Recipe Review

I Tried the Sweet Pepper and Cucumber Salad Everyone Calls “Top Tier,” and It’s Worth the Praise

published May 5, 2023
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Plated sweet pepper and cucumber salad.
Credit: Lena Abraham

Although I couldn’t tell you why, it seems like cucumbers are the unofficial snack of choice among TikTok creators. I’ve seen them prepared all sorts of ways, from dressed in lime and Tajín, to spiralized and spiced with gochugaru, to wrapped in Fruit Roll-Ups and slathered with chamoy (think: ice cream-stuffed Fruit Roll-up trend, but savory). 

As of late, there’s a new cuke salad sweeping the app. With five simple ingredients and minimal prep, it’s no surprise @rachael_kirkconnell’s sweet pepper and cucumber salad is garnering some serious attention. Dressed with chili crisp, ginger dressing, and Everything But the Bagel seasoning, I couldn’t imagine not liking this salad. So, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. 

Get the recipe: Sweet Pepper and Cucumber Salad

How to Make Sweet Pepper Cucumber Salad

This salad can be made by feel, so you can tailor the amount of each ingredient based on how much you want to eat, how dressed you like your salads, and your spice preference.

Credit: Lena Abraham

First, chop your desired amount of Persian cucumbers and sweet mini peppers. I aimed for a 50/50 split — which meant three cucumbers and five mini peppers. Transfer your veggies to a large bowl and add enough ginger dressing to coat them completely; I used about a quarter cup. Next, add your chili crisp and bagel seasoning. I used a tablespoon of each, making sure to get lots of crispy bits from the oil.

Mix everything together thoroughly before tasting and adding more dressing, chili oil, or seasoning as necessary. When you’re happy with the balance of flavors, it’s ready to serve! Whatever you don’t eat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where the flavors will continue to meld and infuse into the vegetables.

My Honest Review of Sweet Pepper Cucumber Salad

Crunchy, refreshing, sweet, and salty, this salad is a great answer to your midday munchies. Is it as good as a Sichuan smashed cucumber salad? Honestly, no, but for the amount of effort it takes to make it, it’s definitely worth whipping up when you’re feeling peckish.

The chili oil definitely does some heavy lifting here. I used Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, one of my favorite brands which happens to be more available and affordable than most in my area. It’s delicious on basically anything, so it didn’t surprise me that it was my favorite part of this salad. The ginger dressing brought a subtle sweetness that provided a nice contrast to the savoriness of the chili crisp. And as for the seasoning mix? Maybe I’m just tired of the Everything Bagel-ification of recipes lately, but I didn’t think it added much to the final dish besides the aesthetically pleasing poppy seed speckles. 

Credit: Lena Abraham

3 Tips for Making Sweet Pepper Cucumber Salad

  1. Smash your cucumbers. I decided to try both slicing and smashing my cucumbers to see if one method was superior for this salad. Turns out, smashing is the big winner! Because the cucumbers don’t have time to marinate and soak up all the flavors of the salad, smashing is a great way to get them coated in the dressing and seasonings (thanks to all those craggily edges created while smashing). The texture of the smashed cucumbers also provides some nice variety to the final dish. 
  2. Skip the bagel seasoning if you don’t have it. Although it’s a fun addition, I liked this salad just as much without the bagel seasoning. (But if you do have it, use it and let us know in the comments if you like it! And then use any leftovers for this hummus bowl.)
  3. Upgrade it with fresh ginger and garlic. To make this salad a bit punchier, grate in a clove of garlic and a half inch or so of fresh ginger. These additions will enhance the flavors of the dressing and chili crisp and make the entire salad taste a bit brighter.