Japanese-style cucumber salad with a very versatile sesame dressing

The weather has finally gotten warm around these parts after a very cold spring, and we're eating more summertime food now. This is one of our favorite salad-type dishes. The sesame dressing is very versatile, and you can use it for any manner of things, but here I've just used it with cucumber.

Tip: the longer you let it rest before serving, the saltier the cucumber will get, so if you want to serve it as a salad you'd want to combine the cucumber with the dressing just before serving. On the other hand, if you let it marinate in the refrigerator the cucumber becomes assertive enough to eat with plain rice as part of a Japanese meal.

Recipe: Japanese-style cucumber salad with sesame dressing


A simple cucumber salad with a very versatile sesame dressing. I like this with a ton of toasted sesame seeds.

Type: Salad, Japanese, vegan (use seaweed based dashi granules)

Prep time: 10 min :: :: Total time: 10 min

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Serving size: 1/2 to 1 cucumber


  • 2 long English-style cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • a pinch dashi stock granules (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or equivalent sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • a pinch salt (optional, to taste)


  1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon.
  2. Cut up the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Bash them up a bit with the side of your kitchen knife - this allows the dressing to sink into them.
  3. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan, shaking occasionally, until a few seeds pop. Immediately transfer the seeds to a plate (if you leave them in the pan they may get burned).
  4. Mix the lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, dashi stock granules and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Taste, and add a pinch of salt if you think it needs it. Add the sesame oil (or you can just drizzle on the sesame oil when you assemble the salad).
  5. Combine the cucumbers with the dressing and the sesame seeds. Serve right away or leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a stronger flavor.


If you're using small Japanese cucumbers any other small, immature cucumber, you don’t need to de-seed them. Just cut them up and bash a bit. (This bashing thing, is a real cooking method in Japanese cooking. It helps the flavors to penetrate the bashed up vegetable better.)

If you use white balsamic vinegar instead of the rice or white wine vinegar, you can decrease or even omit the sugar.

Add some shredded poached chicken breast to the cucumbers for a more substantial salad.

This sesame dressing is very versatile. Try it with any number of vegetables. It’s great on a leafy green salad. You can increase the sesame oil if you want it to have a richer sesame flavor. Add some chili pepper flakes to make it spicy, and/or some grated garlic for a more Korean-tasting twist.

(extra metadata for search engines...)

By Makiko Itoh

Published: June 24, 2013

Filed under:  japanese vegetarian summer vegan salad

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That looks so fresh and delightful I want to try it tomorrow for my bento...I love your recipes Maki.

If you use it for a bento, pack it in a watertight container...it's a bit runny ^_^

It's very low-carb (well, basically no-carb) too!

hey, how do you get the cucumber to get so brownish gold? Because mine is still green only covered a little bit in soy sauce.

It turns that color if you leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours. The longer you leave it, the saltier it gets though.

oh my god, this is amazing, I'm making third round of this salad today and it disappears in a few moments, everyone in family is loving it! Thank you for your recipe ^^

I can't decide if "bash the cucumber" is my new favorite cooking technique or a sexy euphemism.

I've tried a similar recipe before - with dried chilis but not with dashi or soy sauce. I bet it would give it a wonderful savory flavor. It just so happens that I have some leftover mini cucumbers to use up, so.....

[quote=The Elf]I can't decide if "bash the cucumber" is my new favorite cooking technique or a sexy euphemism.=[/quote]


To quote my American Southern Grandmother when she caught a glimpse of Grandpa walking around shirtless "...mah stars 'n garters...it be gettin' hot in here"

I just texted that to my partner who said bash away tonight babe... :)

I've been eating a version of this dish for years, and I love it, it's so good for summer. I got this http://tinyurl.com/japanesevegan book from a heath food store. It's traditional (and modern) recipes and cooking methods, but adapted to be vegan.

Slightly different sauce, 1/3 cup rice vinegar instead of the vinegar/lemon mix, no seeds, add 1 tbsp of veg oil, no dashi.

BUT, main difference is the cucumber is sliced into paper thin slices and marinated instead of bite size and bashed.

Great for presentation as a side dish and bento, and sometimes I use it in donburi, too. I might have to try this version, though, seems a lot faster and less work since I don't have a mandolin and have to slice paper thin by hand.
Awesome timing to post this, it's in the mid to high 90s around here, and anything to help cool off is good.

Oh my goodness, this was amazing! I diced the cucumber and let it marinate while the rest of dinner cooked. I'm saving this salad dressing recipe for sure!!

This was fantastic, and gone in about 5 seconds. I froze the dashi broth you taught us to make a little while back, into ice-cube trays. I used two of those cubes - do you think that's a good equivalent for the granules?

I'm a sucker for summer cucumber salads...I must try this one!

Could you explain the bashing technique in a little more detail? Whacking the cuke with the side of my life didn't seem to do much.

BTW, I didn't have any lemons or lemon juice around, but lime juice worked just fine and gave it a different tang.

You just want to hit the cucumber with something reasonably heavy to crack it a little overall. This allows the sauce to penetrate it better. You could use a rolling pin, or a meat tenderizer, etc. if the knife is too light. The idea is not to mash it to a pulp but just crack it. You can skip that step though and the recipe should still work fine - maybe allow for a little extra marinating time if you like the cucumber to be well flavored.

There is no Dashi available here (Athens, Greece); What can we add instead for more flavour?
Thank you!

I'm planning to marinate it so I'm going to try adding a small square of konbu instead of dashi granules ... but I don't know if you can get that in Athens either!

Can I avoid adding the rice wine? Thanks.

I made this and it was soo good i couldn't stop eating them!
great recipe!

Loved this recipe!~ Since I've been living in China for the past 10 years, I know all about the bashing technique and use it often. Works great for garlic! I actually like to bash it quite a bit since I use cucumbers for Chinese spicy salted vegetables that we use to garnish plain bowls of rice...so if you like a pulpier salad try throwing the vegetables in a slightly open zip lock bag (large size) and then mash! (then you won't have to pick the bits off the walls!)

Anyway it was a great salad!