Cucumbers have three main traits: They’re crunchy, they’re cooling and they’re watery. They have a bunch of health qualities, too, but those don’t help so much when we’re trying to figure out what to do with them.
We scoured our archives to find recipes that make the most of your cucumbers, from the totally obvious to some that may be out of your comfort zone.
Use as a garnish
This might be the most obvious tip of them all. Fan cucumbers onto a plate before piling up a mound of Indonesian Style Rice (Nasi Goreng), above, for texture and to bulk out a meal. Similarly, slicing cucumbers to serve along a Warm Chickpea Smash With Skillet Greens adds a temperature contrast.
Make a salad
Another obvious, but necessary, tip. Go classic with the tabbouleh-like Cucumber, Red Onion, Tomato and Feta Salad, or be bold and toss into a Fresh Summer Peach Salad, where fish sauce and perfectly ripe peaches add sweetness and funk to cucumber’s clean, refreshing notes. For a more dinner-friendly salad, pair with kale for a Kale and Cucumber Salad With Avocado-Tahini Dressing, where silky massaged kale meets crunchy cukes and a creamy, nutty dressing.
Add for vegetable crunch
Most folks don’t end up cooking cucumbers and for good reason: Their raw crunch is a great addition to so many meals. This Peanut Noodle Salad, served room-temperature or chilled, tosses chopped cucumber in for mild crunch in a creamy, peanutty dressing. For a different noodle dish, Hot-and-Sour Sesame Soba Noodles contrast a cucumber’s refreshing taste with tart, spicy flavor and warm noodles. Not in the mood for noodles? Cut cucumbers into matchsticks and wrap up snugly in rice paper with bell peppers, tofu and herbs for these refreshing, no-cook Vietnamese Cold Summer Rolls.
Cucumbers don’t usually get cooked, but they’re absolutely delicious, should you choose to do so. To make this Stir-Fried Cucumber and Pork With Golden Garlic, quickly stir-fry cucumbers for a contrasting element to the strong flavors of garlic and ginger. Alternatively, throw it all the way back to the ’70s and serve up Braised Cucumbers With Salmon and Creme Fraiche, a dish that’s reminiscent of the poached salmon with cucumber scales centerpiece of yesteryear. Cucumbers absorb the flavors of garlic, tomato and dill before topping salmon. Serve with toasted dark bread, egg noodles or to top blini.
Oppressive summer heat begs for cooling meals. Keep your soups cold with cucumber. Cut cooking time all the way down for this Avocado, Cucumber and Fennel Soup, at once light and filling, with a lovely pale green hue. Cucumber features in José Andrés’s Gazpacho, as well as many other gazpachos, where its refreshing qualities help all of the ingredients come together.
Fix a sandwich
Having a tea party? What would fit better than Cucumber Sandwiches? We’re not sure why good-quality, salted butter pairs so well with cucumber, but when faced with the result, we won’t question it. Or toss with chunks of chicken to make a Tandoori-Spiced Chicken Salad Sandwich for a new take on a sandwich classic. For less bread in your sandwich, make the sandwich open-faced, and serve up Avocado Toast With Egg, Cucumber and Radish, a bright and filling breakfast.
Blend it with some spice
Cucumber’s cooling quality makes it an ideal foil for anything spicy. In this Curry Chicken With Red Hot Pepper Sauce, cucumber is added to the pepper sauce itself, making for a searingly spicy hot sauce that’s simultaneously refreshing and eye-watering. Too much heat for you? This Raw Salsa Verde With Cucumber and Mint might be more your taste, with herbaceous, bright flavors and a zing of spice that gets mellowed out by cucumber.
Add to a sauce
Blending cucumbers with spice is one option, but making a cooling sauce to pair with a spicy dish is another. Raita, a mix of grated cucumber, yogurt, a little cumin and salt, was born for that role and will help mitigate a heat on your palate. This version uses mint for an extra-cooling touch. Greek Garlicky Tzatziki serves a similar purpose, though cucumber is chopped fine to keep the sauce thick with a tiny bit of crunch.
You might have had cucumber water at a spa or cucumber slices garnishing a gin and tonic, but we urge you to try something newer and more exciting. Pulse cucumber with yogurt, raisins, walnuts and dill to get lovely Cucumber Doogh. Make this Flutterby Lassi, an absinthe cocktail version of the tart, yogurt-like lassi, common in South Asia. Craving the savory flavors of a Bloody Mary? Try this Cucumber Verdita instead, with plenty of spicy elements alongside cucumber, pineapple and mezcal.
We know you’ve seen that Portlandia sketch. For pickles in a snap (see what we did there?), head over to our quick pickling guide for a rundown on getting some flavor into those cucumbers fast. Or look to the microwave for Dad’s Microwave Bread-and-Butter Pickles. If you’re in it for the long haul and crave those tart pickles to pair with a sandwich, try these Deli-Style Fermented Sour Pickles.
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