Korean Cucumber Kimchi is a spicy, flavorful Asian condiment. It is ubiquitous on Korean tables, but makes a delicious addition to any rice bowl. This quick version, which isn’t truly kimchi but rather a quick pickle salad, can be ready to eat in just 30 minutes. It’s the easiest kimchi recipe I’ve made!
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What is kimchi?
Kimchi is an essential part of Korean cuisine and appears at nearly every meal. The most common kimchi stars napa cabbage that is fermented along with chiles and other seasonings. It is also made with other vegetables like radishes or cucumbers. It is spicy, tangy, and loaded with umami.
The process of making kimchi is lacto-fermentation. First, the vegetables are salted, which destroys any harmful bacteria. Next, lacto-fermentation takes over when lactobacillus (the good bacteria) converts the natural sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid. This both preserves and flavors the vegetables.
This process imbues the dish with healthy probiotic microorganisms that can help boost your immune system, aid digestion, regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and possibly even prevent certain cancers.
This quick cucumber kimchi recipe (Oi Kimchi in Korean) can be left to ferment overnight, or you can eat it right away. It has a crunchy texture, bright acidic flavor, a punch of spice, and a trace of garlic.
It’s not a true kimchi because it includes soy sauce and vinegar and is not fermented over days or weeks. But it makes a great vegan kimchi substitute, especially if you want something you can eat right away.
Most authentic Korean kimchi includes korean red chili as well as fish sauce and/or dried shrimp for added umami flavor. This version uses regular soy sauce for umami instead, making it a vegan kimchi.
To give this kimchi more authentic flavor, add 1 tablespoon of dried shrimp and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce or 2 tablespoons of fish sauce in place of the soy sauce.
What ingredients do you need?
This popular summer kimchi recipe calls for cucumbers, carrots, and onions, but I often just use the cucumbers when I want something really simple. Here is the full list of ingredients for the recipe:
- Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds (optional), for garnish
How do you make it?
- Salt the vegetables in a medium nonreactive bowl and let stand for 20 minutes or so.
- Drain, rinse, and pat the vegetables dry.
- Mix the remaining ingredients together (except for the sesame seeds, if using) and toss with the vegetables.
- You can serve the cucumber kimchi immediately or let stand, covered, at room temperature overnight to let it undergo the fermentation process.
- Serve garnished with sesame seeds.
Tips for success
- For the best flavor, use only additive-free salt like sea salt or kosher salt. This is especially important if you want your kimchi to ferment because the iodine in iodized salt may prevent fermentation.
- For the most authentic Korean flavor, use gochugaru pepper flakes.
- If you’d like to ferment your cucumber kimchi, let it sit, covered, at room temperature overnight. Store in the refrigerate after that for up to a week.
- Store leftover cucumber kimchi in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- You can peel the cucumber if you like, but this is unnecessary with the smaller cucumber types.
What do you serve with Korean cucumber kimchi?
You can serve this Cucumber Kimchi the way way you’d serve cabbage kimchi. I serve it alongside meat dishes with steamed rice, or put it on top of rice bowls.
I often serve this cucumber salad kimchi on top of my Beef Bulgogi Rice Bowl, alongside Miso Salmon, Chicken Karaage, Thai Fish Cakes, or Pork Fried Rice. I’ve even been known to put it inside an Air Fryer Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Korean Bapsang is my favorite Korean food blog. She’s got lots of grilled meat and seafood dishes that would be perfect to serve with this cucumber kimchi. Try her Korean BBQ Pork Ribs or Spicy Grilled Squid.
Cucumber Kimchi frequently asked questions
As a fermented food, kimchi is a probiotic, containing the same lactobacilli bacteria that are in yogurt. This “good bacteria” improves digestion, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol, and reduces the risk of stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Gochugaru is a specific type of Korean red pepper flakes or korean chile powder. Gochu means pepper and garu means powder, so the word is literally “pepper powder.”
To make gochugaru, Korean chile peppers are dried and ground to a consistency somewhere between the typical large-flake “crushed red pepper” you find in the supermarket spice aisle and finely ground cayenne pepper.
The flavor of gochugaru Korean chile flakes is more robust than typical crushed red pepper flakes as well. It is fruity, smoky, and earthy. In addition to heat, it adds depth of flavor.
Korean food is known for being fiery, but not all gochugaru is blazingly hot. “Maewoon gochugaru” is the hottest type, while “deolmaewoon gochugaru” is milder.
You can buy gochugaru in Korean markets, Asian markets (like Ranch 99), or even in the Asian-food section of large supermarkets. Or you can buy it online. I like this Mother-In-Law’s gochugaru for a flavorful and moderately spicy version.
Look for Korean cucumbers or Japanese cucumbers, which are small and thin and don’t need to be peeled. These have a higher flesh-to-seed ration, making them less watery.
If you can’t find the Korean or Japanese type, you can substitute Persian cucumbers, kirby cucumbers, or English cucumber.
If your cucumbers are large and seedy, you may want to halve them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds before slicing.
Yes, you can add other vegetables if you like! I like to add sliced green onions or scallions, garlic chives or Asian chives, sliced fresh ginger, or sliced fresh chili peppers. You can also add different types of chile flakes, shrimp paste, salted shrimp, or fish sauce,
- 4 small cucumbers (preferably Korean or Japanese), thinly sliced
- 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons gochugaru (crushed Korean red chili pepper)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Sesame seeds (optional), for garnish
- Toss the cucumbers, carrots, and onion together in a large mixing
bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables and toss to mix well. Let stand for about 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, in a small bowl stir together the gochugaru, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and garlic until thoroughly combined.
- After the vegetables have finished soaking in the salt, drain off the excess water that has collected in the bottom of the bowl. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly in cold water, drain again, and then pat dry with paper towels or a clean dishtowel. Return the vegetables to the mixing bowl.
- Add the sauce mixture to the vegetables and toss until the
vegetables are well coated.
- The dish can be served immediately, or you can let it ferment at
room temperature overnight.
- Garnish the dish with sesame seeds if desired just before serving.
- Serve cold or at room temperature.
Amount Per Serving Calories 74Total Fat 4gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 0mgSodium 998mgCarbohydrates 10gFiber 1gSugar 6gProtein 2g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.