This easy Chinese smashed cucumber salad (拍黄瓜) is a dim sum classic that takes less than 10 minutes to make and is great as a refreshing side for the everyday meal. It's savory, tangy, and with the addition of our homemade Chinese chili oil, it's so aromatic! Pair this cucumber salad with other dim sum favorites like siu mai and salt and pepper tofu for an at-home dim sum meal.
Chinese smashed cucumber salad (pāi huáng guā - 拍黄瓜) is sometimes known as garlic paste smashed cucumber salad because traditionally, the raw garlic for the dressing are grounded into a paste. This is so the garlic adheres to the smashed cucumbers better and gives the dressing a super garlicky and spicy flavor.
This Sichuan cold appetizer is great for the summer because it's so refreshing, savory and tangy, which is supposed to entice appetite during the hot months. It's now a super popular side dish ordered at Chinese restaurants.
If you're looking for more easy side dishes to accompany your meals, you make also like our quick cucumber kimchi, Korean volcano steamed egg, mayak eggs (Korean marinated eggs), and tomato egg stir fry.
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Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Persian cucumbers - We highly recommend use mini Persian cucumbers for this salad because they're naturally super crisp and have tender seeds and skin. You could use other cucumbers, like english cucumbers.
- Salt - For salting the cucumbers, to remove excess water content.
- Garlic - Fresh, raw garlic is a must for Chinese smashed cucumber salad. Depending on how garlicky and spicy you like the cucumber salad, you can use more.
- Chinese black vinegar - Also known as Chinkiang vinegar or Zhenjiang vinegar. It's dark in color, fragrant, tangy but much milder than white vinegar. It's also complex in flavor with a hint of sweetness. If you can't find black vinegar, you can use rice vinegar instead.
- Soy sauce - We used light sodium soy sauce.
- Sugar - Just a little bit to round out the flavor.
- Toasted sesame oil - An Asian pantry classic! Sesame oil adds fragrance, toasted, and nutty flavors to the cucumber salad.
- Homemade chili oil - We highly recommend using some homemade Chinese chili oil. It adds so much flavor and aromatics to the smashed cucumbers. If you don't have time to make your own chili oil, you can also use chili oil like Lao Gan Ma.
- Cilantro - We really like the addition of chopped cilantro in our Chinese smashed cucumber salad, but if you're not a fan, you can omit it or replace it with green onions instead.
Best cucumbers for smashed cucumber salad
Persian cucumbers are our number one choice because they are naturally crisp and have tender seeds and skin. They are also much easier to smash, whether with a clever or regular chef's knife.
If you can't find Persian cucumbers, english cucumbers are great too! If the skin is a little tough, you can alternate and peel some of the skin. Usually, english cucumbers have tender seeds too, but if they are super large, you can cut it in half and scrape it out with a spoon. To make smashing easier, you can also split the english cucumber in half, lengthwise.
How to make Chinese smashed cucumber salad
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Trim and smash cucumber. Cut the ends off of all the cucumbers and smash them, one at a time, with the flat side of your knife. Smash them until the cucumbers crack. They don't have to be totally broken apart.
🌟 Pro tip: Use a knife with a thick blade, like a cleaver or chef's knife. The purpose of smashing is to crack the cucumbers and create irregular ridges. This allows salt to draw out extra moisture and to lodge the seasonings in the crevices.
2. Cut and salt cucumber. Cut the smashed cucumbers diagonally, into bite size pieces. Then, place them in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the cucumbers and give them a couple mixes. Let the cucumbers salt for about 5 minutes, then drain the cucumber juice. You don't have to rinse the cucumbers.
3. Add the garlic, black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, chili oil, and cilantro to the cucumbers and give everything a good mix. Serve immediately.
What to serve with Chinese smashed cucumber
This cucumber side dish is great with any rice or noodle dishes, entrees, or just as an addition to a meal. We often enjoy Chinese smashed cucumber salad with:
- egg fried rice and shrimp fried rice
- kimchi jjigae
- red braised pork (hong shao rou)
- mapo tofu
- biangbiang noodles
Chinese cucumber salad is best enjoyed right after or within a few hours of making. The cucumber will taste the freshest and have the best crisp. But if you have left over smashed cucumbers, you can keep them in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Salting to remove excess moisture from the cucumbers is an important step to make sure the cucumbers are crisp and don't get soggy.
Pāi huáng guā (拍黄瓜) is a popular Sichuan cucumber salad served at Chinese restaurants as a cold appetizer. The cucumbers are smashed, salted, and tossed in a garlicky, tangy dressing.
If you can find Chinese black vinegar, you can use rice vinegar instead. The flavor won't be completely the same, but it'll still be super tasty!
Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)
- 1 pound Persian cucumbers washed
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt (if using fine salt, use a little less)
- 1 clove garlic minced or paste
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (we used light sodium)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Chinese chili oil more or less depending on your preference
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped (about 3 to 4 sprigs; optional but highly recommended)
- Cut the ends off of each cucumber and smash them, one at a time, with the flat side of your knife. Smash them until the cucumbers crack. They don't have to be totally broken apart. *Do use a knife with a thick blade, like a cleaver or chef's knife.*
- Cut the smashed cucumbers diagonally, into bite size pieces. Then, place them in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the cucumbers and give them a couple mixes. Let the cucumbers salt for about 5 minutes, then drain the cucumber juice. You don't have to rinse the cucumbers.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the cucumbers (garlic, black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, chili oil, and cilantro). Give everything a good mix and serve immediately.
- Smashing the cucumbers - The purpose of smashing is to break the cucumbers so that the inside is exposed to draw out excess water content and so the irregular pockets and pick up the seasonings.
- Cucumbers - We highly recommend Persian cucumbers because they're naturally super crispy, have tender skin and seeds. But if you can't find Persian cucumbers, you can use english cucumbers or any other cucumbers with tender seeds. Read more in the post above!
- Homemade chili oil - You can use store bought chili oil, like Lao Gan Ma, but if you have time, we highly recommend making your own homemade Chinese chili oil. It adds so much flavor and aromatics to this cucumber salad and just brings it to another level.
- Cilantro - Although it's optional, we highly recommend it! If you don't care for cilantro, you can omit or sub it for green onions.