‘Tis the season for salads and all the fresh veggies nature has to offer and we are in love with it all, especially this amazing Spicy Cucumber Salad with mounds of veg flavored with the most amazing garlic- and chili-infused oil.
This salad is simple, but upped a notch or two by a couple of fun kitchen tricks that kick up the flavor without being too fussy. Just the kind of recipe we love! I mean, enhanced flavor for something special without a ton of extra or complicated work? Yes!
Choose the Right Cucumbers
It all starts with the cucumbers. We want something with crunch and that subtle flavor, but without the need to remove seeds or peel. So, choose a long English seedless cucumber or baby cucumbers for your fresh and spicy cucumber salad. Simply cut them lengthwise, then slice into little half-moon shapes. You need about 2 cups of the slices.
Kitchen Trick #1 – Removing Excess Water
Cucumbers contain a lot of water, but we don’t want to water down our salad. In order to prevent that, we are going to use salt to encourage the cucumbers to release some of their water before adding them to the salad.
Toss your cucumbers with a little salt, then let them sit for five minutes in a bowl. The salt on the surface of the cucumber slices starts a process in which the moisture levels inside and outside the cucumber attempt to create equilibrium. In this case, to create that equilibrium, water will move out from the cucumber to the surface, where we can then strain it away.
While the water moves to the outside of the cucumber, the salt is adding flavor to the slices. They will retain that flavor even after the excess water is drained away. (So, be careful to not use too much salt here!) Want to read more about this? Check out this great article from America’s Test Kitchen.
After letting the cucumbers rest for five minutes, place them in a colander to remove the excess water, then pat them dry.
Add More Veggies
In addition to cucumbers, this salad incorporates vibrant bell pepper, crunchy romaine, and the subtle sharp bite of green onion.
Slice these thinly and toss with the cucumbers. We want the cucumbers to be the star of the show here and all the other veg adds to the crunch and flavor of the overall dish. Slicing them thinly ensures an easy, flavorful bite that captures all of the components.
Dressing Your Spicy Cucumber Salad
This dressing is truly amazing with infused oil that is full of flavor and has a bit of a kick. Want to make it even spicier? Just up the amount of red pepper flakes and finish the salad with a drizzle of chili oil.
Whisk your infused oil (more on that below) with apple cider vinegar and honey for the perfect spicy-sweet dressing for your cucumber salad.
Dress the salad just before serving for the best flavor with no wilting.
Kitchen Trick #2 – Quick Infused Oil
This little tip is so versatile – it’s a quick way to infuse your oil with a ton of flavor. Here, we are using garlic and red pepper flakes in extra virgin olive oil. And it is so easy!
Traditionally, infused oil is made on the stovetop by heating the oil in a pot, then heating it with your flavor components. We’ve made the process even faster using the microwave to infuse just what we need.
Place olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes in a small microwave-safe container. Glass really is best here! Heat for a minute, then allow it to sit for an additional five minutes.
After it rests, remove the garlic cloves and your oil is flavored and ready to use. It is so flavorful and delicious, you will want to use this technique all the time! We like to brush garlic-infused oil onto homemade pizza for an especially flavorful crust. It’s so, so good!
Don’t throw out that garlic, though! Let it cool, then store it in the frig in an airtight container to use in any recipe that calls for garlic.
Serving your Spicy Cucumber Salad
We love this salad on it’s own for a healthy lunch, but it is equally at home alongside chicken or steak. We like it with simple grilled chicken, like our Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts.
And, of course, you need dessert! Try one (or more) of these options:
- Strawberry Shortcake Scones served with strawberries and whipped cream
- Lemon Bundt Cake
- Simple Fresh Strawberry Pie
- Strawberry Marshmallow Cookies
- Velvety Vanilla Cake
The Most Amazing Spicy Cucumber Salad
For The Salad:
- 2 cups thinly sliced english or baby cucumber slice lengthwise, then cut each half into thin slices
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or a small pinch of table salt
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced romaine lettuce packed, about 3 large leaves
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red or orange bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon honey
- Flaky sea salt such as fleur de sel, for finishing
- Prep the Veggies: In a large bowl, toss the cucumber slices with the salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Dry the bowl and return the cucumber slices to it along with the lettuce, bell pepper, and green onion. Set aside.
- Make the Dressing: Combine the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small microwave-safe dish, preferably glass. Heat in the microwave on high for one minute, then let rest for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the garlic from the oil but leave the red pepper flakes. Whisk in the vinegar and honey.
- Toss it Together: Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss until evenly coated. Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with flaky sea salt to finish. Serve immediately.
- For a spicier salad, double the amount of red pepper flakes and/or drizzle chili oil over the top before serving.
- Don’t skip that first step! Salting the cucumbers pulls some of the water out, so that the salad is not too watery.
- While the cucumbers can hold up to the dressing for some time, the romaine will begin to wilt pretty quickly, so if you need to make this ahead simply leave the romaine out until just before serving.
- Don’t toss the garlic! It has a wonderful flavor and can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic.