Okay, I’ll admit it. I never used to like cucumbers. They always seem boring, flavorless, and a waste of a vegetable. I am here to admit I was wrong. This smashed cucumber salad is crisp, refreshing, and the perfect side dish for the summertime.
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Every summer, I see a ton of cucumbers at the farmers market. My friends and family who have gardens are up to their ears in cucumbers. Some make pickles, some make sliced cucumber salad with red onion, lemon, and dill, and almost all of them run out of ideas halfway through their cucumber stash. Enter the smashed cucumber salad.
A smashed cucumber salad has all of the appeal of the sliced version.It is light, refreshing, and easy to make. However, the smashed version is much more fun to make. Why? The smashing. Smashing the cucumber with a pan, mallet, or in my case, a rolling pin, breaks down the cell walls. This allows the flavors from the dressing to absorb into the cucumber pieces, giving you a crunchy and refreshing side dish in no time.
The key for smashing the cucumbers is to whack them forcefully, but not totally obliterate them. Once the cucumbers are smashed, used a knife to cut them into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with salt and let them chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. This will help the water in the cucumber to seep out. (Less water = more flavor!) Drain any water that accumulates in the bowl before adding the dressing.
For this recipe, I used mini cucumbers. This dish is traditionally made with English cucumbers, but the minis have thinner, more tender skins. If you don’t have mini cucumbers available, an English cuke will work just fine, just peel away any thick areas. Both versions have less water than a conventional cucumber, making them ideal for this recipe. Too much water will cause the flavors from the dressing to not fully absorb into the cucumber pieces.
This recipe is also great for garlic lovers. We LOVE garlic in my family, so grating a lot into this salad is a crowd pleaser. To get it to evenly distribute throughout the dressing, I used a Microplane to grate the garlic into paste. If you don’t like raw garlic as much, feel free to use less, substitute it for something else, or omit it completely. I bet a little roasted garlic would be awesome – I’ll have to try that next.
This salad pairs well with just about anything. Try serving with some grilled chicken or salmon. Have extra cucumbers? Try these shrimp lettuce wraps. Enjoy!
Smashed Cucumber Salad
Smashed cucumber salad is a great side dish for picnics, barbecues, or easy weeknight dinners.
What You'll Need
- 4-6 mini cucumbers see notes
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic very finely chopped or grated on a Microplane
- 2 scallions sliced thinly
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper optional
What to Do
Smash the cucumbers
- On a clean work surface, give the cucumbers a firm, but controlled whack with a heavy bottomed pan, mallet, or rolling pin.
- Cut the smashed cucumbers into ½” - 1” pieces (depending on your preference) and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt over the smashed cucumber pieces, and toss to combine.
- Set in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, allowing the salt to draw some of the water out of the smashed cucumbers. Drain well and return to the bowl.
Prepare the dressing
- While the cucumbers are resting in the fridge, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper (if using).
- Whisk together with a fork, then set aside to allow the flavors to marry.
Assemble the salad
- Toss the drained cucumbers with the prepared dressing, ensuring each smashed cucumber piece is coated. Add the scallions and stir to combine. Enjoy immediately!
If you cannot find mini cucumbers, use 1 English cucumber, peeling away any thick areas of the skin.