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These delicious pickled cucumbers have a subtle caramel flavor that balances with the chili and garlic. Tangy and super crunchy, these pickles are the perfect addition to burgers, sandwiches, and more!

Cucumber pickles with garlic and chili in a bowl.

These pickled cucumbers are inspired by Vietnamese “Dưa Mắm”. A sweet, salty, and spicy condiment usually served on top of broken rice or rice porridge. As opposed to regular cucumber pickles, this recipe starts with a caramel that adds an extra layer of flavor.

⭐️ Why You Should Try This Recipe

  • Easy to prepare. You will need just 20 minutes and 7 basic ingredients.
  • Versatile. You can use these pickles as a topping for rice, dips, and hummus, add them to burgers and sandwiches or even stir them into noodles.
  • It packs the perfect balance of flavor. Sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy, these pickles have bold flavors.
  • It’s a great way to use leftovers. If you ever had extra cucumbers sitting in your fridge, making pickles is a great way to preserve them a bit longer.
Ingredients like cucumber, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.

🥒 Ingredient Notes

  • Cucumber – Use fresh and firm cucumbers without blemishes. Read below to learn more about the best variety to use.
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic will bring an intense garlicky flavor that pairs well with the chili.
  • Chili – I went with one Thai chili (also called bird’s eye chili), but you can use only half if you want milder pickles.
  • Sugar – Since we will be making caramel, you will need to use white granulated sugar.
  • Soy sauce – For saltiness and umami. Use coconut aminos if you want to keep this recipe gluten-free.
  • Lime juice – For extra freshness and a subtle citrusy flavor. If you don’t have lime on hand, feel free to use white vinegar.

Which cucumber to use?

Choose cucumbers with thin skin (usually the shorter ones), as the varieties with thick and hard skin are not the best for this recipe. Persian, Kirby, or Noah are the varieties I recommend using here.

Sprinkling salt over sliced cucumbers.

🥣 How to Make Pickled Cucumbers

  1. Prepare the cucumber. Slice it in half, remove the seeds, and cut it into 1/2-inch thick slices.
  2. Salt it. To remove the moisture from the cucumber and give it a crunchy texture, coat it with salt and let it rest for about 1 hour. Then, squeeze it to remove excess water.
  3. Prepare the brine. Cook the sugar in a small pan until it caramelizes. Next, deglaze with water and add the soy sauce and the remaining sugar. Let it simmer for a few minutes or until the hardened caramel has melted.
  4. Combine everything. Mix the cucumber with chopped garlic, chili, and the “brine”. Transfer to a clean jar.
  5. Refrigerate. Finally, refrigerate the pickles for at least 48 hours to let the flavors merge.

🍚 Where to Use It

These pickled cucumbers are a great topping for rice, congee, savory oatmeal, or even soups. You can also use them in sandwiches, grilled cheese, vegan burgers, salads, etc!

Coating sliced cucumbers with soy sauce, garlic, and chili.

📔 Tips

  • For more tangy pickles: increase the amount of lime juice to 2 tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use white vinegar.
  • Add fresh herbs. You can easily tweak this recipe by adding fresh herbs like basil, chives, mint, or rosemary.
  • Store in the refrigerator: note that this pickled cucumber recipe is not shelf-stable and must be kept in the refrigerator.

💬 FAQ

Should I peel the cucumbers?

If using Persian cucumbers, there is no need to peel them. However, if your cucumbers have a thick and very firm skin, I recommend peeling them.

Are these pickles spicy?

Yes, these cucumber pickles are quite spicy. Obviously, it all depends on your spiciness tolerance, so feel free to adjust the amount of chili to your taste.

How long do these pickles keep?

You can keep these cucumber pickles in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. After that, they tend to lose a bit of their crunchiness.

Close up of spicy cucumber pickles.

I hope you are going to love these Vietnamese-inspired pickles! They pack a ton of flavor, are easy to make, and are perfectly crunchy!

🥗 More Cucumber Recipes

Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe!

Pickled cucumbers with chili in a bowl.
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Recipe
Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

5 from 3 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
Crunchy, spicy, sweet, and tangy cucumber pickles! Super easy to prepare, these are the perfect addition to burgers, sandwiches, congee, porridge, and more!
Prep Time : 20 minutes
Resting Time : 2 days
Total Time : 2 days 20 minutes
Servings 1 Jar

Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or vegan fish sauce)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 small chili minced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the cucumber: Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard them. Cut the cucumber into thin slices widthwise (about 1/3 inch thick).
  • Transfer the cucumber slices to a mixing bowl and add the salt. Stir using a spoon or your hands to coat the cucumbers with the salt. Let it rest for about 1 hour.
  • Prepare the brine: In the meantime, add one tablespoon of sugar to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the sugar melts and starts to caramelize. As soon as you get a caramel with a golden brown color, add 1/3 cup of water. Be careful, it will sizzle.
  • Add the rest of the sugar and the soy sauce. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes or until the hardened caramel has dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool completely.
  • Squeeze the cucumber slices to remove as much water as possible. You can use your hands or a nut milk bag. Transfer the drained cucumber slices to a clean jar. Add the lime juice, minced garlic, and chili. Cover with the caramel sauce and stir to combine.
  • Cover the jar with a lid and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours.
  • Enjoy on top of white rice, in sandwiches, burgers, and more! These pickles will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • For more tangy pickles: increase the amount of lime juice to 2 tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use white vinegar.
  • Add fresh herbs. You can easily tweak this recipe by adding fresh herbs like basil, chives, mint, or rosemary.
  • Store in the refrigerator: note that this pickled cucumber recipe is not shelf-stable and must be kept in the refrigerator.
Course : Side Dish
Cuisine : Vietnamese
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this recipe yesterday exactly as described. Now sitting in my fridge looking amazing. Can’t wait to try tomorrow. This is the second recipe of yours I’ve tried with great success. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for new ways to pickle. There’s something that’s so much better about spicy pickles though! I love them! Can’t wait to try this out, thank you for sharing!

  3. Sounds delicious!
    Is it also possible to lacto-ferment these pickles (instead of adding lime/vinegar)? Should the caramel brine be added before fermenting or after?

    1. I haven’t tried lacto-fermenting those pickles, so I am not sure.
      If you were going that route, I would probably recommend adding the caramel brine after.