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Quick & Easy Cucumber Kimchi

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!

Low angle shot of a plate of cucumber kimchi with a hand lifting a cucumber slice with a pair of wooden chopsticks.

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. The true name of this dish is Oi Muchim or Spicy Cucumber Salad. 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 (gochugaru) 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.

An overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make this cucumber kimchi recipe.

What ingredients do you need?

This popular summer kimchi or Oi Muchim 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:

Low angle shot of a plate of cucumber kimchi.

How do you make it?

  1. Salt the vegetables in a medium nonreactive bowl and let stand for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Drain, rinse, and pat the vegetables dry.
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients together (except for the sesame seeds, if using) and toss with the vegetables.
  4. You can serve the cucumber kimchi immediately or let stand, covered, at room temperature overnight to let it undergo the fermentation process.
  5. Serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Tips for success

  1. 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.
  2. For the most authentic Korean flavor, use gochugaru pepper flakes.
  3. 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.
  4. Store leftover cucumber kimchi in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  5. 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 Oi Muchim cucumber salad kimchi on top of my Beef Bulgogi Rice Bowl, alongside Miso Salmon, Chicken Karaage, Thai Fish Cakes, or Pork Fried Rice.

It would go perfectly with these Korean pork chops.

I’ve even been known to put it inside an Air Fryer Fried Chicken Sandwich. This Spicy Cucumber Salad is a similar salad with Chinese seasonings.

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

Why is kimchi good for you?

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.

What is gochugaru and where do you buy it?

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.

What kind of cucumbers should you use for kimchi?

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.

Can you add other ingredients?

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,

Low angle shot of a plate of cucumber kimchi.
Low angle shot of a plate of cucumber kimchi with a hand lifting a cucumber slice with a pair of wooden chopsticks.

Cucumber Kimchi

Robin Donovan
Korean Cucumber Kimchi is a spicy, flavorful addition to any
rice bowl. This is quick version can be ready to eat in just 30 minutes.

4.58 from 59 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish Recipes
Cuisine Korean
Calories 74 kcal


  • 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.



Serving: 1Calories: 74kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 2gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 998mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6g
Keyword cucumber, kimchi, korean food, korean recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Cucumber Kimchi Story

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By on June 1st, 2021


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

9 thoughts on “Quick & Easy Cucumber Kimchi”

  1. 5 stars
    I may or may not have eaten an entire batch by myself in one day. Okay I definitely ate an entire batch by myself in one day. This is absolutely delightful! I’ve made a second batch for work lunches.

  2. I only have the paste, not the powder. What would be the equivalent? I know this stuff is spicy so I don’t want to make it so it’s in edible.

    • by paste do you mean gochujang? That’s not the same thing (gochujang is a fermented mixture of chiles, salt, fermented soybeans, and rice gochugaru is just dried chiles). I don’t think you can make kimchi with gochujang. It’s just not the same thing.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow!! What a great recipie. So flavorful!
    With so many garden cucumbers it’s a great and healthy way to use them up!!


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