Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Slices

CATEGORIES: Salads, Sara, Vegetables

My husband makes fun of me because I have an uncanny ability to remember seemingly minute (and perhaps useless) details related to important life events.  Like, he’ll say,

“Sara remember the time we went on that amazing date and I got you that super awesome gift and shared all of the inner most parts of my soul with you?” 

And I’ll instantly know what he’s referring to and say

“Um, ya, you mean that one time when I was wearing that gray sweater and my red heels and I had my hair up, but not all the way up, but casually-messy up, and you wore those one pants with the hole in the knee and the flip-flops I bought you in Cali and on the way to the car I dropped my chap-stick?”

And that’s when he just stares at me.

I’m convinced this talent will some day win me lots of money on a random game show or something, but in the mean time it can also provide us with some good recipes.  See I remember a family bbq from about 2 years ago.  I know where we were, but I can’t even list the people that were there.  What I do remember, and I remember it well, was that my sister-in-law Monica showed up (and yes, I do know what she was wearing) with a little plastic container of awesome cucumbers.

Husband: “Hey Sara, remember that really important family bbq we had where all of those earth-shattering things happened?”

Sara: “Um, ya, you mean the one where Monica brought those awesome cucumbers?  Totally remember that.”

sweet and spicy cucumbers

I’ve remembered that for two years and even though that was the only time I tasted them, I found myself craving them a few weeks ago.  So I got the recipe from her and here we are!  See?  I knew my talent was useful.

These are tangy and sweet with a little bit of a kick. It makes a great side-dish for summer bbq’s. There’s something incredibly refreshing about cold cucumbers, right?  And if you have cukes coming out of your ears garden, then this is especially for you.  Aside from eating them plain, we love these on salads or added to lettuce wraps or just plain from the fridge.  They’re unique and you have to make them to see why I love them so much!


A mandoline will be your best friend here, but you can certainly slice by hand if you’d like.  You can do peeled or unpeeled cucumber and you can leave them whole, or cut them in half.  Your choice.  

Next, place the cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle them with salt.  Salting cucumbers draws out the moisture.  If you don’t do this step, then all of this moisture will come out in the final dish and water it down.  I actually salt my cucumbers before making tzatziki as well because otherwise it tends to get watery after sitting in the fridge.  I like to set my colander in a pan to collect the moisture and just leave that whole set-up in the fridge for a bit.

sweet and spicy cucumbers 

While your cucumbers are draining you can prepare the simple marinade.  Heat up rice vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes in a pan and after it’s reduced add some minced red onion.  Honestly, you can leave out the pepper flakes if you don’t want any heat.  I obviously left them out of this batch, because honestly I forgot.  But I don’t like a lot of heat and these taste great sans pepper flakes as well. 

sweet and spicy cucumbers 

You’ll want to let these sit and marinade for a while before you eat them.  They get better with time, so give yourself at least a few hours chill time.  They’re also great the next day, and even several days later.  They become more like pickle-texture they longer they sit (which I like!)  

It’s a great side-dish for any bbq meal, or just along side grilled chicken or steak. Try it out at a pot-luck and listen for the oohs and aahs.

sweet and spicy cucumbers


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Sweet and Spicy Marinated Cucumbers


Marinated cucumbers burst with flavor, making a perfect side dish, or topping to a salad or other meat dishes. We love these on Asian lettuce wraps as well!


  • 11/2 lbs cucumber (about 3 medium), thinly sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (if using table salt, use only 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar, seasoned or regular
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional if you don’t want any heat.)
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion


  1. Place cucumber slices in a colander sitting over a bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let sit for 1 hour refrigerated. Toss the cukes a few times while they drain if you remember. While cucumber slices are draining, prepare marinade.
  2. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and red pepper in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook until reduced to a 1/3 cup (about 10 minutes). If for some reason you boil for too long, just add a little water until you have 1/3 C. Remove reduction from heat and add onion. Let mixture cool to room temp.
  3. When cucumbers are done resting, pat them dry with a few paper towels and then combine with the vinegar reduction. Chill for at least a few hours before serving. They improve with time!


  • Note: I have successfully made these with sugar substitute (like Truvia) as well.
  • Tip: Sometimes I like to double the marinade to make them extra flavorful!
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    1. Hi, my family have been making these cukes for eons. My hubby loves them for work lunch in a thermos with cottage cheese on the side. Try a few drops of sesame oil in the marinade. It’ll knock your socks off.

  1. Like Kate, we made this very often growing up and I make it quite a bit during the summer as well, but never thought of red pepper flakes. We always used apple cider vinegar, too. Will have to try this in the next couple of days. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This looks similar to a cucumber salad I like at the local sushi restaurant. I think I will be making this during the week and taking it to camp

  3. you may as well add some pineapple ..just slice it like the cucumber .. for us in Malaysia we called that jelatah ..it also nice to eat together with baryani rice, curry , and spicy chicken.. try it ..

  4. I have a bowl of cucumbers soaking in vinegar in my fridge right now. Tasty, but not QUITE what I wanted. I think this may be JUST what I'm looking for – thanks a ton!

  5. Royann- they'll last quite a while, but the texture of the cucumbers will change the more they sit around, getting kind of soft. So it really depends on how you like them. I just ate some that were 3 days old and they were just fine.

  6. this will be our side tonight- I LOVE cucumber salads! And I also get those blank stares from my husband for the same exact reason…

  7. Really tasty. I thought I had more cucumbers from my CSA than I actually did, so substituted some red cabbage. So good with the red onion. I'm so happy to have this recipe:)

  8. I've been munching on cucumbers with rice wine vinegar and a couple of shakes of Pico de Gallo seasoning. I'm definitely going to try this one – sounds yummy.

    And I loved your opening story!

  9. Will someone please inform my garden that cucumbers actually need to grow? Thanks! They are still small plants. My garden is weird this year. Anyway, remind me where you are? Would love some onions! 🙂 Thanks for the recipe, looks yummy and kind of like the cuc salad from Noodles & co.

  10. Oh yum! I have just recently started liking cucumbers, and this sounds so good. I'll have to pass this on to my mom; she LOVES cucumbers. In fact, you know her, Vicki Rasmussen. I'll tell her to call if she needs onions. 🙂

  11. These ARE delicious. I grew up on something similar, except that we didn't have the zing of the red pepper flakes. Nice addition. P.S. I totally covet that blue dish.

  12. Okay, I was fully prepared NOT to like this recipe. I'm not a huge fan of cucumbers. But when our neighbor not so anonymously deposited about 3 lbs of cucumbers on our doorstep, and I had a potluck to go to, we made it.

    We really liked them! Nice change from a salad. Wonderful!

  13. I just found your blog this week and have already tried these cucumbers and the pb cup popcorn. I LOVE this recipe – I'll be bringing it to a family picnic tomorrow!

  14. i just tried this tonight– and it hasn't chilled in the fridge mixed together yet– but it tastes *really* salty…

    was i supposed to rinse the cucumbers after salting them? i'm new to the world of cucumber salads…

  15. singlewhiteknitter- did you let the cucumbers drain for at least an hour? The salt draws the moisture out, and generally a good portion of the salt you put on there drains out with the liquid. It's a good idea to toss them a few times while they drain. It would also be extra salty if you didn't use quite enough cucumbers or you used regular table salt instead of kosher salt. I suppose the brand of vinegar could also contribute to the saltiness as well. If you make it again, there's nothing wrong with rinsing the cukes if it's still too salty for ya.

  16. That looks delicious! Can't wait to try…Oh, and just fyi, Stevia sweetener will be a little healthier…just use less because it's a lot sweeter than sugar, but all natural. 🙂

  17. I tried these and they ending up soupy, even after letting them drain with salt. Any suggestions? I let them drain in the fridge for 1+ hour. I did really like the flavor though!

  18. Thanks for this great recipe! I have made this twice since discovering your blog last week. Adding red pepper flakes was a wonderful idea. I also thinly sliced a small vidalia onion and added it to the mix. Yum!

  19. Two questions: Do you rinse the salt off? And where does the water come in? It's listed in the ingred. list but not in the directions. Thanks so much!!!

  20. Valjean- the water is in fact listed in the directions- it's with the vinegar and sugar mixture. As for the salt, it draws moisture out of the cucumbers so you'll find most of the saltiness drains right off with it. There's no need to rinse them, but you certainly can if you feel worried about the salt content.

  21. These are so great! I grew up eating cucumbers soaked in white vinegar and water… this recipe is such a great improvement. Thanks Sara! This recipe and your Asian Cabbage Salad our two of my favorite healthy foods now.

  22. I just ran across your site by way of face book- I totally love it. Your food and photos are just my style. Love your easy to read directions too! I’ve been making these for years- now I know why after awhile they go flat- I have never used salt to take the moisture out! My daughter and son will love the addition of the red pepper flakes! Will be back weekly for new ideas!

  23. Just made these to have with turkey brats tonight for dinner. I sampled a bite and they are delicious!!! I made these with Sweet N Low, as my husband is doing a low carb diet, and it seemed like it worked great. Thanks for another great recipe!!!

  24. This sounds absolutely fantastic. The one problem is, I am studying abroad in France right now and probably do not have access to Rice vinegar. Is there any alternate you could propose? I am wanting to make a full meal for my host family before I return home next week and this looks perfect for an appetizer/salad.

    1. hmm, that’s a tricky one Christina. In a lot of things you can easily exchange vinegars, but the flavor is definitely distinct here. I think an apple cider vinegar might work well since it’s got a sweet and savory thing going on. I’d probably try that!

      1. Apple Cider Vinegar rocks in this salad- we eat this all summer long. I haven’t had it with red pepper flakes before but I’m sure it would work well.

  25. These are very similar to an Indonesian dish called Acar(pronounced a-char)
    In Acar the cucumbers are seeded,cut and salted/drained (to remove excess water), then rinsed before adding the vinegar/sugar mix and tiny whole red chili’s and small peeled whole shallots. Refrigerate/marinate for several hours before serving.

  26. This is one of my favorite salads, we love love this in the summer. And I usually use rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or my favorite is tarragon vinegar. It usually depends on what I have enough of.

  27. I make this almost note for note, the only difference being a few dollops of Greek yogurt. I love the creaminess as a foil to the tang of the vinegar & pepper flakes. (a shot of Sriracha never hurts either)

  28. I run them through the mandoline to make uniform thin slices. I had this at a going away to Africa luncheon and I couldnt stop raving about them. I was so excited when the host wrote me out a card and mailed it out to me. You will always remember the 1st time you have these tasty morsels. GREAT recipe!

  29. one very similar to a cucumber salad I make…but I also chop up some fresh cilantro to put in mine…and I don’t usually heat up the vinegar…guess I’ll have to try that…
    and would LOVE some of those onions!

  30. I can’t wait to try this…my family loves cucumbers but I dislike them. Hopefully dressing them up a bit will help them gain my favor!

  31. I was just canning some pickles and while they were processing came and looked at your blog….THANKS! Now I know what to do with the cucumbers I had left over!

  32. I am so excited! I love this cucumber salad thing they served at my FAV Thai restaurant as a side. I have been trying to recreate it, but…..
    This might be it! I wasn’t heating the vinegar mixture first. Thanks 😉

  33. I’m making this for the second time today…first time was over the weekend. Man is this good! I didn’t have rice vinegar or red onions so I used apple cider vinegar and yellow onions (cucumbers and onions are from our garden). Wow, this is AH-MAZING! Hubby smelled the vinegar reduction cooking over the weekend and made lots of “I’m not going to eat or like that” faces. He went back for thirds :).

  34. TFS this yummy recipe. I had to laugh – I also have that uncanny ability to recall useless data from situations of yesteryear! I remember clothing people were wearing, the song playing at the time, and the same kind of details you mentioned. I keep wondering too when this is going to become a useful characteristic instead of useless! LOL

  35. These sound yummy and simple. Can’t wait to try them. The story you wrote along with this recipe was so funny, and I can totally relate. Looking forward to more recipe’s and stories from you. 🙂

  36. Found this recipe via Pinterest and made it for a barbecue for the next day. *love* I used Braggs Apple Cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar, since that is what I had on hand. I got rave reviews, my family loved it. It was perfect on the hamburgers and hot dogs in place of a pickle relish.

  37. I’m making it right now and cann’t wait to trye it.
    I was used to mak cucumbersalade only with vinegar and sugar
    as my mother made it when I was little, but this looks like something realy
    tasty to me!

  38. Got the vinegar reduction going as I type. Smells wonderful and so much better than the “Cukes and onions” I grew up on (and didn’t like very much.)

    1. The salt doesn’t matter, but you’ll have to experiment with the vinegar. I do think the rice vinegar adds the best flavor though.

  39. @kim I’m making them(right now) and used sea salt. I can’t speak for the white vinegar but the sea salt is fine, just use a little less than the recipe calls for. I didn’t and I think I’ll have to rinse off my pretty salty cukes when they’re done sweating

  40. made these tonight and only failed to check my cucumbers and make sure they weren’t bitter. To my dismay, both of them were too bitter to eat! Bummer will have to try again later!

  41. I think it came out too sugary, next time around I’ll use a little less. The first few bites were awesome but then it became almost like a job to eat the rest of it. Overall I liked it, just needs a little less sugar 🙂 Thanks!

  42. Loveeeed it. My husband thought it tasted just like what they serve at a very-awesome Chinese restaurant nearby! Thank you. Love your site.

  43. Yummo! I made this tonight with steamed pot stickers from costco and edamami (soy beans). This was delicious! I added the edamami to the cucumbers and it was awesome. Kids loved it too… Thank you for a great recipe!

  44. My husband loved this! It was good but a little too spicy for me. That’s okay though because he loves things really spicy! Will make again. Thanks for a great, easy and light recipe for cucumbers!

  45. Just made these today and they came out great! I always love the cucumber salads at thai restaurants and this is very similar. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  46. Sarah, I make a recipe like this too and it’s one of my favs, I also throw in slivers of red bell pepper and black sesame seeds – so yummy!

  47. I ended up changing a lot of things to meet the ingredients I had. I ended up doing half cucumber and half zucchini. I was worried about the bitter of the zucchini but was happy with the sauces diversity that complimented it well. I ended up using balsalmic vinegar with a tad of honey and brown sugar with the white sugar and onions. Turned out fantastic!!!! Will make sure to get the original ingredients next time to try!

  48. I was looking for a side dish to go with Asian Wraps and I came across this recipe. This recipe is so simple and delicious. I reccomend this recipe, indeed.

  49. Another great tip on the cucumbers: if you de-seed them first (I use a teeny little spoon) and then salt them and let them sit for 20 minutes or so, it will completely get rid of the moisture in the cucumbers. (:

  50. In leu of the hot pepper flakes and sugar, I use Sweet Thai Chili sauce and a touch of Sesame Oil. (no cooking required.) Great summertime salad!!!

  51. I made this last time and it was very delicious! I think the cukes I purchased were a bit too soft to begin with so they were a tad soggy today in the salad, but overall delicious. I broke off the plastic tab on the rice vinegar bottle and couldn’t open it, so I had to substitute apple cider vinegar instead.

  52. Pingback: Weekly Wrap Up
  53. Made this tonight for dinner with tacos. It was perfect. We told my roommates 4 y/o son that it was garden candy and he gobbled it up. This recipe is definitely going in my regular rotation of side dishes. It’s simple but SO tasty!

  54. I just made these but I will also rinse the cucumbers first and drain a second time. Too salty for me but great flavor.

  55. Found this a couple weeks ago and I’ve made it 4 times!! So addicting and the perfect way to use up all the cukes I’ve grown this summer!!! Thanks for posting!!

  56. When you have tons of extra onions. Dice each onion and put it in a freezer bag. If chopping a lot then use a fan blowing slightly in your face to keep the tears away. 🙂 then place those freezer bags into a larger freezer bag and put in your freezer. I do this every year and it’s awesome! The double freezer bag is necessary to keep the overwhelming onion smell in your freezer.

  57. I made these yesterday. I used a touch of salt, season salt, and garlic salt to drain the water. I added the red onion to the cucumbers – both sliced razor thin. I slowly and gently boiled white vinegar, water, and a touch more than the recommended sugar (having used white vinegar). I added the red pepper flakes and also a very small pinch of ground Guatemalan coffee beans. I cooled the dressing in the fridge while my cucumbers and onions were doing their thing. After an hour, I combined the vegetables with the dressing and let it sit overnight. I ate some at lunchtime and – hikarumba – was it delicious! So refreshing and flavorful!

  58. After this is made and it has chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours, does it stay in the fridge or can you store it in your pantry? How long of a shelf life does it have? Thanks!

  59. You need to rinse off the salt after the cukes have sweat for a half hour or so. Also, I like to scoop out the seeds from my cukes before sweating them. That way they last longer in the fridge. Instead of using dried chili flakes, try adding a thinly sliced fresh green or red (or both) thai chili pepper. Careful, though — these are HOT.

  60. I made these a few times in the last 2 weeks. Really good! Last night I used a habanero pepper with just a couple dashes of the crushed red pepper. Gave them some more kick!

  61. I love Love this, thanks for sharing absolutely everything you did, it was just enough! I giggled at your memory and your husband’s reaction to it. I’m sooo excited to see this recipe because I’ve been craving cucumbers and I smelled and seen these cucumbers at the flea market and I was in ahhhhh, this recipe is everything I wanted. ! Thank you
    Signed a sudden cucumber craver

  62. Which type of cucumber do you recommend? In the photos it looks like you’re using an English cucumber. Have you tried it with a garden cucumber?

  63. Just made this last night to accompany our thai curry for dinner. It was fantastic! I used english cucumbers and my spiralizer for fun. Thanks for the great recipe! Definitely a keeper!

  64. Your pictures look absolutely stunning! I love the use of the mandoline so the slices are super thin. When I make pickles or anything similar I love to keep the slices as thin as the ones you showed! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

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