These cold spicy cucumber bites are tasty morsels that combine savory, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors all in one bite! Crisp and refreshing, they make a great side dish or appetizer to heavier dishes!
Sometimes we need something to balance slightly heavier dishes or meals...
...something that is cold, refreshing and crisp...
...and that tastes good, of course.
These cold spicy cucumber bites satisfy all the criteria...
...their tastiness coming from a bit of savory, sweet, sour, and spice all at once.
On top of that, they are very simple to make!
How To Make Cucumber Bites
Obviously, you're going to need a cucumber. I prefer using English cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, mainly because their skin are not as thick or tough as regular cucumbers.
Slices or Smashed
Slice the cucumber about ½" thick so you get nice bite-fulls and so that they hold their shape. Next comes a sprinkling of salt over the slices.
Why the salt? Through some scientific action called osmosis, the salt's job is to draw out some of the water/moisture from the cucumber that would otherwise end up diluting the marinade later. It also helps to crisp up the cucumbers a bit.
As an alternative to thick cucumber slices, you can also smash the cucumber and simply make random chunks. While not as perfect looking as the cucumber discs, it tastes just as good and is another great way to enjoy the dish. I also think that the crushing the cucumber chunks allows more of the marinade to soak into the flesh better.
For smashed cucumbers, cut the cucumber down the lengthwise into halves or quarters, then cut each length into rough chunks. Crush them by laying the flat side of a wide knife on to of each chunk and pressing down with the other hand. You can also use the back of a big spoon or a meat tenderizer will also work in a pinch. Do the same salt preparation as you would with the discs.
Marinating the Cucumber
Pat the cucumbers dry with paper towels, place into a sealable container or dish, and they are now ready for the dressing. The dressing is a simple combination of soy sauce (tamari for gluten-free), unseasoned rice vinegar, honey, mirin, sesame oil, and dried chili flakes.
Adjust the amount of each of the ingredients for the dressing according to your test. Prefer more sour? Add a bit more vinegar or reduce the other ingredients. Do you like it sweeter? Add a bit more honey. Do you like it with more spice? Add more chili flakes or, alternatively, finely chop a red Thai chili pepper and use that instead of the dried chili flakes.
Add the dressing to the cucumber bites and let them marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours to really let those flavors soak in (remembering to stir them occasionally). If you have the time to let them marinate overnight, they'll be even more flavorful!
As I mentioned above, these cucumber bites partner really well with heavier dishes. They provide a nice refreshing balance to dishes like Crispy Baked Oven Wings, Crispy Roast Pork Belly, Slow-Roasted Dry Rub Ribs, or Chicken Skewers with Thai Curry Dipping Sauce.
Since this recipe was inspired by Din Tai Fung's Cucumber Salad in Vinaigrette Dressing, serve it up alongside some soup dumplings or pan-fried potstickers!
These also go really well with shredded cooked chicken if you want to enjoy the cucumber bites as a meal with a bit more substance.
Simply poach a couple of chicken breasts, shred up the meat and serve it with the marinated cucumber bites. Lay the chicken and cucumbers on a bed of fresh greens, sprinkle some sliced almonds and sesame seeds on top, drizzle some extra dressing on top, and you've got a really nice Asian style salad!
These cool, crisp, refreshing morsels will hit the spot on warm weather days, they'll be a welcome contribution to potluck social gatherings, and they'll be a perfect partner to entrees, dumplings, or greasy finger foods. How ever you decide to serve them up, these cucumber bites are going to be a hit!
Cold Spicy Cucumber Bites
- 1 English cucumber (or 3-4 Persian cucumbers)
- ½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
- Whisk the unseasoned rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce (tamari), mirin, sesame oil, and dried red chili flakes in a bowl.
- Adjust dressing ingredients according to taste. Set aside.
Preparing the Cucumbers:
- Slice cucumber into slices, about ½-inch thick. Alternatively, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, chop them into rough-cut pieces, and crush with the side of a knife, back of a spoon, or tenderizer.
- Mix the cucumber with salt and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
- Rinse the cucumber and pat dry with paper towels.
- Combine the cucumbers dressing in a bowl or resealable container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight for better flavor). Stir occasionally.
- Serve chilled.
- This recipe works with thick sliced cucumbers or smashed cucumber chunks.
- Adjust the marinade/dressing ingredients based on your personal preference for flavor.
- If you use seasoned rice vinegar (which contains sugar), omit the honey to start and taste the dressing before deciding to add any extra.
- For a spicier kick, use a finely chopped red Thai chili pepper in the dressing instead of the dried chili flakes.
- Marinate for at least 4 hours in the fridge, stirring occasionally. Letting the cucumber marinate overnight will make the bites more flavorful.
** This recipe was original published on July 16th, 2017 and republished on March 13th, 2021 with recipe updates, new photos, and writing.