Take your love of cucumbers to a whole other level with this flavor-packed Korean cucumber salad. The crunch of fresh cucumbers combine with the zest of Korean spices and create a dish that's refreshing and has the perfect amount of kick.
About Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
I love banchan, those little dishes served before your meal at Korean restaurants. This Korean cucumber salad, known as Oi Muchim ("oi" meaning cucumber and "muchim" meaning to season) is one of the most popular banchan, and for good reason.
Cucumbers serve as a fresh, crisp canvas for a wide array of flavors. To start, the cukes are thinly sliced, ensuring each piece can adequately absorb the dressing. As the cucumbers are bathed in a mixture of sesame oil and rice vinegar, they take on a rich and nutty flavor from the oil, paired with a bright, tangy kick from the vinegar. This combination is quintessential in many Asian-inspired dishes.
A touch of salt amplifies the natural flavors of the cucumber, while a hint of sugar balances the acidity of the vinegar. The Korean chili flakes (gochugaru) introduce a mild to moderate heat, depending on your threshold, infusing the Korean cucumber salad with a beautiful color and a smoky, fruity funkiness.
What truly rounds out the flavor profile is the trinity of minced garlic, sesame seeds, and scallions. Garlic adds a pungent, aromatic quality. Sesame seeds provide a subtle crunch and a hint more of that sesame flavor, reinforcing the nuttiness introduced by the oil. Lastly, the scallions bring a fresh, oniony bite that cuts through all that richness and leaves the palate refreshed.
Together, these ingredients conspire to create a dish that can be served as a standalone salad, a vibrant side dish to Korean BBQ Burgers, Korean Chicken Stew and Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs, or even as a tangy topping for rice bowls or grilled meats.
Here's what you'll need to make this perfectly seasoned Korean cucumber salad. See the recipe card below for exact amounts.
- Persian cucumbers: Or English, or any small crisp cucumber
- Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru): For a gentle heat. I like these two brands Wang | Mother In Law's. Note: Can't find gochugaru? No worries - a 50/50 mix of paprika and red pepper flakes is a great substitute
- Rice vinegar: for a tangy zest
- Sesame oil: to add a nutty, umami undertone - my favorite brand is Kadoya
- Garlic: minced or grated, for a punch of sharpness
- Sugar: to balance the acidity and heat
- Sesame seeds: for a subtle crunch and visual appeal
- Green onions: thinly sliced, for a pop of color and freshness
- Kosher salt: to draw liquid from, and season, the cucumbers
How To Make Korean Cucumber Salad
This salad is very simple to make. You can do it in just three quick steps:
- Cut and salt your cucumbers: I usually use one Persian cucumber per person. Salting the cukes extracts liquid for added crispiness. Gently pat the cucumbers dry once they've given up their excess water.
- Add dressing ingredients: Toss cucumbers with sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, scallions, sugar, a heaping pile of gochugaru and a few sprinkles of sesame seeds.
- Garnish and enjoy: Sprinkle with extra sesame seeds and green onions. For best results serve immediately. The salad will still be delicious for two days in the fridge but loses its crisp texture as time goes on.
The beauty of this recipe is how well the dressing pairs with the fresh crispy cucumbers. This is a fantastic side dish for practically any grilled or asian-inspired dish.
If you try this recipe, I hope you'll come back and leave a star rating and a comment, I'd love to know what you think!Print