Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

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This Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad is an easy, healthy, and light side dish that takes cucumbers from bland to fabulous. Slightly sweet and spicy, garlicky, and fresh, it’s surprisingly addictive yet very healthy (vegan, Paleo, and refined sugar-free).
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
5 from 26 votes

I first had a smashed cucumber salad at a Chinese restaurant a few years ago, and it was incredible. I couldn’t believe cucumbers could taste so dang good. I mostly associated cucumbers with spa water and Greek salads, both of which I enjoy very much. But I never gave them much credit until I tried that salad.

Smashing cucumbers has been a thing in many Asian cuisines for some time, but it’s been a rather recent addition to Western cuisine. While my smashed cucumber salad is not Chinese-inspired, it is just as delicious as the first smashed cucumber salad I had a few years ago.

Smashed cucumbers are dressed in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy, garlicky red wine vinaigrette, and to add some sweetness, fresh peaches are tossed in. The salad gets finished with a hit of fresh basil, chewy golden raisins, and toasted pine nuts.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Why you’ll like this recipe

Summer perfection. Crisp cooling cucumbers and seasonal peaches with fresh basil make for the perfect fun summer salad. It’s light, healthy, and refreshing, yet packed with lots of zingy flavor. Take it on a picnic, bring it to a barbecue, or enjoy it for any other al fresco dining occasion.

Almost too easy to make. If you know how to chop up vegetables and fruits, you will have no problem making this salad! That’s all you need to do. Chop and mix.

Perfectly balanced in flavors and textures. This salad has it all: a sweet yet spicy vinaigrette, buttery yet crunchy toasted pine nuts, chewy golden raisins, juicy peaches, crisp cucumbers. It’s truly a delight to eat!

Unique. If you’re tired of eating the same boring salads, this is a non-traditional salad that will surprise and delight your tastebuds.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Ingredient Rundown

Cucumbers. If you can find Persian cucumbers, those are ideal in this recipe. They are mini cukes (about 5-6 inches long), seedless, extremely crisp, and slightly sweet. I typically buy them at Whole Foods, but they’re increasingly sold at many grocery stores, usually packed in trays with 5-6 cukes.

Unlike many cukes you’ve seen before, Persian cucumbers are never watery, and their fresh flavor is always on point. If you find them at the store, pick up an extra pack because they make a delightful healthy snack.

If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, use an English cucumber (AKA, a hot house cucumber). They are crunchy and crisp, and significantly tastier than regular cukes. Or, if you can find Japanese cucumbers, those would be excellent here too.

I do not recommend using a regular cuke (AKA a pole cucumber). They are watery, bland, not crisp, and slightly bitter, and they will do nothing for this salad. You’ve been warned.

Also please note that while cucumbers can be bought year round, they are best in season (like all produce). Their peak season is the summer. Which is why I’m sharing this salad right now. Because it’s summer.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Peaches. I first started enjoying peaches in salad a few summers ago when I married them with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, bread cubes, and a balsamic vinaigrette for a summer panzanella salad. That salad inspired me to add peaches here!

Fresh Basil. I love using fresh herbs in salads, especially nontraditional salads like this one. And peach + basil is such a delightful combination, so I figured the combination would be excellent. And it was!

Toasted Pine Nuts. As with fresh herbs, I love adding toasted nuts to my salads. The crunch brings an interesting textural contrast, and toasting the nuts packs in more flavor, as the toasting process draws out maximal flavor from nuts. Plus, pine nuts are extremely buttery, so they add a slight touch of indulgence to this very fresh and healthy salad.

Golden Raisins. Another interesting texture in this salad comes from the chewiness of golden raisins, as compared to the crisp cukes. Plus, their sweetness pairs so perfectly with the slightly spicy vinaigrette.

Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette. This is where a lot of flavor comes in. Garlicky (fresh crushed garlic), spicy (red pepper flakes), tangy (red wine vinegar), and rich full-bodied yet mild fruitiness (good-quality extra virgin olive oil).

How to make this Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Smash the cukes. This sounds more violent than it really is, but smashing is key to a good cucumber salad. Slicing cucumbers simply will not do. As the New York Times writes:

“Sliced cucumbers have a smooth, impenetrable surface, and when you introduce them to dressing, they usually shrug it off. By contrast, smashed cucumbers are wide open: Their craggy edges and rough surfaces absorb flavors and form relationships in seconds.”

To smash a cucumber, lay a big heavy knife flat on top of the cuke, and smash down on the widest part of the blade, similar to how you would use a knife to smash down on a garlic clove to remove its peel. Alternatively, some chefs use a wooden mallet, rolling pin, or even the back of a skillet to smash the cukes. You want to smash until the cucumber cracks open, usually into a few pieces.

Once you smash them, use you hands to tear the cucumbers up into chunks. They don’t need to be itty bite-sized pieces and they shouldn’t be chopped into uniform pieces. The variety in shapes and sizes makes a a smashed cucumber salad very satisfying and interesting, and the rough pieces hold onto the vinaigrette better.

Then, add the smashed cukes to a colander or strainer and sprinkle with some salt. Salting the cukes draws out their excess moisture and helps retain that beautiful vibrant green color. Let the salted cucumbers rest for at least 15 minutes, or up to an hour. Then discard any liquid that has accumulated during the salting process.

Once the salted cukes have rested, dress them with the sweet and spicy red wine vinaigrette. Slice up some peaches (don’t slice them earlier, as they tend to get bruised), and toss with the vinaigrette. Finally, top it with the toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, and basil, and toss to combine.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

How to Serve Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

This is a great starter salad for any of your entertaining needs, or a fancy yet casual side dish for any dinner. Or, you can just bring this delicious salad to your next potluck or picnic for everyone to share. If you want to turn this salad into a complete meal, you can toss in some chickpeas or white beans and toss to combine.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Substitutes for this Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

If you can’t find golden raisins, I would recommend substituting currants or dried cherries. Regular ol’ brown raisins should be your last option (I am not a huge fan). Sorry, but golden raisins just taste better.

I love the contrast of the crisp cukes with the juicy peaches, but if you can’t find peaches, you can substitute another summer fruit, such as apricots, nectarines, or even strawberries.

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

More smash-able recipes

Did you enjoy smashing these cukes and want to smash even more foodstuffs?

Check out my Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Cilantro Pesto or my Creamy Mushroom Smashed Avocado Toast.

In any event, that’s all you need to know about this Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad. If you give recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

5 from 26 votes
This Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad is an easy, healthy, and light side dish that takes cucumbers from bland to fabulous. Slightly sweet and spicy, garlicky, and fresh, it’s surprisingly addictive yet very healthy (vegan, Paleo, and refined sugar-free).
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Cuisine: New American
Diet Vegan
Keyword: chickpea salad, cucumber, gluten-free, refined sugar free, soy-free, vegan salad
Serving size: 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • 5-6 mini Persian cucumbers (or 1 large English cucumber)
  • 2-3 ripe but firm peaches, sliced

Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2-3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • One handful of fresh basil leaves, slivered

Instructions

  • Smash the cucumbers. Using the back of a heavy knife, smash down on each cucumber using the widest part of the blade (similar to smashing down on a garlic clove to remove its peel) until the cucumber cracks open into a few pieces.
    1. NOTE: If using a large English cucumber, cut the cucumber into three segments before smashing.
  • Using your hands, tear the smashed cucumbers into rough chunks.
  • Place the cucumber chunks in a colander and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Place the colander on top of a bowl. Allow the cucumbers to rest for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Discard any liquid collected in the bowl.
  • Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts. To toast pine nuts, add them to a dry skillet over medium-low heat and toss occasionally until golden brown, 3-5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette. Crush the garlic cloves. Add them to a bowl, along with the red pepper flakes, vinegar, and maple syrup. Whisk to combine, then stream in the olive oil, whisking as you go. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    1. Alternatively, add all of the ingredients to a jar, close the lid, and shake up the jar until the dressing is emulsified.
  • Add the drained cucumbers to a large serving bowl.
  • Slice the peaches (don’t slice earlier, as they tend to bruise). Add the sliced peaches to the cucumbers, and then toss them with the Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette. Top with the toasted pine nuts, golden raisins and slivered basil. Taste, and adds salt and pepper as needed.

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49 comments on Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

  1. Joanne

    5 stars
    You are one of the few food bloggers whom I trust to try something new and WOW, Nisha, this did not disappoint! I can’t wait to take this to our next picnic and blow everyone’s mind with this salad! Thanks, Nisha:)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for the kind words, Joanne! So thrilled you loved the recipe!

  2. Ann C Elliott

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Ann, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  3. Molly

    5 stars
    Made a single portion of this for lunch today because I had almost all the ingredients- subbed walnuts in place of pine nuts and left out the raisins since I didn’t have any dried fruit, and added some chickpeas to make it a meal, and it was delicious! will definitely make again with all the ingredients!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Glad to hear you loved the recipe, Molly!

  4. Michelle

    5 stars
    We loved it. Super delicious, great salad for summer. Smashing cucumbers…one of our new favorite things.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We love to hear that, Michelle! Smashed cucumber salad is one of our fresh summer favorites here at the Rainbow Plant Life headquarters!

  5. 😋

    5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! I swapped the pine nuts for walnuts and added a big handful of spinach, and it tasted divine for summer! I served it with pasta and my family loved it:)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      So glad to hear this cucumber salad has the family’s stamp of approval! Thanks for making it for them!

  6. Colby

    5 stars
    I made this for a small family gathering. It was delicious and a nice change-up to the typical side salad! The balance of sweet and spicy was perfect. Brilliant!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Colby!

  7. Mary

    5 stars
    I made this with some fresh cucumbers my husband grew, and got to use up a peach that was on its last legs. This dish was very tasty but really light and healthy feeling but flavor-packed. I made some substitutions as I lacked a few ingredients: almonds instead of pine nuts, and dried cherries instead of raisins. Thank you for another delicious recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Mary!

  8. Heather Paar

    5 stars
    Loved it! It came together so quickly too. I added cannellini beans to make it a meal. It was good. Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Heather! We are so happy this recipe worked out well for you. :)

  9. Ally D

    5 stars
    I need this in my life. Do you happen to have the serving size and nutritional breakdown?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Ally, we don’t include nutrition facts on our recipes for a few reasons. If you’d like to read more as to why, you can do so at this link: https://rainbowplantlife.com/welcome/.

      Many of our readers use apps like MyFitnessPal to calculate nutrition facts for their own purposes. Hope that helped!

  10. Rose

    5 stars
    I’m amazed at the complexity of so many different tastes and textures coming together so incredibly well. Super easy to throw together but it’s an impressive dish for entertaining too. Once the prep is done it came together fast. I’ve never tried one of Nisha’s recipes that I didn’t rave about. Thank you again Nisha!💕🙏

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the wonderful review, Rose! We are so glad you love this recipe as much as we do :)

  11. Ann

    5 stars
    Yum! Made this with mango instead of peaches and used slivered almonds for the pine nuts since those were what I had on hand. Glad I had the fresh basil—that makes this salad truly amazing! I’m looking forward to trying as written when our Michigan peaches are ripe, but the mango was delicious too. Thanks for sharing another winner Nisha!

  12. Norman

    Yet another healthy, nutrituous plant-based recipe from Nisha’s creative mind. I don’t use Instagram. So please embed a share tool that includes Facebook., which for some unknown reason isn’t among the sharesheet embedded in the share tool on my default Opera mobile browser.

    1. Victoria Hongola-Bernia

      Hi Norman – if you have a Pinterest board, you can post to FB using that route. That’s what I just did :D
      Can’t wait to try it!

  13. Lina Patel

    Hi Nisha! I don’t suppose balsamic or rice vinegar could be substituted?? I have been telling everyone I know about your blog! Thanks and can’t wait to try.

  14. Faith Alfreda Tyler

    Hi, I cannot use oils in my cooking. Will this recipe work without using it or what can I substitute in it’s place. Thanks so mooch!

    1. Joanne

      5 stars
      I don’t either, so I subbed in a teaspoon of dijon for the oil and it was divine!

  15. Lucie Válková

    5 stars
    Wou, perfekt mix, I lake it

  16. birgit brabetz

    5 stars
    treated with sulfur –
    thats why a always choose this ugly brown apricots and will choose brown raisins 😊
    and here in the middle of germany we only get this normal cucumbers and my father sliced them very thin and salted them and smashed them later by hand
    i love your podcast and all your cooking ❤️

    1. Michaela

      Hallo:-)
      Diese kleinen Gurken bekommt man in türkischen Supermärkten, oder manchmal bei Rewe. Dann sind sie aber teuer

      1. birgit brabetz

        oh danke 😍

  17. LBerton

    One of my favorite summer salads.

  18. Krati's Kuisine

    I saw this on an Instagram post and I have wanting to make it since then. I finally made it yesterday with few substitutes as I didn’t have pine nuts, used a salad topper with cranberry, pumpkin seeds instead, used a little bit of white vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, it still came out amazing with refreshing flavors. Loved the recipe!

  19. Kristin

    This salad is amazing! Right now in my garden I have so many peaches, basil and Japanese cucumbers (thin and long, so they work great in your salad) that I didn’t know what to do with them. I will be making large batches of this salad throughout the summer to use my fresh produce. Thank you for such a delicious recipe!

  20. Kate

    Hi Nisha! We’ve been making your recipes all quarantine long and loving them! Two questions on this one – should I rinse / rub the salt off the cucumbers in any way after draining them? Secondly – does it make sense to make this ahead to give the dressing time to soak into the cukes? (Maybe then adding the peaches just before serving)? Or no?

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Kate! That’s so nice to hear you’ve been enjoying my recipes this summer :) You don’t need to rinse the cucumbers, unless you accidentally used a lot of salt :) You can let the cukes sit for 10-15 minutes in the dressing if you like, but I found the dressing easily saturates the smashed cukes and is very flavorful from the start.

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