10-Minute Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
Korean cucumber salad (Oi Muchim) is a crunchy, refreshing side dish that’s perfect as a palate cleanser for any meal. This easy 10-minute recipe combines flavors of sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, chili flakes, and a hint of gochujang, making it a quick and impressive side salad.
During the abundant summer months, when garden-fresh cucumbers are plentiful, I frequently prepare this crunchy Korean cucumber salad to accompany my Korean Dinner Recipes or other Asian Recipes. It’s one of the most repeated Korean side dishes I make.
This simple Korean cucumber salad recipe, ready in just 10 minutes, provides a refreshing crunch and a delightful combination of savory, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors. The gentle spice from gochujang and gochugaru adds an exciting twist. It’s a perfect complement to various main dishes.
What is Korean cucumber salad?
The Korean cucumber salad, known as oi muchim (오이무침), is a cherished side dish, or banchan. ‘Oi’ means ‘cucumber’, and ‘muchim’ is a traditional method of hand-tossing vegetables with seasonings.
This salad is especially favored during summer and has gained global appreciation in recent years.
A typical recipe involves thinly sliced cucumbers mixed with a tangy and mildly spicy dressing. The dressing combines soy sauce, vinegar, Korean chili flakes, sugar, garlic, and green onions.
However, this version of the recipe offers a unique twist. By adding a hint of gochujang, a flavorful Korean chili paste, the salad acquires a deeper umami taste. Try this recipe for a special variation on a classic dish.
Ingredients for Making a Perfect Korean Cucumber Salad at Home
- Cucumber choice: The best option would be a thin-skinned variety with a mild, slightly sweet taste. Below are options of suitable cucumbers. The recipe is good for 1 medium-length English cucumber.
- Onion and Garlic: savory addition to the salad
- Gochujang and gochugaru: These Korean chili paste and chili flakes add spicy heat and Korean flavor to the dish
- Korean soup soy sauce (gukganjang): seasons the salad and brings umami taste. If not available, substitute with small amount of salt.
- Vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds: for the dressing to bring tangy and nutty taste to the salad.
- Most people commonly use rice vinegar, but if it’s not available, white vinegar makes a good substitute.
Note: If you only have the waxy American cucumber available, you should peel off its skin. The thick and fibrous skin.
Can I use a different type of cucumber for this recipe?
Absolutely, while the traditional Korean cucumber salad is made using Korean cucumbers, which are thin-skinned and have fewer seeds, you can certainly use other types of cucumbers.
English cucumbers or Kirby cucumbers are a good alternative due to their thin skin and minimal seeds. If you only have regular, garden variety cucumbers available, they can work too, but you may want to peel them as their skin can be tougher, and consider scooping out the seeds if they’re too abundant.
The key is to slice your cucumbers thinly so they can fully absorb the flavors of the dressing.
What dishes pair well with Korean cucumber salad?
Essential Recipe Tips
To achieve the best results for your cucumber salad, I recommend the following two tips:
- Lightly salt the cucumber slices for 5-10 minutes to draw out excess moisture. Doing so maintains the cucumbers’ crispness and prevents the seasoning from diluting once the salad is tossed.
- Add a small amount of Korean chili paste (gochujang) alongside Korean chili flakes (gochugaru). Gochujang adds thickness to the seasoning, allowing it to better adhere to the cucumber slices.
How to make Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
Step 1: Coat cucumber with salt
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the thinly sliced cucumber and toss to coat. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes until the salt draws out the excess moisture. Drain the cucumber slices to remove the liquid.
Step 2: Toss with the dressing ingredients
- Add the thinly sliced onion, Korean chili flakes, Korean chili paste, vinegar, garlic, sugar, Korean soup soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds.
- Using your fingers and thumb, rub the Korean chili paste to loosen up and mingle with other seasoning ingredients.
- Start tossing the cucumber all together until cucumber slices are well coated with the seasoning. Taste and add more salt if needed
Traditional tossing technique: The age-old Korean technique of tossing vegetable salads by hand, called muchim, is used to create a variety of flavorful side dishes. This traditional technique is showcased in this simple Korean cucumber salad recipe, as well as in other dishes such as Korean spinach and bean sprout side dish.
Best Practices for Storing Your Korean Cucumber Salad
Serve this spicy cucumber salad immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. You can store this Korean cucumber side dish in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Please note that even after salting the cucumbers, they may release more liquid over time, which is normal. However, this doesn’t affect the brightness of the flavors. In fact, the salad may become even more flavorful and delicious the next day!
This recipe was originally posted in June 2010. I’ve updated the recipe with a few changes, new photos, and more information.
More Delicious Cucumber Recipes to Try
If you have an abundance of cucumbers and want to try some new recipes, check out these delicious cucumber dishes!
- Cucumber Kimchi (Oi-Sobagi): A spicy, fermented side dish made with fresh cucumbers and traditional Korean seasonings.
- Beef and Cucumber Stir-Fry: A savory, stir-fried dish that pairs tender beef with crisp cucumbers.
- Korean Chicken Salad (Dak Nangchae): A light and refreshing salad made with tender chicken, crisp cucumbers, and a flavorful dressing.
10-Minute Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
- 1 Korean cucumber, English cucumber, or 2 Kirby pickling cucumbers
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced, or 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- 1/2 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar, or white vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp Korean soup soy sauce (gukganjang), or salt to taste
- 2-3 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp sesame oil, optional
- 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Slice cucumbers into thin slices. around 1/8-inch, and put them in a bowl. Toss the cucumber slices with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes. When you see some water being extracted from the cucumber, drain the water off.
- Add the thinly sliced onion, Korean chili flakes, Korean chili paste, vinegar, garlic, Korean soup soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds.
- Using your fingers and thumb, rub the Korean chili paste to loosen up and mingle with other seasoning ingredients and start tossing the cucumber all together until cucumber slices are well coated with the seasoning. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Serve this cucumber salad right away or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This cucumber salad should always be stored in the fridge up to 5 days.
- Please note that even after salting the cucumbers, they may release more liquid over time, which is normal. However, this doesn’t affect the brightness of the flavors. In fact, the salad may become even more flavorful and delicious the next day!