Spicy Korean Cucumber Pickles

Spicy Korean cucumber pickles recipe

The Spruce / Andrew Bui

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Waiting Time: 60 mins
  • Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
62 Calories
1g Fat
12g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 62
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 589mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 2g
Calcium 57mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These spicy Korean cucumber pickles are made by tossing crunchy cucumbers with a bit of salt, letting them sit a bit to extract a bunch of water out of them, and then tossing them with a few seasonings. They're ready within an hour or two if you want them that quickly. They keep for up to a week covered and chilled (taste their spiciness grow!).

They're traditionally served as a banchan or appetizer with an array of other similar little dishes at Korean meals. We find they work quite nicely in a sandwich, alongside grilled meats, or with scrambled eggs. We've even been known to serve them (with toothpicks, to keep fingers clean) with cocktails, martinis in particular. Use them as you like!


  • 1 pound kirby cucumbers (hothouse or English cucumbers work, too)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chile flakes; or red chile flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 small clove garlic (minced)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Korean spicy cucumber pickles
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui
  2. Chop the kirby cucumbers into 1/2-inch pieces. If you're using hothouse or English cucumbers, halve them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds before cutting the halves in half lengthwise and then cut them into about 1/2-inch pieces. 

    Chop kirby cucumbers
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui
  3. Put the chopped cucumbers in a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle the cucumbers with the salt and toss them gently to combine. Let the cucumbers sit for 30 to 60 minutes.

    Cucumbers in colander
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui
  4. The salt will draw out water from the cucumbers. After they've sat, squeeze them firmly to get even more water out of them. Do this in small handfuls to be the most effective. Lay the cucumber pieces on a clean kitchen towel or rolls of paper towels and roll up the towels tightly around the single layer of cucumbers to squeeze even more water out of the cucumbers.

    Cucumbers on paper towels
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui
  5. Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl. Add the garlic, if you're using it, and toss to combine. Add the pepper flakes, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar. Toss everything to combine thoroughly. Add the sesame seeds, if you want to use them, and toss to combine them, too.

    Cucumbers in bowl
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui
  6. Cover and chill the pickles for at least 30 to 60 minutes, and up to a week. Know that the longer you keep the pickles, the less crunchy they will become.

    Spicy Korean cucumber pickles
    The Spruce / Andrew Bui


  • This method also works with turnips and cauliflower.
  • If you like unusual pickles, you might also like these zuni-style zucchini pickles.