Cucumber kimchi or ‘oi kimchi’ (오이 김치) is a summer staple side dish or ‘ban chan’ in my home! It’s light, refreshing, super crisp, and crunchy, and perfect to have with any meal. Cucumber kimchi pairs deliciously with Korean BBQ, rice, noodles, or basically anything you would eat kimchi with!
It isn’t as salty as regular kimchi, so I often eat it by itself as a salad. If you plan on making this recipe, be sure to make extra because it’ll go quickly! I personally think it tastes the best when it’s freshly made, but you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Why you’ll love this recipe
If you’ve never tried cucumber kimchi, you’re in for a delightful treat. This side dish is made of crisp cucumbers that are quickly marinated in a spicy, tangy, and slightly sweet sauce mixture. Best of all – it’ll only take 30 minutes to prepare! This ‘fast’ method of preparing kimchi is similar to fresh cabbage kimchi or ‘geotjeori kimchi’ in that the cucumbers are served fresh and crisp. It’s significantly quicker than the typical cabbage kimchi which can take days to prepare.
So if you love cucumbers and want a quick batch of kimchi but don’t want to wait for it to ferment, you can have the best of both worlds with this cucumber kimchi recipe.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Cucumbers: cucumbers are the main star of this recipe so it’s important to use fresh cucumbers. I highly recommend you use Persian, Indian, or Kirby cucumbers. As mentioned above, I don’t recommend using English cucumbers due to their tough skin.
Salt: the salt plays an important role in this recipe. It’s used to ‘sweat’ the cucumbers, meaning it draws out the moisture from the cucumbers to make it extra crunchy.
Garlic chives: garlic chives amplify the “garlicky” flavors in the cucumber kimchi, but you can also substitute it by doubling the amount of scallions.
Onion: onions add a touch of spice to the dish. I’m using yellow onion for this recipe, but you can also use white, red onions or shallots.
Garlic: no kimchi is complete without garlic. Feel free to add as much or as little as you like!
Scallion: scallions add a sharp peppery flavor to the kimchi. I would say it’s an essential ingredient but you can substitute it with garlic chives if needed.
Gochugaru: gochugaru adds a spicy kick to the cucumber kimchi. It’s smoky, slightly spicy, and has a unique flavor so it cannot be substituted.
Sugar: the sugar helps balance out the spiciness and savoriness.
Fish sauce: the fish sauce adds an umami and salty flavor, but you can also swap it for soy sauce if you want to make vegetarian-friendly kimchi.
White vinegar: white vinegar adds a sharp tangy flavor and helps preserve the kimchi. It can be substituted with apple cider vinegar as well!
Roasted sesame seeds: roasted sesame seeds provide a subtle nutty taste to the kimchi. While white sesames are traditionally used, you could also use black sesame seeds.
Cucumber Kimchi Ingredient Additions
If you want to add more vegetables or fruits to this quick and easy kimchi, here are a few ingredients that would work well with this recipe:
1. Carrots – carrots are a staple for pickled vegetable dishes. They add a nice crunch and a punch of vibrant hue to complement the cucumbers. Make sure to slice them into thin strips so they absorb the seasonings better.
2. Radish – radishes can provide a mild spicy taste and crisp texture to the kimchi. Slice them into thin disks or strips and add them to the mixture.
3. Apples – adding apples to the kimchi may seem unusual, but they add a hint of sweetness to balance out the bite of the vinegar. It also absorbs the seasonings really well, giving you a flavorful bite each time.
How do I prepare Cucumber Kimchi?
To start making this incredibly tasty side dish, just follow the recipe below:
Step 1: Slice the cucumbers
Cut the cucumbers into thirds, then cut each third into quarters. They should be about 2 inches in length.
Step 2: Add salt to the cucumbers
Transfer the cucumbers to a bowl and add salt. Mix them thoroughly and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 3: Drain the cucumbers
After 20 to 30 minutes, you should see a pool of water at the bottom of the bowl with cucumbers. Drain the cucumbers well and transfer them to a clean bowl.
Step 4: Add the seasonings
Toss in the garlic chives, onion, scallions, and garlic. Then, add gochugaru, sugar, fish sauce, white vinegar, and sesame seeds.
Step 5: Mix the kimchi
Using your hands (with gloves on), mix everything together, making sure to rub the seasoning into the cucumbers well.
Step 6: Serve!
Serve immediately or transfer to the fridge to chill for up to 4 days.
Preparation Tips for Cucumber Kimchi
Making cucumber kimchi is pretty straightforward, but here are a few helpful tips to make the most delicious version every time:
- Opt for Persian, Indian, or Kirby cucumbers. I would not recommend using English cucumbers because of their tough skin.
- Be sure to cut the cucumbers consistently 2 inches in length. The bigger the cucumber pieces, the longer you’ll need to salt them.
- After 20 to 30 minutes, you’ll know when the cucumbers are ready if you can bend them without breaking them.
- Always wear gloves when mixing the ingredients together. This will prevent your hands from burning and straining from the gochugaru.
- Feel free to adjust the amount of gochugaru based on your spice level tolerance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is gochugaru the same as red chili flakes?
Technically, gochugaru is a type of chili flake, but it’s made from a specific variety of sun-dried Korean red chili pepper. That’s why it has a vibrant red color and a spicy, sweet, and smokey flavor compared to regular red chili flakes. The taste of gochugaru is very unique and hard to replicate so it’s not recommended to substitute gochugaru with any other type of chili flake.
Why do you add salt to the cucumbers?
This process is called ‘sweating’. Adding salt to the cucumbers will help draw out or ‘sweat’ their water content for crispier and crunchier cucumbers. It also imparts flavor into the cucumbers, so it’s seasoned throughout, instead of only on the surface.
Do you need to ferment cucumber kimchi?
There’s no need! Traditional kimchi may be known for its long fermentation period, but you don’t have to ferment this recipe. If you like, you can even eat it immediately and store the rest for your next meal!
How should you store cucumber kimchi?
You can store cucumber kimchi in an airtight container or jar and keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days. I don’t recommend putting it in the freezer since it will affect the texture of the cucumbers.
Why is my cucumber kimchi bitter?
Some cucumber varieties can turn bitter if you leave the skin on. Using Persian, Indian, or Kirby cucumbers is ideal because the skin isn’t bitter and doesn’t need to be peeled.
Looking for more easy & delicious vegetable recipes?
Check out a few of my favorite healthy vegetarian recipes below:
1. Chive and Egg Pockets – these beloved Chinese snacks are made with a delicious egg, dried shrimp, and vermicelli noodle filling. They’re even better with my 3-ingredient chili oil!
2. Oyster Mushroom Stir Fry – you wouldn’t want to miss out on this vibrant dish as it contains an assortment of delicious vegetables, It’s spicy, delicious, and vegan-friendly, and you can easily prepare this in as quick as 30 minutes!
3. Vietnamese Tomato Salad – if you’re looking for a refreshing tangy side dish to accompany your meals, add this tomato salad recipe to your list! It has a nice balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors, and best of all – it only takes 10 minutes to make!
4. Korean Curry Rice – this dish is a comforting Korean staple, and it’s no fuss to make. It’s made with classic Korean curry cubes, potatoes, onions, and carrots served over rice.
5. Impossible Mapo Tofu – this is my vegan take on the popular ‘mapo tofu’ dish. if you want to challenge your taste buds, this recipe is a must-try! It contains a combination of Sichuan peppercorns, red chili peppers, Thai chili peppers, and my homemade chili oil to amp up the spiciness.
6. Vegan Sausage Pasta – this healthy and delicious vegan sausage pasta recipe is convenient to make and easily customizable. It’s made with a luscious cashew cream sauce, vegan sausage, and various vegetables. It’s so delicious it’ll hit the spot every time!
Korean Cucumber Kimchi
- 4 cucumbers Persian, Indian, Kirby
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 oz garlic chives chopped
- 1/4 onion thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 scallion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp gochugaru Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp sugar adjust to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce adjust to taste
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
- Cut the cucumbers into thirds, then cut each third into quarters. They should be about 2-inches in length.
- Transfer cucumbers to the bowl and add salt. Mix thoroughly. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
- After 20 to 30 minutes has passed, you should see a pool of water at the bottom of the bowl with cucumbers. Drain the cucumbers well and transfer to a new bowl.
- Toss in the garlic chives, onion, scallions, and garlic. Add gochugaru, sugar, fish sauce, white vinegar, and sesame seeds.
- Using your hands (with gloves on), mix everything together, making sure to rub the seasoning into the cucumber.
- Serve immediately or transfer to the fridge to chill for up to 4 days.
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