Soy-Vinegar Pickled Cucumbers

Japanese pickled cucumbers
Judy Ung
Ratings (10)
  • Total: 15 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 cucumbers (serves 12-14)

Traditionally, in Japanese cuisine, whenever rice is served, it is accompanied by a small plate of pickles known as tsukemono. It is often served along with steamed rice, donburi (rice bowl dish), a Japanese meal, or bento. Tsukemono can either be made of pickled vegetables or fruit. 

There are several styles of pickling or making tsukemono, and it is not uncommon to find several varieties of tsukemono available in Japanese markets. 

Soy sauce and vinegar-pickled cucumbers is one type of flavor profile available, but in this recipe, cucumbers are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, water, and sugar. In broad terms, this style is often referred to as shoyuzuke.

However, this recipe calls for cucumbers to marinate in a vinegar and soy sauce based mixture, it can also be referred to as su-shoyuzuke, or su (vinegar) - shoyu (soy sauce) - zuke (pickle) in Japanese. Again, this is only one variation of over a hundred types of tsukemono offered in Japanese cuisine.

The procedure for cooking this specific tsukemono recipe differs from western-style pickling, in that the cucumbers are simply steeped in the cooked soy-vinegar marinade, but not actually cooked themselves, nor stored in sterilized jars. For this reason, this tsukemono recipe will keep in the refrigerator similar to any perishable food.

Recipe tip: The longer the cucumbers marinate in the soy-vinegar mixture, the bolder the flavor becomes. This recipe is best made in advance, at least eight hours to one day before serving. For best flavor, consider marinating the cucumbers for at least two days prior to eating.


  • 2 large English cucumbers or 4 Japanese cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cupsoy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sushi vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Combine ingredients in a small pot and simmer over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool. 

  2. Rough chop cucumbers into medium pieces. Transfer the cucumbers into ​a large storage container with lid.

  3. Pour the soy-vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Refrigerate and allow the cucumbers to marinate for eight hours to one day. For best flavor, marinate for two days. Turn cucumbers in the marinade periodically to season the cucumbers evenly.

  4. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.