The cool cucumber is the star of this Vietnamese cucumber salad, but it’s the contrast between the hot chili peppers, the herbs and lime juice, the crunchy peanuts, and the cucumbers that make this salad so great. It’s lively and refreshing at the same time. This salad will round out any Asian meal beautifully. And, other than the brief refrigeration time, it comes together so quickly. It’s also a great make-ahead salad!
I love cucumber salads, having grown up with them as part of Sunday bagels and salmon brunches. But there are so many different ways to season a cucumber salad and make it a seamless partner to all types of meals.
This salad pulls from staple ingredients in Vietnamese cooking. You’ll find a version of this salad on tables all across Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and it’s very flexible. The ingredient amounts are just suggestions — you may want to go heavier on the fish sauce or the mint, for example, or skip the chili pepper if you want to take a pass on the spicy element.
You can substitute Thai basil for the cilantro or the mint, or just add it in along with the other herbs. Lemon juice can be used in place of lime juice. Onions can be substituted for the shallots. You can also add in ½ teaspoon of very finely minced garlic and/or ginger if you want a bit of those flavors.
Oil – Use vegetable or canola, or another neutral oil.
Rice vinegar – I prefer unseasoned rice vinegar here.
Lime juice – Fresh is always best, especially in a salad, where the freshness of the ingredients will make the dish the best it can be.
Fish sauce – If you want to make this a vegan salad, use vegan fish sauce, or you can substitute an equal amount of soy sauce.
Chili pepper – You can use either a serrano, Thai, or jalapeño chili, whatever is available. Seed the chili if you want a milder amount of heat.
Sugar – just a touch to balance and round out the flavors of this salad.
Herbs – This salad calls for a combo of torn fresh mint and cilantro, but some Thai basil would also be a nice addition
Peanuts – A handful of chopped peanuts adds crunch and salt – of course, you need to be careful of any nut allergies.
Seedless cucumbers (also known as English, Japanese, or Persian cucumbers) – Slice the cucumbers very thinly — if you have a mandolin, this is the perfect place to use it. Otherwise, take your time, use a very sharp knife, and cut them into very thin slices. If you have regular cucumbers, slice them in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out from the middle with a spoon before slicing them thinly.
Shallots – Slice them as thinly as you can and let them sit in the dressing to marinate a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You can substitute 1 small red onion, thinly sliced, if you want.
How to Make Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
In a large bowl, combine the oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, chili pepper, sugar, and salt. Add the shallots, toss, and set aside.
Slice them into the thinnest slices possible, on the bias or diagonally. If you are using regular vs. seedless cucumbers, slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds (even “seedless” cucumbers have seeds — the name is a bit weird to me!).
Add the cucumbers, cilantro, and mint to the bowl and toss.
Add the peanuts and toss to combine. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if possible, then serve.
Vietnamese Cucumber Salad: Refreshing, simple, and so easy to make. This is a great side for any Asian meal with a nice balance of clean and herby with a bit of heat.Tweet This
What to Serve With Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
Other Cucumber Salads
- Japanese Cucumber Salad
- Thai Cucumber Salad
- Tomato, Avocado, and Cucumber Salad
- Melon-Cucumber Salad with Feta
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
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Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil (or other neutral oil)
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 serrano, Thai, or jalapeño chili pepper (seeded, if desired, and thinly sliced)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 seedless cucumbers (also known as English, Japanese, or Persian cucumbers)
- ¼ cup torn fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup torn fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup chopped salted cocktail peanuts (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, chili pepper, sugar, and salt. Add the shallots, toss, and set aside.
- Slice the cucumbers into the thinnest slices possible on the bias (diagonally). If you have regular cucumbers, then slice them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape the seeds out. Then slices them into thin slices. Add the cucumbers, cilantro, and mint to the bowl and toss.
- Add the peanuts and toss to combine. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if possible, then serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.