Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)

5 from 3 votes
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This easy Korean cucumber salad (Oi Muchim) uses just 10 ingredients and is a refreshing, spicy, tangy, slightly sweet Korean cucumber side dish that can be prepared in minutes. A perfect way to enjoy cucumbers year-round!

A bowl with Korean cucumber salad

With a combination of sweet, tangy, spicy, garlicky flavors, this Korean cucumber salad is a wonderful balance of flavors combined with refreshing crunchy cucumbers for a quick and refreshing side dish and summery salad. Like Japanese sunomono cucumber salad and Lebanese creamy cucumber yogurt salad, this Oi Muchim combines just a few simple ingredients but packs a ton of flavor.

In fact, this Korean cucumber side dish is a popular “banchan” (side dish served with cooked rice) and can be served alongside BBQ dishes, meats, and other summery picnic/cookout dishes. Referred to as Oi Muchim in Korean, “Oi” means cucumber, and “muchim” refers to mixing it with seasonings – hence this salad is often referred to as “seasoned cucumber” in English. It combines the saltiness of soy sauce with tangy rice vinegar, spicy Korean chili flakes, and enough sugar to balance all the flavors.

Pouring dressing over cucumbers

Some versions of this Korean cucumber side dish have you do a “quick pickle”/brine by combining the cucumbers with the salt and vinegar and marinating before removing the excess liquid. However, this “quick” version skips that step for a cucumber salad that can be ready in as little as a few minutes!

This side dish is an excellent way to pack in flavor without a ton of calories for those watching their weight. Though, I’ll admit I’ve eaten the whole bowl in almost one sitting before – whoops! You may also like this simple cucumber tomato salad and Caprese salad for other simple summery salad dishes!

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The Ingredients

Ingredients for Korean cucumber salad
  • Cucumber: if you’re able to, then using Korean cucumbers is recommended. Low-seed varieties like Persian and Kirby cucumbers are next best. English cucumbers and Japanese cucumbers will also work. However, if you have a particularly seedy cucumber, feel free to scoop out the seeds first.
  • Soy sauce: I use regular dark soy for the best flavor. You could substitute light/reduced-sodium soy if preferred. For a gluten-free option, you can substitute liquid aminos.
  • Sesame: this recipe uses both sesame oil and sesame seeds. If you find the flavor of sesame oil a little overwhelming, you can replace it with another neutral oil.
  • Rice vinegar: I like the slightly sweet and mild flavor of rice vinegar for the best results. There isn’t an easy substitute, though you can try this recipe with other kinds of vinegar too. The flavor will vary slightly but experiment to see what you prefer: white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar (potentially the closest match), or even plain white vinegar, etc. Adjust the amount accordingly (i.e., white vinegar is tangier, so I’d reduce it or use a little more sugar).
  • Green onion: also called scallions, these are used to add extra freshness as a garnish for the Korean cucumber salad.
  • Aromatics: I used a combination of garlic (optional) and ginger (or garlic and ginger paste), Korean chili powder (gochugaru), and chili paste.
  • Sugar: sugar is needed to balance the salty, tangy, and spicy flavors of soy, vinegar, and chili. I just use regular white sugar for the most neutral taste.

How to Make Korean Cucumber Salad

Step 1: Prepare the bread

First, slice the cucumber. I do this by first chopping it in half lengthwise then cutting it into pieces around 1/8 inch/3 mm thickness. You can do this by hand or using a mandoline (carefully) for even slices.

Once chopped, transfer the cucumber to a salad bowl.

Chopped cucumber on cutting board

Step 2: Prepare the dressing

Mince or grate the ginger and garlic (or use ginger and garlic paste). Then add to a small bowl along with the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, chili powder, and chili paste. Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Mixing salad dressing in a bowl

Step 3: Assemble the Korean cucumber salad

Pour the dressing over the sliced cucumbers, add the chopped green onions and sesame seeds, and toss lightly to combine.

You can optionally dry toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and golden for extra flavor.

You can enjoy the seasoned cucumber salad immediately. However, for the best results, allow the cucumbers to marinate for 30 minutes before serving.

Korean cucumber salad

How to Store 

This cucumber salad will become “soggier” over time, so it’s best enjoyed within 1-2 days, though it should last okay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, covered tightly. The flavor will also develop more over time.

How to Serve?

Korean cucumber salad is a popular Banchan (side dish) served alongside cooked rice and other side dishes.

Thanks to the crisp and fresh flavor, it pairs particularly well with fatty meats and BBQ dishes like fried chicken. However, I rarely eat meat and love this oi muchim as a side dish for picnics, meat-free BBQs, summery light meals, etc.

A bowl with Korean cucumber salad

FAQs

Can we omit the sugar?

I wouldn’t recommend doing so as the sugar is needed to balance the salty soy and spicy chili. Omitting sugar will alter the balance. If you’re trying to reduce sugar, you could use a sugar alternative instead, but adjust the amount accordingly. Feel free to begin by adding a small amount and increasing to personal taste.

Can we reduce the chili?

You sure can. I’ve added enough chili paste and flakes to personal preference. This Korean cucumber salad is traditionally meant to be spicy, though, so even if you choose to reduce them somewhat, I wouldn’t omit them entirely (if you want a milder version – check out this Japanese cucumber salad).

Can we substitute the Korean chili (gochugaru)?

Yes – if you cannot find gochugaru, you could substitute other chili flakes (or make your own). Gochugaru is a fairly mild (between 4k-8k Scoville units) with a slightly sweet, smoky flavor. In comparison, US/UK “red pepper flakes” (often made with cayenne) are more like 30k-50k Scoville units – so while the sub is convenient, the heat will definitely vary, and the amount will need to be reduced. Aleppo or Kashmiri chilies are potentially the best substitutes. Chile de Arbol may also work well (15k-30k Scoville units).

What cucumber is best for Oi Muchim?

If you’re able to get your hands on them, I recommend small pickling cucumbers (perfect for quick pickled cucumbers) like Kirby cucumbers which are super crunchy, unwaxed, and don’t contain lots of seeds. When using Kirby cucumbers, this cucumber salad tends to last longer, not becoming too soggy either. Sometimes up to 5 days! Other varieties may only last 1 day!

Recipe Notes & Variations

  • Salting the cucumber: to avoid a soggy salad and have crunchier cucumber slices, it’s a good idea to salt the slices. To do so, add the cucumber to a colander and salt liberally, then leave to drain for 15 minutes, then rinse quickly and pat dry. I recommend doing this more so if you’re using cucumber with lots of seeds and if you want to save leftovers.
  • Adjust the elements: this seasoned cucumber salad is easy to adjust to personal taste. Practically every ingredient is adjustable. I’ve even made a version without garlic and ginger, which also tastes delicious. So, feel free to adjust to your liking.
  •  For a creamy version: a friend suggested adding a little Japanese mayonnaise to the seasoned cucumbers for a creamy twist.

More Fresh Cucumber Recipes

If you try this Oi Muchim – Korean cucumber salad recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)

5 from 3 votes
By: Samira
This easy Korean cucumber salad (Oi Muchim) uses just 10 ingredients and is a refreshing, spicy, tangy, slightly sweet Korean cucumber side dish that can be prepared in minutes. A perfect way to enjoy cucumbers year-round!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 2 sides

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 large cucumber Korean, Kirby, Jpanese, or English will work (aim for seedless/low-seed, thin skin varieties); 1.5 cup sliced
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil or a combination of sesame oil and neutral oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame seeds raw or toasted
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar is best but could try apple cider vinegar or even white vinegar.
  • 2-3 green onion
  • 3 tsp fresh grated ginger or ginger paste
  • 2 garlic cloves or 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar or maple syrup, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Korean chili powder see FAQs for subs
  • 1 tsp chili paste optional

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the bread

  • Slice the cucumber. I do this by first chopping it in half lengthwise then cutting it into pieces around 1/8 inch/3 mm thickness. You can do this by hand or using a mandoline (carefully) for even slices.
  • Once chopped, transfer the cucumber to a salad bowl.

Step 2: Prepare the dressing

  • Mince or grate the ginger and garlic (or use ginger and garlic paste).
  • Add the ginger and garlic to a small bowl along with the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, chili powder, and chili paste (optional). Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Step 3: Assemble the Korean cucumber salad

  • Pour the dressing over the sliced cucumbers, add the chopped green onions and sesame seeds, and toss lightly to combine.
    You can optionally dry toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and golden for extra flavor.
  • You can enjoy the seasoned cucumber salad immediately. However, for the best results, allow the cucumbers to marinate for 30 minutes before serving.

How to Store

  • This cucumber salad will become "soggier" over time, so it’s best enjoyed within 1-2 days, though it should last okay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, covered tightly. The flavor will also develop more over time.

Notes

  • Salting the cucumber: to avoid a soggy salad and have crunchier cucumber slices, it’s a good idea to salt the slices. To do so, add the cucumber to a colander and salt liberally, then leave to drain for 15 minutes, then rinse quickly and pat dry. I recommend doing this more so if you’re using cucumber with lots of seeds and if you want to save leftovers.
  • Adjust the elements: this seasoned cucumber salad is easy to adjust to personal taste. Practically every ingredient is adjustable. I’ve even made a version without garlic and ginger, which also tastes delicious. So, feel free to adjust to your liking.
 
Read the FAQs for answers to more top questions!
Course: Appetizer, Side
Cuisine: Asian, Korean
Freezer friendly: No
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 120kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 518mg, Potassium: 326mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 431IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. Janice Wien says:

    Can I substitute gochujang sauce for chili powder? Thanks!

    1. Support @ Alphafoodie says:

      Hi Janice,
      Yes, you can use chili powder to taste or another chili sauce that you like. Keep in mind that, while spicy, the overall flavor profile will be a bit different when not using gochujang.