Cucumbers, whether fresh or pickled, show up everywhere: layered into sandwiches, tossed into salads, and added to plates as garnish, sometimes cut into fanciful shapes or adorned with decorative edging. Still, they strike me as underappreciated: How often do we stop to really savor the cucumber's sweet, grassy flavor and refreshing crunch? To give this crisp summer vegetable a chance in the limelight, you can, of course, incorporate it into all manner of salads—a Greek chopped salad or a soba salad with seaweed and cucumbers is a good place to start. But that's just the beginning, as you'll see from the collection of recipes here, which includes cucumbers smashed and dressed in vinegar, stir-fried with pork, topping burgers, and wrapped in smoky grilled eggplant. And, because the mild flavor and high water content of cucumbers make them ideal for blending into drinks, we've got recipes for a few cuke-based beverages, both alcoholic and non-.
Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs
Cucumber adds bright crunch when mixed into this hearty quinoa salad, a close relative of tabbouleh. Quartered grape tomatoes—your best bet for flavor and texture outside of tomato season—and a heavy hand with fresh parsley and mint finishes it off. To keep the salad from getting soggy, be sure to drain the quinoa thoroughly, and salt and drain the tomatoes and cucumbers to draw out their excess moisture.
Easy Greek Chopped Salad
The watery, largely flavorless iceberg lettuce usually found in a Greek salad doesn't add much—so we skip it entirely in this recipe and focus instead on the cucumber, tomato, and red onion. Crumbled feta is tossed in just to coat the vegetables, along with fresh mint and oregano. Include olives if you want, but if you're still enjoying great summer tomatoes, you may find you don't really need them.
Eggplant Spirals With Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Cucumber
Grilling eggplant until it's crisp-edged and smoky, then rolling it up around flavorful ingredients, is a great way to make the mild-tasting nightshade more exciting. Here, the creamy filling is a mixture of Greek yogurt, feta, and herbs, plus diced tomatoes and cucumbers for fresh crunch. We pile it all on top of tender, browned strips of grilled globe eggplant for a backyard appetizer that effectively marries cooling flavors with smoky, charred ones.
Burgers With Creamy Feta Sauce and Tomato-Cucumber Relish
A dose of mayonnaise makes the yogurt-feta sauce that accompanies this burger extra creamy, while a generous shower of black pepper gives the sauce enough backbone to stand up to a rich patty. The easy relish of diced cucumbers and tomatoes, made just a bit tart with lemon juice, completes the toppings.
Soba Salad With Seaweed, Cucumbers, and Asparagus
Asian noodles make excellent pasta salads—unlike Western wheat-based noodles, they mingle happily with both acidic dressings and raw vegetables. For this refreshing dish, we serve sturdy cold soba noodles with crisp raw cucumber and blanched asparagus, wakame seaweed, and a bright lemon-soy vinaigrette.
Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad With Cucumbers, Red Peppers, and Basil
A dish of chilled noodles in peanut sauce is always a winner—it's satisfying and simple, and will keep well in the refrigerator. But noodles and sauce alone make a dish that's relatively homogeneous in texture, and doesn't exactly feel like a complete meal. This salad adds balance and intrigue by incorporating just as many vegetables as noodles—cucumber, red bell pepper, mung bean sprouts, scallion, herbs, and chilies—while the chili- and soy-spiked peanut sauce is plenty rich enough to offset all those crisp vegetal flavors.
Sichuan Shirataki Sesame Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Sichuan Peppercorn, Chili Oil, and Peanuts
Pleasantly slippery and mild in flavor, shirataki noodles are a perfect blank canvas with which to construct noodle salads. The intense flavor of this one comes from a sauce of Chinese sesame paste, black vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, and an oil infused with dried chilies and numbing-hot Sichuan peppercorns. Strips of cucumber and roasted peanuts add crunchy bits throughout.
Sichuan-Style Smashed Cucumber Salad
Given the notorious spiciness of Sichuan cooking, it's no surprise that fresh, cooling sides are also an important part of cuisine from that region. If you're planning a tingly-hot noodle dish for dinner, a super-simple salad like this one—made with lightly smashed and chopped cucumber tossed with vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic—is the perfect palate cleanser between bites.
Quick-Pickled Cucumbers With Rice Vinegar
Quick-pickled cucumbers, which will stay good for a few weeks to a month in the fridge, are an easy way to add crunchy texture to any dish. Rice wine vinegar gives these cucumber slices an Asian flavor profile, making them especially good in dishes like these pork belly buns.
Stir-Fried Cucumbers With Spicy Ground Pork
Cucumbers aren't just for pickling and eating raw in salads. Though we don't often consider them for inclusion in cooked dishes, when salted and stir-fried over intense heat, they take on a nicely smooth, juicy, and meaty texture. Here, we combine the cucumbers with soy sauce, sesame oil, and marinated ground pork—the pork functions mainly as a seasoning, while the cukes are the star.
Easy Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon, Cucumber, and Avocado Rice Bowls
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you're not already making your own teriyaki sauce, you really ought to make the small investment of time required and do it—homemade teriyaki sauce is infinitely better than anything you can buy in stores, and it keeps forever. Once you have that teriyaki on hand, it's a matter of 15 minutes to whip up these rice bowls topped with sweet-and-savory teriyaki-glazed salmon, creamy avocado, and crisp cucumber.
Hamachi Poke With Cucumber and Avocado
The poke craze is still going strong in the country's coastal cities, which is just fine by me—any excuse to eat more raw fish. The best poke, though, is the kind you make yourself at home, using the best-quality sashimi-grade fish you can find and whatever mix-ins you prefer. Buttery hamachi is our choice for this version. We offset the richness of the fish with the complementary textures and flavors of diced cucumber, hot Thai bird chilies, and thinly sliced lemon zest.
Classic Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion
Aguachile, the delicious Mexican answer to Peruvian ceviche, consists of raw shrimp bathed in a flavorful chili-lime marinade mixed with cucumber and onion. Unlike with ceviche, the seafood used in aguachile isn't allowed to "cook" via a long rest in the acidic marinade, so you'll want to seek out impeccably fresh shrimp—tell your fishmonger that you're going to be eating them raw.
Avocado Toast With Cucumber, Soy Sauce, and Shichimi Togarashi
Like poke, avocado toast is one of those culinary trends that are just too tasty to sneer at, especially since it's a snap to make your own customized version at home. That could be nothing more than spreading good toasted bread with ripe avocado and sprinkling on coarse sea salt. But, if you want to get your creative juices flowing, take a look at our collection of nine different avocado toasts, including variations with Frank's RedHot and blue cheese, smoked salmon and capers, and baby peas and radishes. For this one, we mix the avocado with umami-heavy soy sauce and pair it with sliced cucumber, scallion, and shichimi togarashi.
I'm not sure how the flavored sparkling water I remember drinking as a kid managed to blow up like it did, but there's no denying the popularity of LaCroix these days. If you're addicted to the stuff, spiking your LaCroix seems like a logical move to create a refreshing summer sipper. But it's not quite as simple as dumping booze into your favorite flavor and giving it a stir. This bubbly and slightly vegetal cocktail starts with vodka and grapefruit-flavored LaCroix Pamplemousse, but we round out the flavors with cucumber, lemon juice, simple syrup, and St-Germain.
Savory Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Frozen Daiquiri
It may be a blender drink, but it's a far cry from the sickly-sweet frozen Daiquiri you're probably thinking of. The addition of cucumber to the rum and lime juice gives this cocktail a savory touch, balanced by herbal Green Chartreuse. Mixing up the base and chilling it overnight in the freezer leaves it cold enough that the ice won't melt too much when you blitz it all up.
This complex but effervescent gin drink is made with Cocchi Americano, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, tonic syrup, and a couple of sprigs of fresh dill. We love the citrus and chamomile flavors of Bittermens Boston Bittahs, but any citrus bitters will work. If you're not wild about dill, replace it with mint to make a more mojito-like cocktail.
Cucumber presents a nice complement to the grassy notes of a good blanco tequila in this refreshing drink. Celery adds extra vegetal flavor, while lime juice provides a bracingly tart bite. The cocktail is sweetened with agave nectar and topped with seltzer for an effervescent touch.
Spicy Pineapple-Cucumber Sangrita
Chasing tequila with lime is fine if the tequila in question is lower in quality, but the good stuff is meant to be savored. It's traditional to sip the spirit alongside a tart, spicy fruit drink called sangrita. Though the most widely used version nowadays is made with tomato juice, orange juice, grenadine, and hot pepper, you can easily create your own mix. Here, we choose a tropical combination of fresh pineapple and cooling cucumber juice, plus lime juice and chili powder.
This unusual nonalcoholic drink gets a cocktail-like bite from tart green apple juice and cucumber-infused rice wine vinegar, along with plenty of brightness from mint and shiso leaves. The infusion takes only about five minutes—and you can save the cucumbers to eat as a snack.