Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: June 1, 2020

Last Updated: February 27th, 20240 Comments on Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Easy dishes are often the best, right!? This amazing crisp, crunchy and fragrant Chinese cucumber salad (拍黄瓜) recipe is just that. Perfect as an appetizer or side dish and super-quick to put together at home.

Chinese Cucumber Salad

Whenever I eat a Chinese feast at a restaurant or at home, I'm always sure to order a Chinese cucumber salad. It's a simple, wonderful, cooling dish - that offers fragrance and texture in equal measure.

It feels like it should be difficult to put together, but it's really not. It's all about assemblage! Quick, easy and you can make it in advance too. That makes it perfect for making at home - it sits wonderfully alongside stir-fried dishes, soups, stews and meats. For me it's often the star of the show.

What's Ahead?

Chinese Cucumber Salad

Why it works?

Counterbalance - Chinese food is all about balance. A balance of colour, texture and most importantly flavour. There's a whole lot of umami going on in Chinese cuisine, so a small balance to that is the fresh and cooling qualities of cucumber. It's amazing how such a simple fish can transform the journey through a Chinese meal.

Stuff You'll Need

Any Asian cucumber salad recipe will call for similar ingredients, to ensure a blend of umami, sweet and sour. This Chinese recpie follows these principle. The key is the dressing - rich, fragrant and a burst of umami, smoky saltiness. I literally cannot get enough of the stuff! Here are some of the key ingredients for the salad - a full recipe is below.

  • Cucumber - I prefer to use English cucumbers, the skin is thinner which makes for a better eating experience. I remove the seeds and salt them, then squeeze out the excess water, smashing up some of the pieces in the process. It makes for a splendid texture to the finished dish.
  • Rice vinegar - a touch of acid and sourness
  • Sesame oil - oh boy! I can't tell you how smoky, nutty and perfect it is in this dressing
  • Peanut oil - more nuttiness!
  • Soy sauce - light soy - salty and umami!
  • Sugar - to counteract the salt and sour
  • Garlic & Ginger - Did anyone order a side of fragrant!?

When everything comes together, the results are nothing short of magical! A perfect balance of sweet, salt and sour. And how long did that take to put together! 5 minutes - tops! A crisp accompaniment to literally any Chinese dish.

Step by Step

Introductory sentence + process shots

  1. Step 1 - Halve the cucumber and, using a teaspoon, remove and discard the seeds. Cut each half lengthwise, then slice into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Step 2 - Place the cucumber pieces in a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Gently mix and allow to sit for 20 minutes to release excess moisture.
  3. Step 3 - Mix the salt, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut oil, minced garlic, and minced ginger until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Step 4 - After 20 minutes, transfer the cucumber onto a clean tea towel. Gather it up and gently squeeze out excess moisture, ensuring not to crush the cucumber too much.
  5. Step 5 - Return the cucumber to a bowl and drizzle the dressing over it. Gently toss to coat, then transfer to a serving platter. You can refrigerate the cucumber salad for up to 6 hours before serving – it's most enjoyable when served cold! Just before serving, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


Pro Tips & Suggestions

  1. Remove the cucumber seeds. This helps create a meatier, less watery salad - English cucumber are less watery, but still benefit from a light scooping of the seeds with a teaspoon.
  2. Spice it up. Drizzle over some chilli oil at the last minute for a splendid combination of spice and cool in every bit.
  3. Try black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) - for a deeper headier sourness. It can add a lovely complexity to the dressing.
  4. Toast your sesame seeds at home. Dry toasting your sesame seeds at home will enhance the flavour no end. You CAN buy pre toasted, but they've already lost the bulk of their flavour. See for yourself the wonderful difference of toasting at home.
A small bowl of Chinese style smashed cucumbers

Serving & Storage Suggestions

Serving - This dish really works alongside anything really. Try them with my delicious recipe for Chilli Oil Dumplings or spicy Xinjiang Lamb Skewers. There are more suggestions below too...

Storage - Keep in the fridge once made as it's best enjoyed cold. I make mine up to 5 hours in advance and if I have any leftovers, I keep them well covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. Cucumber is not, I repeat not a great contender for the freezer, so I don't recommend freezing.

Ready to get started?

Get ready to enjoy a super easy and quick Chinese salad for the next time you want to experience authentic Chinese restaurant food - and all without putting your shoes on and leaving the house. So, why have take out, when you can takeaway this amazing recipe?!

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about this tasty Chinese cucumber recipe? Let me know in the comments.

Can I freeze Chinese cucumber salad?

No, cucumber doesn't freeze well at all. The salad will stay fresh in the fridge for 4-5 days, but is at its best when eaten right away.

Can I make this salad gluten free?

Soy sauce is the only ingredient that contains gluten so replacing that with a gluten free soy sauce is easiest. Alternatively, most tamari is wheat-free and gluten-free so is a great alternative.

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Chinese Cucumber Salad

Chinese Cucumber Salad

Rate this recipe

4.34 from 3 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time25 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 81

Video Recipe


  • 1 cucumber (large English/hothouse cucumber)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the dressing


  • Cut cucumber in half, and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds and discard. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Toss the cucumber pieces into a sieve over a bowl and then sprinkle over the salt & sugar. Mix a little and then leave for 20 minutes to let the moisture seep out.

Making the dressing

  • Whisk together the salt, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut oil, minced garlic and minced ginger. Set aside.
  • After 20 minutes, tumble the cucumber onto a clean tea towel. Gather up and squeeze out the excess moisture, be firm but don’t utterly destroy the cucumber inside!
  • Tip the cucumber back into a bowl and pour over the dressing. Toss gently then decant to a serving platter. You can chill the cucumber salad up to 6 hours – it’s best served cold! Just before you serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


Tips & Tricks:

  • Remove the cucumber seeds to achieve a firmer, less watery salad. Even English cucumbers, which are naturally less watery, benefit from removing some seeds using a teaspoon.
  • Add a kick of spice. Just before serving, drizzle some chili oil for a delightful combination of heat and freshness in every bite.
  • Experiment with black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) for a richer, more intense sourness. It can bring a delightful depth to the dressing.
  • Toast sesame seeds at home for maximum flavor. Dry toasting sesame seeds at home enhances their flavor significantly. While pre-toasted seeds are available, they often lack the fullness of flavor. Experience the wonderful difference of toasting at home yourself.

Storage & Suggestions:

  • Serving: This dish pairs well with a variety of dishes. It complements perfectly with my tasty recipe for Chilli Oil Dumplings or spicy Xinjiang Lamb Skewers. Further suggestions are provided below...
  • Storage: Refrigerate the salad once prepared as it is most enjoyable when served cold. I typically make mine up to 5 hours ahead, and any leftovers are stored tightly covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. Cucumber does not freeze well, so I strongly advise against freezing it.


Calories: 81kcal (4%) | Carbohydrates: 4g (1%) | Protein: 1g (2%) | Fat: 7g (11%) | Saturated Fat: 1g (6%) | Sodium: 1042mg (45%) | Potassium: 102mg (3%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 3g (3%) | Vitamin A: 54IU (1%) | Vitamin C: 3mg (4%) | Calcium: 13mg (1%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
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