Smashed Cucumber Salad—a classic salad loved across much of Asian. Featuring craggy chunks of crisp cucumber and a savory toasted sesame dressing, this salad is flavorful, refreshing and so simple to throw together. 

diced cucumbers in a black bowl with a spoon in it—set on a table with cilantro

Smashed Cucumber Salad is popular across Asian, and each region does it a bit differently. My version is most closely aligned with the Chinese method, featuring ginger, garlic, scallions, and even some fresh cilantro.

What you’ll need for smashed cucumber salad

cucumbers, ginger, oil, honey, garlic, red pepper flakes, green onions, and cilantro set on a table

How to make smashed cucumber salad

Step 1: smash the cucumbers 

You can use a mallet, rolling pin, or the heel of your hand. I prefer to use the heel of my hand, because I have more control over the process that way. Cut smashed cucumbers into 1-inch chunks.

step-by-step photos showing how to crush cucumbers

Step 2: salt the cucumbers 

Place cucumber chunks in a colander set over a bowl. Toss with salt and let set 20 minutes. Salting the cucumber chunks and letting them sit will extract excess water. This method ensures a flavorful salad, one that isn’t watered down.

step-by-step photos showing how to dice cucumbers and salt them

Step 3: make the dressing

Discard drained liquid. In now-empty bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the cucumber chunks, scallions, and cilantro; toss to coat.

a grid of two images showing how to whisk up an Asian dressing

This dish is best served right away. If you want to prep this ahead of time, salt the cucumbers and let them sit (in a colander set inside a bowl) in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Prep the dressing a few hours ahead of time and set aside.

When ready to serve, discard the drained liquid and toss the cucumbers with the dressing. This cold dish is meant to be served, well, cold or at room temperature—not warm.

What kind of cucumbers should be used for this salad?

It’s best to use thin-skinned cucumbers with small seeds such as English cucumbers (long slender cucumbers which usually come individually shrink-wrapped, sometimes labeled hot house cucumbers) or Persian cucumbers (short narrow cucumbers sold in packs of four or five on small trays). These varieties of cucumbers are flavorful, less watery and leaps and bounds more enjoyable than classic pole cucumbers. 

By all means, do your best to avoid using regular pole cucumbers here. Frankly, if they’re all you can find, I would recommend skipping this recipe. But if you really want to give it go with regular cukes, partially peel them and definitely seed them before smashing, salting and tossing with the dressing.

diced cucumbers in a black bowl with a spoon set in the salad filled with dressing

How to smash cucumbers

Smashing cucumbers is a classic technique used across much of Asian. And while it may feel counterintuitive, it actually creates craggy crevices which are perfect for holding on to the tasty dressing. 

There are a variety of ways you can smash the cucumbers:

  • Meat mallet
  • Rolling pin
  • Side of a Chef’s knife 
  • Heel of your hand

I prefer to use the heel of my hand and some body weight to smash the cucumbers. I find this method offers more control, and it allows for smashing the cucumbers without bruising them. Beware, this method can cause the cucumber to shoot it’s soft innards out (good, but messy)!

close up of crushed cucumber chunks with red pepper flakes and dressing

Serve smashed cucumber salad with…

Because this salad is made with Asian staples, like soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, it’s best to pair it with Asian-inspired main dish recipes. 

Variations on this cucumber salad:

  • Add julienned ginger for crunch and warm spice.
  • Use chili garlic sauce or chili oil in place of (or in addition to) the red pepper flakes.
  • Add thinly sliced red bell pepper.
  • Finish with toasted sesame seeds.
  • Use granulated sugar instead of honey (which will make this recipe vegan).
diced cucumbers in a black bowl with a spoon set in the salad filled with dressing

If you give this Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad recipe a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations!

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diced cucumbers in a black bowl with a spoon in it—set on a table with cilantro

Chinese-Inspired Smashed Cucumber Salad

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings (5 cups) 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: No-cook
  • Cuisine: Asian

Description

Savory, refreshing and simple. This smashed cucumber salad is flavored with ginger, garlic, and toasted sesame oil. It’s great for warm weather or served alongside asian glazed meatballs, salmon or chicken.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers, such as English or Persian cucumbers
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce*
  • 2 teaspoons honey*
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon grated fresh garlic 
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 3 tablespoons sliced scallions

Instructions

On a cutting board, smash cucumbers using a mallet, rolling pin, or heel of your hand, until cracked and smashed. 

Cut smashed cucumbers into 1-inch chunks; transfer to a colander set over a large bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let cucumbers drain 20–30 minutes. 

Discard released liquid. In now-empty bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, soy sauce, honey,  ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. 

Add cucumber, cilantro and scallions and toss to combine.

Season with salt and additional red pepper flakes to taste. 



Notes

This side dish recipe is best served right away and cold or at room temperature. It can be made up to a couple hours ahead of, wait to add cilantro and scallions until right before serving. 

CUCUMBERS: use 2 large English cucumbers, 4 medium English cucumbers, or 8–10 Persian cucumbers.

GLUTEN-FREE: to ensure this salad is gluten-free, be sure to use certified gluten-free soy sauce.

VEGAN: use granulated white sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup instead of honey.

Keywords: smashed cucumber salad, Chinese smashed cucumber salad, chinese cucumber salad

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. This recipe flavor wise is spot on ! Absolutely loved the way the final taste came across.
    Had this as a side dish to our Korean fried chicken
    I substituted som bal for the chili flakes becaue I like it hotter.
    The only thing I would say is double the recipe because it didn’t yield all that much and because it’s so good you will want more

  2. I’ve lived in China for 8 years and this recipe tastes authentic to me! Smashed cucumbers might be my favorite Chinese dish, but some restaurants make it too oily or prepare it too far in advance. For some reason I never thought of making it myself until I stumbled on your recipe.

    I didn’t have cilantro, but otherwise followed the recipe and it was dope. Will be making it again! Thanks!

    1. Hi Mimi, I am SO happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe! It’s definitely one of my favorite dishes as well—refreshing yet savory!