With just a few simple ingredients, you can make this crunchy and refreshing Japanese pickled cucumber to serve alongside your meal.
Tsukemono (漬物) or Japanese pickles are an essential part of the Japanese diet. They are served typically with a meal, alongside with rice and miso soup. Pickles are used as a garnish, relish, or digestive food. It is also considered as a palate cleansing side dish or we call Hashi Yasume (箸休め), literally meaning “chopstick rest” in Japanese.
Watch How to Make Japanese Pickled Cucumber きゅうりの漬物の作り方
Crunchy and refreshing Japanese pickled cucumber made with just a few simple ingredients, salt, sugar, and Japanese mustard.
We eat pickles between dishes to change the flavors and textures of dishes and to refresh our palate. Besides pickles, Chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), Sunomono (a light salad made with sweet and sour vinaigrette), Aemono (vegetable, meat, or seafood dressed up in some sauce), and Suimono (soup) are also considered Hashi Yasume.
They are many types of pickles in Japan and the followings are some of the popular ones (picture I took of a Tsukemono shop in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market) .
Varieties of Pickles in Japan
Salt (shiozuke 塩漬け)
The simplest and most common types of pickles with the crisp texture and mild flavor of fresh vegetables. Pickled Japanese plums (umeboshi) used in onigiri (rice ball) are one example of shiozuke.
Rice Bran (nukazuke 糠漬け)
Whole vegetables are fermented in a mixture of roasted rice bran (the hard outer skin of rice that is removed when polishing the rice grain), salt, kombu, and other ingredients from a day to several months. The pickles are crisp, salty and tangy.
Sake Lees (kasuzuke 粕漬け)
Pickles preserved in a mixture of sake lees (the yeast mash that is left over after filtering sake), salt, sugar and mirin ranging from several days to several years. The pickles have a strong alcohol flavor and smell especially when it’s pickled for a long time.
Soy Sauce (shoyuzuke 醤油漬け)
Pickles are preserved in soy sauce based marinade and has various flavors. Some are light color with crispy texture while others are dark color with salty and sweet taste. Fukujinzuke (relishes served with Japanese curry) is one example of shoyuzuke.
Vinegar (suzuke 酢漬け)
Pickles brined in rice vinegar resulting in a crunchy texture and sweet and sour flavor.
Miso (misozuke 味噌漬け)
Similar to nukazuke, this method uses similar vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and eggplant. Whole vegetables are covered with miso. The pickles have salty complex miso flavor with crisp texture.
Quick & Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumber
Today I want to share the easy pickles that you can make at home with ingredients you already have in the kitchen – salt and sugar (and preferably Japanese karashi mustard – but don’t worry if you don’t have it). There are so many ways to make Japanese pickles and this is just one recipe that we enjoy regularly at our house.
I recommend using Japanese cucumbers or Persian cucumbers to make this pickles recipe. They’re so more crunchier and don’t have a lot of seeds in the middle. The cucumbers are best when you pickle them for 1-2 days, but you can certainly pickle for just a few hours. Cool, crisp with a nice crunch, these Japanese pickled cucumbers make a wonderful counterpart to any grilled dishes in the summer. Once you try it, you will be hooked.
If you don’t like cucumbers and prefer other alternatives, you can replace cucumbers with napa cabbage, cabbage, carrot, celery, turnip (kabu in Japanese), and eggplant. Depends on the vegetable, adjust the pickling time to your preferred taste.
Now choose a vegetable and enjoy making pickles to serve with rice this week.
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Gather all the ingredients.
- Combine salt, sugar, and Japanese karashi mustard in the sealable plastic storage bag and mix well together.
- Cut ½ inch off the ends of the cucumbers. Rub the ends together to get rid of bitter taste.
- Put the cucumbers in the bag and squeeze out the air, close the bag tightly. Rub the cucumbers well with mixture.
- Taste test your tsukemono to your preferred taste. When you reached to your liking, discard the liquid so you won't be pickling any further. I like to pickle for just a few hours. If you like to pickle more, keep in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days. When it’s ready, discard the liquid and slice the cucumber and serve.
It's up to your preference but I recommend to pickle for 1 to 2 days at most.
Japanese karashi mustard: You can substitute with Chinese mustard powder or Colman’s English mustard which are made from a hot, yellow variety of mustard seed same as Japanese mustard.
Equipment you will need:
- 1 sealable zipper storage bag (gallon size)
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.