Need some cucumber inspiration? Try Sunomono or Japanese Cucumber Salad 4 ways! Marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt and soy sauce, this sweet & sour cucumber salad makes a perfect side dish. It’s light, healthy and incredibly refreshing!
When cucumbers are at their peak in gardens and markets, we often find a few lingering around at the kitchen counter. If you are in need of some cucumber inspiration today, I hope you try this refreshing Japanese Cucumber Salad called Sunomono (酢の物). This is one of the most popular appetizers at the dinner tables in Japan, and it’s simple and very easy to prepare in a short time.
Watch How to Make Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad)
Need some cucumber inspiration? Try Sunomono or Japanese Cucumber Salad 4 ways! Marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt and soy sauce, this sweet & sour cucumber salad makes a perfect side dish.
What is Sunomono (酢の物)?
Sunomono refers to vinegar-based dishes, and they are commonly served as a side dish to the main meal. ”Su (酢)” means vinegar in Japanese. These light refreshing vinegar salads are a great start to any meal as the sourness from the vinegar helps whet your appetite.
When we mention “sunomono”, it typically refers to Japanese cucumber salad. During the heat of summer and our bodies naturally gravitate towards ‘cooling’ food, this cucumber salad makes a wonderful seasonal side dish especially for grilled fish or meat. Besides the fact that it’s so easy to whip up, the salad is tangy, crunchy and its health benefits are good enough reasons to enjoy on a weekly basis.
Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad) Variations
We have a large variety of appetizers using vinegar and cucumber. Here are some examples:
- Tako Su (Octopus Salad)
- Japanese Cucumber Salad with Crab
- Spiralized Cucumber Salad with Sesame Dressing
Today I’m making 4 variations with this recipe.
- Classic (cucumber and wakame seaweed)
- Cucumber salad with crab (I am allergic to crab, so I use imitation crab meat)
- Cucumber salad with boiled octopus (you can get “octopus sashimi” in Japanese grocery store)
- Cucumber salad with boiled salted baby anchovies
3 Tips to Make Delicious Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad)
1. Pick the right kind of cucumber
There are a lot of different kinds of cucumbers out there, but I like using Japanese cucumbers for their crunchiness and seedless texture. If you couldn’t find Japanese cucumber, you can use English or Persian cucumbers, but I don’t recommend regular (American) cucumbers as they have big seeds and too watery.
2. Salt the cucumber
For this salad recipe, salting the cucumber is an important step. It helps to remove excess liquid from the cucumber, which in turn yields a great crunch for the salad.
3. Add layers to cucumber salad
I often add in wakame seaweed to cucumber salad for another layer of texture and for its beneficial nutrients. To top it off, you can garnish with toasted sesame seeds to give the salad extra fragrance and crunch. Of course, you’re always welcome to toss in other ingredients to the classic sunomono recipe, for additional color, nutrients, and textures.
Dressed in nothing more but a simple combination of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and soy sauce, the flavor of Sunomono is the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
If you want to check out other Japanese side dish recipes, read 15 Easy Japanese Side Dish Recipes.
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Need some cucumber inspiration? Try Sunomono or Japanese Cucumber Salad in 4 ways! Marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt and soy sauce, this sweet & sour cucumber salad makes a perfect side dish. It's light, healthy and incredibly refreshing!
- Gather all the ingredients.
In a bowl, combine 4 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp soy sauce. Whisk well together. If the vinegar taste is too strong, you can dilute with a very small amount of dashi (or water).
- Soak 1 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed in water and let it rehydrate for 10 minutes.
- Peel the cucumbers’ skin alternately to create stripes. Then slice them thinly into rounds.
Sprinkle ½ tsp kosher salt and gently rub them against each other. Set aside for 5 minutes. Salt helps drawing liquid from cucumber (so that the liquid from cucumber will not be released after mixing with seasoning).
Squeeze water out from wakame seaweed and cucumber. Add them into the bowl with seasoning and coat well.
Serve in an individual bowls or a large serving bowl. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and it's ready to serve. Enjoy!
Cut 4 sticks of imitation crab into thirds and combine with cucumber and wakame seaweed mixture (from Step 4).
Slice the octopus thinly and combine with cucumber and wakame seaweed mixture (from Step 4).
Combine shirasu with cucumber and wakame seaweed mixture (from Step 4).
Serve in an individual bowls or a large serving bowl. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and it's ready to serve. Enjoy! To store, keep in the airtight container and consume within 3-5 days (depending on other ingredients).
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
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 in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 23, 2012. The post has been updated in July, 2018 with a video and newly updated images.