Infused with a very lemony flavor and light shallot notes, this tangy pickled cucumber salad is sure to be a crowd-pleasing side dish. It's also undoubtedly going to take your sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and rice bowls to another level.
If you like this delicious pickled cucumber salad, you should try this Asian marinated cucumber salad in rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and sesame seeds! Both can be whipped up with a few simple ingredients.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy to make with zero fermentation time: they require only a few ingredients and a short amount of time.
- The perfect side dish: this tangy salad goes beautifully alongside so many of your favorite dishes.
- They add a tangy, savory, and slightly sweet flavor to any dish. Plus, they also add a crunchy texture that complements many different foods.
- They are versatile: they can be used in various ways, from topping burgers and sandwiches to adding a zingy note to salads and rice bowls.
- They are customizable: quick cucumber pickles can be made with different kinds of vinegar, spices, and herbs to create a unique flavor profile.
- Great for meal prep: As they can last a couple of weeks, these are great to make in advance and an alternative to regular cucumber salad.
Key ingredients and substitutions
- English cucumbers: English cucumbers are the best choice for this recipe because they have thin skin and few seeds. You can use mini or regular cucumbers if you can't find English cucumbers.
- Shallots: These add a subtle onion flavor to the pickle. If you don't have shallots, you can substitute them with red onion, green onions, or sweet yellow onion.
- White wine vinegar: Has a lovely mild and slightly sweet flavor that complements the cucumber well. If you don't have white wine vinegar, substitute it with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Sugar: Helps to balance the acidity. Any granulated sugar will work in this recipe, such as white sugar or cane sugar.
- Sea salt: Enhances the pickle's flavor and helps draw out the moisture from the cucumber. You can also use kosher salt or any other type of salt.
- Spices: Red pepper flakes (optional) and black pepper add a bit of heat and spice to the pickle. You can adjust the spice to your liking or omit them altogether.
- There's no need to peel the cucumbers if they are organic and have thin skin – unless you're using regular cucumbers, you may need to peel the skin.
- Slice them thinly with a chef's knife or a mandoline. The slices should be thin but not too thin. You can use the slicing disk of your food processor if you don’t have a mandoline. Alternatively, you can also make cucumber ribbons with a vegetable peeler.
- Use fresh cucumbers for the crispness. Avoid using old produce.
- Add fresh herbs, such as fresh dill sprigs.
- Let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours or make it a couple of days ahead of time for best flavor.
STEP 1: Thinly slice the cucumber and shallot or onion slices using a sharp knife or mandoline. Aim for ⅛-inch thick slices (3 mm).
STEP 2: Zest the lemon with a zester or vegetable peeler ensuring you remove the white parts. Slice the zest thinly.
STEP 3: Make the simple brine by bringing the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and lemon zest to the boil in a small saucepan. Turn to medium-high heat and simmer until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
STEP 4: Add the sliced cucumbers, shallots, and peppercorns to a glass jar (or bowl if serving immediately).
STEP 5: Pour the vinegar mixture with the lemon slices on top, and close the lid if bottling in Weck jars.
STEP 6: Let cool down to room temperature and refrigerate for to 2-3 weeks.
This recipe uses a 1:1.5 vinegar-to-water ratio to make the brine less acidic than regular pickled cucumbers and more enjoyable as a salad. If you plan to eat the cucumbers as regular pickles, you can use a 1:1 vinegar-to-water ratio.
Eat the cucumbers within 48 hours for a dominant lemony flavor. Once they marinate for longer they lose that zestiness and take on a more traditional pickled cucumber flavor.
The color will change after a few days – that's totally normal and doesn't mean that your pickles have gone bad. The bright green color will turn into a more yellowish-green, similar to pickles from the grocery store.
How to serve
- This quick pickled cucumber salad makes a thrifty side dish at a brunch or barbecue.
- Marinated cucumbers are also a fun and great addition to a cold potato or pasta salad.
- In a vegan wrap or sandwich, they're an easy ingredient to layer in for extra texture and flavor.
- I love loading them onto a bagel (check out my vegan and gluten-free bagel recipe).
- You can also have them with crackers and (vegan) cream cheese as an elegant appetizer.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you absolutely can.
Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Make sure the cucumber slices are completely submerged in pickling liquid at all times.
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Quick Pickled Cucumber Salad
- 750 ml Weck jars (25 ounces)
For the salad
- 2 organic English cucumbers or 8 baby cucumbers
- 1 shallot
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
For the vinegar brine
- ½ cup (120 ml) white wine vinegar or white vinegar
- ¾ (180 ml) water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Peel of an organic lemon
- Wash the cucumbers. Cut them into thin slices using a sharp knife or a mandolin.
- Thinly slice the shallot.
- Retrieve the lemon zest with a citrus zester or a vegetable peeler. Make sure to remove the white parts that can add a bitter taste with a paring knife. Cut the zests into very thin strips (see step-by-step pictures).
- Add the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and lemon zest to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and wait until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved.
- Add the cucumbers, shallot, and peppercorns to a glass jar (or a bowl if serving right away). Pour the warm vinegar mixture with the lemon strips on top. Close with a lid if using a jar and let it come to room temperature.
- Place it in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 20 minutes before serving.
- This recipe uses a 1:1.5 vinegar-to-water ratio to make the brine less acidic than regular pickled cucumbers and more enjoyable as a salad. If you plan to eat the cucumbers as regular pickles, you can use a 1:1 vinegar-to-water ratio.
- Eat the cucumbers within 48 hours for a dominant lemony flavor. Once they marinate for longer they lose that zestiness and take on a more traditional pickled cucumber flavor.
- The color will change after a few days: that's totally normal and doesn't mean that your pickles have gone bad. The bright green color will turn into a more yellowish-green, similar to pickles from the grocery store.
- Storage tips: you can store the pickled cucumbers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Make sure the cucumber slices are completely submerged in pickling liquid at all times.
- Read my serving tips above for more ideas.
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