Crunchy slices of cucumber simmered in a sweet and savory sauce. A delicious 7 ingredient side dish to accompany a bowl of steamed rice. Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, and so simple to make!
Y’all, I am obsessed with these little cucumbers. They’re crunchy, salty, just a little bit spicy, and so dang good with a bowl of steamed rice. I know most of us are used to eating cucumbers raw in salads, spring rolls, or maybe marinated, but cooked cucumbers? Ew, talk about a soggy disappointment right?
Wrong. If you cook them the right way, they become deliciously crunchy and flavorful and basically so addicting, I crave them more than potato chips (but maybe I’m just weird).
what is tsukudani 佃煮?
If you’re not familiar with Japanese cooking, you may have never encountered tsukudani before. Tsukudani is kind of similar to tsukemono (Japanese pickles), except the ingredients are simmered in a soy sauce mixture, rather than marinated raw. And because the ingredients are cooked, tsukudani can be made with vegetables, seafood, or meat. It’s most commonly made with seaweed, either kombu or nori, but in my opinion cucumber tsukudani is where it’s at! I love seaweed but the crunchiness of the cucumbers just takes it to a whole other level. So let’s get to it!
This cucumber tsukudani requires just 7 simple ingredients:
- cucumbers: Opt for small Persian or Japanese cucumbers if possible. Big English cucumbers won’t work as well as they are much more watery, so they won’t be as crunchy in the end.
- salt: Essential not only for flavor, but it also helps draw moisture out of the cucumbers, enhancing the crunchy texture.
- ginger: Purely for flavor. You can omit if you really don’t like ginger.
- soy sauce: The main flavor in tsukudani. Use tamari for gluten-free.
- mirin: The other main ingredient in the soy sauce mixture. Mirin adds sweetness and a greater depth of flavor.
- rice vinegar: Cuts the sweetness and helps tenderize the cucumbers.
- sugar: I use coconut sugar, but you can use any sweetener you like.
- red pepper flakes: Optional but I like to add them for a spicy kick.
how to make cucumber tsukudani
- Slice cucumbers into 1/4″ pieces.
- Place cucumbers in a bowl and toss with salt. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes to draw out moisture from the cucumbers. Drain the excess water (but don’t rinse the cucumbers!) and place into a deep pan or large pot over the stove.
- Add remaining ingredients into the pot and turn the stove on medium low. Stir frequently and simmer the cucumber mixture until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Place the cucumbers in an airtight container and let them cool completely, then store in the fridge.
how to eat cucumber tsukudani
The most common way to eat tsukudani is with plain steamed rice. Obviously not as a main dish, but it makes for a perfect side dish to accompany your rice and protein! I think it would go particularly well with a Japanese-flavored tofu dish (check out some of these for inspiration: tofu katsu, tofu gyoza, spicy miso tofu, sesame tofu, baked miso tofu, air-fryer karaage).
It would also be great in omusubi! Just chop up the cucumbers into small pieces so it’s easier to eat.
I think it would also be a delicious addition to a buddha bowl or Asian salad. But my favorite way to eat it is just with plain rice 🙂
You can eat the tsukudani right after cooking, but it tastes best cold. So if you can wait, let the tsukudani cool and store it in the fridge for a few hours before eating. It does not need to be reheated before serving from the fridge.
how to store cucumber tsukudani
Cucumber tsukudani should be stored in the fridge and will last up to 2 weeks.
tips & tricks
- Use small, thin cucumbers with few seeds to achieve a crunchier texture. Large cucumbers such as English cucumbers tend to have more water in them, so they’ll be a little more soggy when cooked.
- If you are using large cucumbers, cut each slice in halves or quarters for easier cooking.
- You may also use a whole dried chili pepper instead of red pepper flakes, if available. Just slice the dried chili pepper and add it in in place of the red pepper flakes.
Check out these other tasty side dishes!
- spicy Asian marinated cucumbers
- kinpira gobo (braised burdock root & carrots) | きんぴらごぼう
- sesame green beans | インゲン豆の胡麻和え
- miso glazed eggplant
If you try out this cucumber tsukudani, please make sure to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and/or leave a comment down below and let me know how you liked it! I love seeing you recreate my recipes in your own kitchen 🙂 Happy cooking!
Cucumber Tsukudani (Japanese Simmered Cucumbers) | きゅうりの佃煮
- 6 Persian or Japanese cucumbers
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp ginger minced
- 2 tbsp soy sauce use tamari for gluten-free
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- a few pinches of red pepper flakes optional for a spicy kick
- Rinse and dry cucumbers. Slice into ¼" thick pieces and place in a large bowl.
- Add salt to the bowl and toss the cucumbers with the salt until evenly distributed. Let the cucumbers rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the salt to pull water out of the cucumbers. Drain the excess water.
- Place cucumber slices and remaining ingredients in a large pot over medium low heat. Stir frequently and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Transfer the finished tsukudani to an airtight container and let cool at room temperature, then store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy it cold from the fridge with steamed rice!
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