Quick Asian Pickled Cucumbers

These quick Asian pickled cucumbers are a fresh, tangy, bright, and crunchy side dish. They’re perfect to enjoy with any meal and best of all, you can make it at home using only 5 ingredients and in just 15 minutes! 

I recently paired it with my miso salmon quinoa bowl, a protein-rich power bowl perfect as a well-balanced meal. But I also like to serve this side dish with meals like:

What you’ll love about this recipe

Whenever I’m in a pickle (no pun intended) and need a last-minute side dish, I almost always make this dish. As the name of this recipe suggests, it’s quick, reliable, and most importantly, delicious! It’s perfect when I’m craving something healthy, light, and refreshing. Pickled dishes usually require an extensive time to pickle and ferment. And what I love about this recipe is that it’s ready in just 15 minutes! 

This side dish only requires a handful of ingredients, which you probably already have in your pantry including cucumbers, salt, sugar, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds. I like using rice vinegar because it has a mild and slightly sweet flavor but you can substitute it with white vinegar or even apple cider vinegar.

Now, the ingredient ratios in this recipe should be used as a starting point. Personally, I think it’s perfect and fits my taste however, I recommend tasting and adjusting as you go to make it how you like it. For example, if you prefer a sweeter side dish, you can add more sugar.

If you’re a cucumber lover like me, check out my other popular cucumber recipes below:

Quick Asian Pickled Cucumbers Ingredients & Substitutions

Persian cucumbers: This variety of cucumbers has thin skin, smaller seeds, and is more crisp than other varieties. It retains this crisp texture even after some time of sitting in the pickling juice. A close substitute would be Japanese cucumbers, which are longer and slimmer with slightly bumpy skin.

Salt: Helps to draw out excess moisture from the cucumbers so that they maintain a crisp, crunchy texture

Rice vinegar: A tangy and slightly sweet vinegar; can be substituted with any vinegar that you have

Sugar: Helps to balance the acidity and sour taste of the vinegar

Black sesame seeds: Adds some crunch and a nutty flavor, and also make the presentation more interesting and appealing

How to Prepare Quick Asian Pickled Cucumbers

Step 1: Slice the cucumbers

Using a mandolin or knife, thinly slice the cucumbers.

Step 2: Salt the cucumbers

Transfer the cucumbers into a small mixing bowl. Add salt then toss to mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Squeeze the cucumbers

After 10 minutes, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze the excess water. Transfer to a clean bowl then repeat for the remaining cucumbers.

Step 4: Season the cucumbers

Season the cucumbers with rice vinegar and sugar. Adjust to taste.

Step 5: Garnish and serve

Garnish with black sesame seeds and enjoy!

Preparation Tips for Quick Asian Pickled Cucumbers

Here are some helpful tips for making the best Asian pickled cucumbers at home:

  • When buying cucumbers, look for ones that have a deep green color and smooth skin with no signs of force, bruises, or tender spots. They should feel firm when pressed with light force and should feel heavy for their size.
  • Slice the cucumbers thinly and uniformly. This will help ensure maximum absorption of the flavor of the pickling ingredients. They look prettier that way, too! A mandolin will yield the best result. 
  • If you prefer chunkier pickles, you can cut the cucumbers into cubes instead. Slice them lengthwise in half, then cut the halves lengthwise again so that you have four portions. Chop them into half-inch thick cubes or as you prefer. Since the cucumbers are thicker, you will need to let them ‘sweat’ in the salt for about 30 minutes. 
  • For storage, store the cucumber pickle in airtight containers in the fridge for up to a week. They will develop their flavor better! But do note that the cucumbers will slightly soften up the longer they sit in the pickling vinegar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cucumber is best for pickling?

I like using Persian cucumbers because they are generally more crisp and are thin, slender, and shorter in size compared to other varieties. They also have thin skin which means you don’t need to peel them, like you’d have to with English cucumbers. Most supermarkets carry Persian cucumbers however, if you are unable to find them, you can substitute them with Japanese cucumbers or Kirby cucumbers. 

How to make cucumber pickle Korean?

Easily turn this recipe into Korean pickled cucumbers by adding a tablespoon of sesame oil, a couple of minced garlic cloves, and some gochugaru! The result is the pickled cucumber banchan that you’d usually find in Korean restaurants.

What is the difference between tsukemono and Sunomono?

Tsukemono is the Japanese collective term for picked food, while sunomono is specific to food items pickled in vinegar. In Japanese, “suno” means vinegar. This means that all sunomono are tsukemono, but not all tsukemono are sunomono. Some tsukemono are richer and spicier than sunomono, while most sunomonos like this are light and refreshing, just like this pickled cucumber.

How long do cucumbers need to be pickled?

You won’t need to wait a long time as cucumbers are able to absorb flavors quite quickly, especially if they’re cut thin. But the longer they sit in the pickling mixture, the better they will taste.

How long will pickled cucumbers last?

These pickled cucumbers should be stored in sealed airtight containers or mason jar in the fridge and will last for a week. Do note that they will naturally soften and develop their flavors even more as they sit in the pickling mixture!

Why do you soak cucumbers in salt before making pickles?

Cucumbers contain a significant amount of water. Salting the cucumbers before pickling them helps to ‘sweat; and draw out any excess moisture. As a result, the cucumbers will be firmer and crunchier, and they will retain this crisp texture even after sitting in the pickling mixture.

Should pickled cucumbers be refrigerated?

Yes, pickled cucumbers should be refrigerated and kept in airtight containers to retain their freshness and also to prolong their shelf life. They also taste better when cold.

Looking for more easy and delicious vegetable side dish recipes?

Korean Radish Salad — Spicy, savory, and crunchy, this Korean radish salad makes a great side dish to any meal. Make it ahead and store it in the fridge, and you’ll enjoy a tasty refreshing radish side dish throughout the week.

Asian Pickled Red Onions — This Asian pickled red onions recipe is livened up with Asian-inspired spices like Szechuan peppercorns, white peppercorns, and Thai chili peppers for a unique twist to the regular pickled onions. 

Geotjeori Kimchi (Fresh Cabbage Kimchi) — Geotjeori or fresh kimchi is a delicious refreshing kimchi variety that comes together in less than half the time of regular kimchi! Compared to most kimchi that take a couple of days to prepare, this kimchi can be eaten right away, so you don’t have to wait. 

Vietnamese Tomato Salad — This is a Vietnamese-style tomato salad that’s quick, easy, and perfect for the warmer weather. It has a nice balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour, and I love that you can make this in just 10 minutes!

Pea Shoots with Garlic — This may be a super basic recipe with simple flavors, but it makes a great side dish for most main courses. I love how light and refreshing it is!

Quick Asian Pickled Cucumbers

Servings 2 people
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 Persian cucumbers
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp black sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Using a mandolin or knife, thinly slice the cucumbers.
  • Transfer the cucumbers into a small mixing bowl. Add salt then toss to mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze the excess water. Transfer to a clean bowl then repeat for the remaining cucumbers.
  • Season the cucumbers with rice vinegar and sugar. Adjust to taste.
  • Garnish with black sesame seeds and enjoy!
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese, Korean

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