Japanese Cucumber Salad-Sunomono Salad

Are you short on time but want something healthy and satisfying that pairs with just about anything? This simple Japanese Cucumber Salad-Sunomono Salad can be made in under thirty minutes and is both ridiculously easy and delicious! It's made with five simple ingredients and is super easy to complete in fifteen minutes. What could be better?! Cucumbers and red onion are thinly sliced, coated with sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, and tossed with toasted black sesame seeds. This salad will make you think you're dining at your local Japanese restaurant. It will become your perfect and delicious side dish because it's so light and refreshing!
overhead shot of a bowl of sesame cucumber salad

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What is Japanese Cucumber Sunomono Salad?

This cold salad is what is called a “quick pickle. Food is submerged in a salted vinegar solution for immediate or fast consumption. Cucumbers and red onion are thinly sliced and tossed in this salad with sesame oil, rice vinegar, salt, and toasted black sesame seeds. The vinegar and salt act as the “pickling” agents breaking down the cucumbers and onions to bring out their natural sweetness to create a crisp crunch. 

Do you peel cucumbers for cucumber salad?

This recipe uses Japanese cucumbers with very thin skin, so I prefer not to peel them. The skin gives the salad more texture and color. If you use Persian Cucumbers, English cucumbers, Hot House cucumbers, regular cucumbers, or any kind of cucumber, I would leave the skin on and make thin slices.  

How to slice a cucumber for this salad.

I like to use a Japanese mandolin to slice the cucumber and red onion super thin. I prefer this tool over a food processor because I get perfectly uniform slices. However, you can use a very sharp knife as well. If you invest in a mandolin, I also highly recommend using it for these other delicious and simple salads; Persimmon Burrata Salad,  Fresh Corn Salad, and Farro Beet Salad. You can pair these salads with your favorite grilled chicken or other protein, and they’ll be the star of your next dinner party or soiree! 

What are the Japanese cucumber salad ingredients?

This Japanese cucumber salad dressing is amazingly simple because you use just a few ingredients! This salad combines sliced Japanese cucumbers and red onion, toasted sesame oilrice vinegartoasted sesame seeds, and kosher salt. Add a little chili crisp or chili flakes to make this Japanese cucumber salad spicy. This salad is naturally gluten-free and contains fantastic nutritional information of rich antioxidants and minerals because you eat all raw ingredients. I use similar ingredients in this Miso Brussels Sprouts salad that is a must for your weekly rotation. You can find Japanese cucumbersin most Asian markets, but if you cannot find this variety, English or Persian cucumbers are fantastic substitutes.Some people like removing the seeds from the cucumbers, but the seeds are practically unnoticeable if using a Japanese or Persian cucumber.

Rice Vinegar, salt, sesame oil, Black sesame seeds, sliced red onion and cucumbers laying decoratively on a pale blue painted board

How do you make this Asian Cucumber Salad?

1. Use a Japanese mandolin or a sharp knife to slice the cucumbers into paper-thin rounds. 

cucumbers, cucumber slices and a mandolin
slicing cucumber on a mandolin
mandolin setting beside sliced cucumber

2. Place your red onion on the cutting board and lob off the blossom end. 

pointing to the root of the onion
cutting the root off a red onion
cutting the root off a red onion

3. Place the onion flat on the cutting board and cut directly through the root creating two halves. 

 a red onion
cutting a red onion from the root

4. Peel off the skin of both red onion halves and discard. 

cutting a red onion in half

5. Place one half with the flat side on the board and cut it in half again, slicing directly through the root. 

cutting a red onion
cut red onion on cutting board beside a knife

6. Lob off the root end of one-quarter of the onion. Take the remaining onion, place it in an airtight container, and reserve it for another use. (Note: keeping the onion in an airtight container helps prevent the smell from permeating the rest of your refrigerator.)

cutting a red onion

7. Place the quarter of the onion on the mandolin and slice into paper-thin paper pieces. Again, if you do not have a mandolin, try to slice the onion as thin as possible with your knife. 

slicing a red onion on a mandolin

8. Place the sliced cucumber and onion in a large glass or stainless-steel mixing bowl.

cucumbers, and red onion in a glass bowl

9. Add the measured sesame oil, rice vinegar, black sesame seeds, and salt. 

sesame oil being added to cucumbers, and red onion in a glass bowl
vinegar being added to cucumbers, and red onion in a glass bowl
black sesame seeds being added to cucumbers, and red onion in a glass bowl
red onion, black sesame seeds, sliced cucumbers and salt in a glass bowl

10. Use a large spoon to mix until well combined. Serve and enjoy. 

cucumber salad in a glass bowl

How does adding salt to cucumbers affect their taste?  

Salting cucumbers acts as a “cooking agent,” breaking down the cucumber to extract water content. I like to slice my cucumbers first, add them to a small bowl with salt, let them sit for twenty minutes, and then squeeze out the water before adding them to the rest of my salad ingredients. Don’t forget to discard the excess water before adding it to the salad. I also use this same salting cucumber technique in this delicious Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad. The salt helps to bring out the vegetables’ natural sweetness and flavor. 

What is the difference between a cucumber and a pickle?

A cucumber is a raw, untouched vegetable, while a pickle is a cucumber stored in a flavored brine solution of water, sugar, and vinegar to change its taste and texture. 


 Suggested Meal Pairings

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BEAUTY Sesame Cucumber Salad 1200

Japanese Cucumber Salad Sunomono Recipe

This Asian-inspired quick salad is one of my absolute favorites because it's outrageously easy to make, has a wonderful texture, and pairs with any protein! The thinly sliced cucumbers and red onion are "quick pickled" in rice vinegar and sesame oil and coated with toasted black sesame seeds. Make this salad in under 15 minutes and continue with your day.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 12 minutes
Total Time 12 minutes
Course Salads, Vegan, Vegetable Sides
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 people
Calories 139 kcal


  • 1 Cutting board
  • 1 Chef's Knive
  • 1 Mandolin
  • 1 Cut Resistant Glove for the Mandolin
  • 1 Set of Stainless Steel Bowls
  • 1 Measuring Spoon Set
  • 1 Large Chef mixing Spoon
  • 1 Wooden Salad Mixing


Cucumber Salad

  • 2 Japanese cucumbers, (English or Persian cucumbers will work as well, thinly sliced into rounds)
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt


Cucumber Salad

  • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Season to taste with salt.


Using a mandolin is the easiest and quickest way to make this salad.    
  • Using a mandolin to slice the cucumber thinly and red onion is the easiest and quickest way to get perfectly uniform, thinly sliced vegetables. 
  • I like to use a Japanese mandolin. It is one of my most prized and essential kitchen tools. I practically use it every day! 
  • You must be careful and methodical when using such a tool not to harm your fingers, as all mandolins are incredibly sharp. 
  • My advice is to work slowly and get comfortable with the tool. 
  • If you are uncomfortable using a mandolin, you can work with the same precision and care to achieve a similar result with a knife. 
Because you only use one-quarter of the red onion, it’s best to slice through the root to keep all the layers intact. 
  • It is instructed above to take the onion and lob off the blossom end. Then, place the onion on the flat side down and slice directly through the root. Place the one-half flat side down, and slice directly through the root again to make a quarter. You are using this one quarter for the salad and will slice off the root end of the quarter to slice it on the mandolin. 
  • However, the onion half and other quarter piece of onion still hold the root. Thus, keeping the root intact will hold all the layers and flavor together and help when cutting the onion for future use! 
Buy already toasted sesame seeds.
  • I always keep toasted sesame seeds (black and white) in my pantry!! It saves you time, hassle, and fear of burning them in your toaster oven. You can usually find them pre-toasted in most Asian markets. Trust me; they are a complete game-changer for your panty!


Calories: 139kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 3gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 298mgPotassium: 480mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 316IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 92mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Asian cucumber salad, cold Japanese cucumber salad, cucumber salad, easy asian cucumber salad, Japanese cucumber salad
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  1. Made this for my kids on a busy week night and it has insta my become a fan favorite! So simple, so clean, so delish! Thank you!

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About Sarah
Sarah blair

Adding a generous dose of enthusiasm, excitement, and creativity to the culinary world, Sarah began her career at the French Culinary Institute in NYC. Sarah has worked for the past decade as a Culinary Producer and Food Stylist.

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