumber
Japanese cucumbers are traditionally used for this cucumber sunomono recipe. They’re usually pretty easy to find at your local Japanese or Asian super markets. Select dark green, firm cucumbers.
Japanese cucumbers are crisp, sweet and mild with a subtle melon flavour. They’re smaller than most cucumbers. Vietnamese and Lebanese cucumbers are pretty similar and a great substitute.
Japanese rice vinegar is used for sunomono recipe. I use kome su (rice vinegar) from Marukan, a leading Japanese vinegar producer. It’s easily available from local Japanese/Asian shops.
Komesu is slightly sweeter than Western white vinegar. You may also come across another Japanese vinegar called kokumotsu su which is made with corn and wheat. Rice vinegar (kome su) is milder than both Western white vinegar and kokumotsu su and is best for this recipe.
You can use any sugar, but I prefer cane sugar. You can also make Japanese cucumber salad with mirin. It’ll become milder but still full of flavour. Replace the sugar with three tablespoons of mirin.
Mirin is a secret Japanese cooking weapon. It’s a sweetened rice wine and maximizes the umami of the vegetable ingredients. Mirin can be used for various cuisines including teriyaki, ramen, yakisoba, vegetable stir fry, ramen eggs and much more! It’s pretty handy to have some in your kitchen.
I use rich, tasty and flavourful Japanese soy sauce. My favourite is yuki sho yu (organic soy sauce) from Kikkoman. It’s dark soy sauce and can be used for almost any dish. If you’re looking for gluten-free, there’s a few around (e.g. Kikkoman) or use most tamari.
FAQs for Japanese Cucumber Salad
Can you use your regular cucumbers?
You can use regular slicing or hot house cucumbers (English cucumbers) from the supermarket. They are the best for fresh salad but you need to remove the seeds.
Peeling cucumber or not
Japanese cucumbers, hot house cucumbers and English cucumbers have fairly thin skins and so there is no need to remove them.
You need to remove the skins of slicing cucumbers as they are thick and bitter.
Making Best Cucumber Salad in Japanese Style
Here’s how to make Japanese cucumber salad for the perfect cucumber sunomono salad!
How to slice cucumbers fast
I prefer to use a knife to slice cucumbers. Lay the cucumber on a chopping board horizontally, and cut both edges. Hold the cucumber firmly and start slicing the cucumber with a knife.
But if I need to cut more than two, a mandolin slicer (see the photo above) is hard to beat. Just be careful not to scrape your nails and fingers with it.
If you have a food processor and can cut cucumbers in slices, you can use it.
Cucumbers contain a lot of water. When sliced cucumbers are combined with other ingredients, they release a lot of water. To prevent this, simply sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on cucumber slices. Rub it into the cucumber slices a bit and gently squeeze the water out.
This Japanese cooking technique is called shiomomi. It’s a great way to draw excessive water out of vegetables like cucumber. The texture becomes milder and softer while maintaining crunchiness. The flavour becomes more condensed too. Don’t skip this simple technique.
Toasting sesame seeds
Toasted sesame seeds topped on this cucumber salad is a must. To be honest, I love sprinkling them on lots dishes. I use unhulled sesame seeds, but you can use any. My favourite iskin goma, a Japanese product golden-sesame.
There’s no need to buy toasted sesame seeds. Just heat up the seeds and wait for them to turn a bit darker and pop a little. They get cruncher, and their natural nutty flavour comes out more.
I use goma iri, a Japanese tool to prevent the seeds from popping up and out of the pan when you’re toasting sesame seeds. But you can use any fry pan or a seed toaster – just keep an eye on them and not to burn them.
With sunomono sauce (sambaizu) nothing is complicated. Just combine Japanese soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Then add it to the sliced cucumbers. Once they are settled, top sesame seeds on them and serve!
That’s it! Enjoy
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Japanese Cucumber Salad Recipe
- 2 Japanese cucumbers
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (to rub and release excess water)
- 3 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar (kome su)
- 2 tablespoons sugar (I use cane sugar or 3 tbsp mirin)
- 1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Rinse cucumbers with fresh water.
- Remove the edges of cucumbers with a knife on a chopping board, and cut cucumbers into thin slices. Use a sharp knife, mandarin slicer or food processor.
- Transfer sliced cucumbers into a bowl. Sprinkle sea salt on them and gently rub it into the slices. Leave them for two minutes. Drain excess water by gently squeezing them by hand.
- Combine Japanese vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl well with a spoon, chopsticks or a whisk. Add all the cucumbers and combine. Let them marinade with the sauce. Add the sesame seeds.That's it! Serve immediately and enjoy!