This spicy Korean cucumber salad is tangy, sweet, salty, and crunchy! An easy recipe made with pickled cocktail cucumbers and Korean red pepper flakes for some spice!
This is an easy recipe for spicy Korean cucumber salad that's made with quick pickled cucumbers and dressed with a tangy, sweet, and spicy sauce!
In Korea, this is served as a side dish (banchan) and is called 'Oi Muchim', which translates to seasoned cucumbers.
Inspiration for this recipe
This cucumber side dish is commonly seen in Korean restaurants, especially Korean BBQ restaurants.
The flavors are bright, crisp, and tangy which pair wonderfully with the rich, fatty cuts of meat you see in Korean BBQ.
I wanted to recreate the flavors and make this a restaurant style Korean side dish you can enjoy at home. After several attempts, I'm confident this recipe is spot on!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- The quick pickled cocktail cucumbers make this a fast and easy salad!
- Marinating the cucumbers draws out its liquid and makes them extra crunchy
- The dressing is bright, tangy, garlicky, sweet, and spicy! A perfect balance of all the flavors!
- Serve this with any entree. It's so versatile and goes with just about any meat or seafood dish! Pair this with Instant Pot Korean short ribs or this 15 minute Korean beef bowl.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Cocktail cucumbers aka Persian cucumbers - these little cucumbers are perfect for this dish because of their small diameter and small seeds. It makes pickling go much faster!
- Korean red pepper flakes - an extremely common ingredient in Korean cuisine. It's more flavorful, slightly sweet and earthy, and lends any dish a vibrant red color. A must try!
- Rice wine vinegar - a delicate, slightly sweet vinegar with bright, crisp flavors that gives this salad its signature tang!
Step by step instructions
- Cut the cocktail cucumbers into ½ inch rounds. They will shrink a bit during the brine so avoid cutting them too thin. (Photo 1)
- Marinate the cucumbers with sea salt and rice wine vinegar. This 'quick pickling' allows them to absorb the salt and vinegar and draws out some of their liquid. This helps them keep their crunchy texture. (Photo 2)
- After 30 minutes, the cucumbers will have released some of their liquid and absorbed the marinade flavors. Rinse the cucumbers under running water twice and taste one cucumber piece. Depending on your taste, you may need to rinse them one more time. (Photos 3 and 4)
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and add it to the cucumbers. Toss it gently and serve immediately. (Photos 5 - 6)
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! I recommend using a cucumber that has a thin skin and minimal seeds. English cucumbers, kirby cucumbers, or pickling cucumbers make good replacements.
If your cucumber has a lot of seeds, I recommend removing them as it can make the salad too watery. You can also peel the skin if you find it too tough.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Keep in mind, the cucumbers will release more liquid the longer you store them and the flavors will get stronger the longer it sits.
I highly recommend you use Korean red pepper flakes because it gives this salad the beautiful red color it's known for. Korean red pepper flakes are more fruity, earthy, slightly sweet, and can be less spicy depending on the brand you get. It can be found in most Asian grocery stores or in the Asian food aisle of your grocery store.
You can substitute with other red pepper flakes but you won't get the vibrant, intense red color to the dressing. I would reduce the amount to half to start with depending on how spicy the substitute is.
More Cucumber Recipes:
More Korean Side Dishes:
- Korean Dried Zucchini Side Dish
- Korean Shiitake Mushroom Side Dish
- Korean Soybean Sprout Side Dish
- Spicy Korean Radish Salad
- Korean Potato Side Dish
Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
- 10 cocktail cucumbers - - chopped into ½ inch rounds (about 2¾ cups of chopped cucumbers)
- 1 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Korean red pepper powder
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic - - minced
- 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Add the cucumber rounds in a large bowl and add the sea salt and 1 Tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Mix it together and let it marinate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set it aside.
- After 30 minutes, drain out the excess liquid from the marinated cucumbers and rinse them under water twice. Taste a cucumber to see if it's too salty and give it another rinse if needed.
- Add the dressing to the pickled cucumbers and serve immediately.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Can you substitute crushed red pepper flakes?
Hi Victoria! Though the flavor and color may be different, you can substitute that in a pinch but I would start with a smaller amount first and adjust depending on how spicy your red pepper flakes are. Korean red pepper flakes have a deep red color so it may not have that bright red hue. Let me know how it goes! 🙂
A fantastic side dish! We made some rice bowls and added this salad on top. Love the texture and flavour - it is the perfect balance of sweet cucumber and spicy. Delicious!
Yum. Super tasty and great texture - first time using the Korean red pepper powder, and I am definitely a convert. I can't wait to try lots more recipes with it! Thanks!
So glad you enjoyed this Soph! There's plenty more ways to use Korean red pepper powder. 🙂
This is so tasty and delicious. I love korean cucumbers that are a bit spicy like this. I am in love with your cucumber recipe collection.
I love this healthy Korean cucumber salad with delicious dressing like this one. It is so flavorful and makes it a hit.
this recipe is going on our list of go to korean side dishes. we are cucumber fans and this was so good! better than the restaurants.
Easy and simple to make and very flavorful too! I've been in the mood for spicy food lately and this cucumber salad was the perfect dish to satisfy my cravings. Thanks for sharing!
This is such a beautifully balanced recipe. Definitely worth the effort of finding the Korean red pepper powder!
I came searching for a great accompaniment to some rice and chicken wings and found your recipe. Thank you. The beautiful flavours worked so well. Such a good balance.