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Sweet & Spicy Cucumber Ginger Salad

With fresh ginger zing, rice vinegar tang, rice wine sweetness, and the kick of red pepper flakes, this refreshing sweet and spicy Cucumber Ginger Salad boasts extraordinary flavor!

Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Ginger Salad in a bowl with black sesame seed sprinkle


Click here to PIN Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Ginger Salad.

This simple cucumber salad is classic Japanese Sunomono, a delicate oil-free sweet and tangy vinegar dressing traditionally served with cucumbers. Sunomono dressings like this one sometimes include a drop or two of soy sauce. For me, this dressing tastes best without the salty toasted caramel flavor. It’s an option for you.

A sprinkle of black sesame seeds adds eye candy. You can certainly use regular sesame seeds instead.

Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Ginger Salad notes:

  • For decorative flair, my Mom taught me to run the tines of a fork lengthwise down the outside of the cucumber. Do this after peeling and before cutting the cucumber in half.
  • Mom always scraped away the seeds out of cucumbers. Cucumbers with the seeds removed taste like crisp sweet melon and cutting out the seeds gives cucumbers more universal appeal.
cucumber with seeds removed and decorative edges from tines of a fork
  • Another trick is to salt and drain the cucumbers before mixing with the dressing. The salt pulls out moisture which gives the cucumbers a crisper texture. You can skip the step but I think it’s worth the extra time.
  • Did you know–melons, pumpkins, and squashes are cucumber cousins, botanical relatives? Salting and draining zucchini for 15 minutes helps improve the texture and flavor of the summer squash too.
  • You can prep the cucumbers and the sweet and sour dressing beforehand, but don’t mix them together. You want to toss everything together no more than an hour before serving.

If you are using regular American slicing cucumbers, you always want to remove the skin. Why?

  • Cucumber’s thick skin is coated with wax for keeping ability and protection during shipping.
  • Although comercially grown cucumbers don’t make the “Dirty Dozen” list, they have been listed as #16 for pesticide residues. If you prefer not to peel your cucumbers, buy organic.

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Serving idea: Mix your cucumber ginger salad with mung bean thread noodles, the clear noodles that soften in boiling water. Bean thread noodles (affiliate link) often go in rice paper spring rolls. These gluten-free noodles are inexpensive and readily available in the Asian foods aisle in well-stocked grocery stores.

Cucumber Ginger Salad in white bowl with blue towel and knob of ginger

Recipe adapted from one in Tassajara Dinners and Desserts (Affiliate link) by Dale and Melissa Kent

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Nutrition information is meant to be an estimate only. The numbers will vary based on the quantity consumed, brands used and substitutions you make.

13 comments

  • I’ve never salted and drained my cucumbers before. I guess I need to try that next time! Love this simple salad. Ginger and cucumber go so well together! So refreshing! Reply · 6 June, 2016

  • We’re cucumber salad twins today, Letty! I love this version — the flavors sound so bold and refreshing, and I love the idea about using the tines of a fork to decorate the cucumber! Gorgeous salad and I can’t wait to try them with my summer crop. 🙂 Reply · 6 June, 2016

    • Thanks Marcie. I love that you spiralized your cukes for tatziki and likewise can’t wait to try it as summer crop comes along…. Reply · 6 June, 2016

  • Cucumbers are taking off in my garden, thanks to a rainy spring. I can’t wait to try this pretty salad. Reply · 8 June, 2016

  • Interesting “dirty dozen” info. I had to look it up. A lot of people say cucumber skin is bitter, so they always peel. I don’t get the bitter at all. In fact the skin is the best part (pickled cucumber skins were my grandma’s specialty). Since I usually always wash my produce I’ll probably not stop eating the skin, but I’m pleased to have the info. That said. I can see how in this salad peeling would unify the textures and texture is a big part of the appeal with all Japanese “pickled” salads for me. GREG Reply · 8 June, 2016

    • Thanks Greg. Wow–pickled cucumber skins–I bet your grandmother had a finer quality cucumber than we find in the stores today! I appreciate your always thoughtful comments! And check out the Clean 15 that goes with that Dirty Dozen list…. Reply · 10 June, 2016

  • Ken Casey

    my husband is in recovery; therefore no wine (mirin) Any suggestions for a substitute, or just leave it out? Reply · 18 June, 2016

    • Good question Ken,
      You can just leave out the mirin and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar or honey. Reply · 18 June, 2016

  • Legit speechless, this cucumber ginger salad recipe looks unreal! I’m also gonna pin this post on my Pinterest board my followers will love it. Thanks for sharing! Reply · 13 December, 2017

  • This cucumber ginger salad recipe looks so amazing and yummy at the same time. Found your post so easy to follow along when preparing them yesterday. So mesmerized by this. Thanks for sharing! Reply · 25 March, 2019

  • Legit speechless, this ginger cucumber salad recipe seems unbelievable! Also on my Pinterest page, I’ll pin this article to my folks. Thanks for sharing! Thanks for share! Reply · 6 December, 2020

5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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