Salt and Pepper Smashed Cucumber Salad

published Jun 20, 2020
summer
Salt and Pepper Smashed Cucumber Salad

The easiest cucumber salad made with just salt, pepper, and a homemade vinaigrette.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

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A platter of smashed cucumber salad sits on a wood table next to canisters of salt and pepper.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What if I told you that you could transform a humble cucumber into an impressive dish with nothing more than a generous amount of seasoning, the right vinaigrette, and a good smashing? (Yes, smashing.) With these smart upgrades, it’s easy to turn a cucumber into a showstopping, single-ingredient salad. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The Key to More Flavorful Cucumbers? Salting and Smashing Them.

The trick to making this salad taste so good all comes down to two simple techniques. The first is smashing the cucumbers, a technique used in the popular Chinese cucumber salad pai huang gua. Lightly smashing the cucumbers creates scraggly edges that trap the vinaigrette, and the different shapes and sizes make for textural contrast in every bite.

After smashing, you’ll move onto the second technique: salting the cucumbers. You’ll toss them in a generous amount of salt and transfer them to a colander to drain (you’ll be surprised at just how much water comes out of them). By removing this excess water, you concentrate their bright, cucumber-y flavor. Not only do they become crisp, but also meaty. (You’ll understand when you taste them.) Letting them sit also gives the salt time to dissolve and season the cucumbers, so they take on a somewhat pickled flavor.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Seasoning with Salt and Pepper

At first glance, you might think this recipe calls for way too much salt and pepper. But most of the salt is used to draw out the moisture from the cucumbers during the draining step, and the remaining salt helps bring out the cucumber’s natural flavor. It won’t make the salad taste salty — only more cucumber-y.

Because cucumbers contain so much water, the generous amount of black pepper helps the spicy flavor come through. If you’re sensitive to spice, however, you can start with less and add more to taste.

Salt and Pepper Smashed Cucumber Salad

The easiest cucumber salad made with just salt, pepper, and a homemade vinaigrette.

Prep time 15 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 12

    Persian or mini seedless cucumbers (about 2 pounds total)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose vinaigrette

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the ends from 12 Persian cucumbers. Cut each cucumber crosswise into 4 pieces. Transfer into a large zip-top bag and seal the bag. Gently smash the cucumbers with a rolling pin or glass bottle 5 to 8 times until the pieces are about 1/2-inch thick. Don’t over smash or your cucumbers will end up mushy.

  2. Transfer the cucumbers to a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and toss to combine. Let sit 30 minutes.

  3. Remove the colander from the bowl. Pour off any accumulated liquid in the bowl. Transfer the cucumbers to the bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose vinaigrette, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Use your hands to gently toss everything together, making sure the cucumbers are well coated. Let sit 15 minutes to marinate.

  4. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper if needed. Transfer the cucumbers to a serving plate with a slotted spoon. Garnish with more black pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.