If this is your first introduction to sunomono, you are in for a treat! This classic Japanese salad is a mouthwatering combination of crunchy cucumbers, crisp bell peppers, and fresh herbs with tender and succulent shrimp. These fresh ingredients are tossed with a bright, tangy sesame vinegar dressing with just the right amount of zesty heat.
This recipe for sunomono salad is simple to make and bursting with flavor. It’s the perfect dish to make for a light, lively appetizer or side dish. It also makes a great on-the-go lunch or snack for hot summer days. I’m adding cooked shrimp to this to bulk it up a little and make it a full meal.
I tend to start making lots of this Japanese cucumber salad when the cucumbers from my garden start piling up. If you have other veggies kicking around, go ahead and toss them in the mix too!
Table of Contents
You don’t have to wait for harvest season either. Make this scrumptious dish anytime you want a light meal that will fill you up without slowing you down!
- Shrimp – These succulent seafood morsels add a salty, slightly sweet flavor. I use cooked, medium-sized shrimp, but other sizes are okay. Just make sure the shrimp are deveined with the tails and shells off.
- Cucumbers – Japanese cucumbers, also called kyuri, are thin-skinned and slender with small seeds and a melon-like flavor. They are the ideal choice for sunomono salad but are sometimes hard to find. Persian or English cucumbers are good substitutes.
- Cilantro – Adds a dash of bright, lemony, and peppery flavor plus a dazzling green color.
- Bell Pepper – I like green bell peppers for their sharp, slightly bitter flavor and exceptional crunch. You can choose red, orange, or yellow peppers if you want to add some color and a touch of peppery sweetness.
- Garlic – Chopped cloves add pungency and a hint of spiciness. Powdered garlic can be used in a pinch, but start with a small amount and adjust as needed.
- Serrano Chiles – Bring the dressing to life with a zesty bite of heat.
- Lime Juice – Brightens up the entire dish with a pop of acidity and fresh citrus flavor. Make sure you use fresh lime juice for maximum flavor.
- Vinegar – Rice wine vinegar is the classic choice for sunomono dishes for its mild tanginess and sweetness. Check the international aisle or look for it at a local Asian market.
- Fish Sauce – Adds deep umami, salty, and sweet flavors all at once. You can omit this ingredient if needed or sub in soy sauce.
- Red Pepper – Bring a smoky, spicy flavor and a brilliant dash of red color.
- Mint Leaves – Highlights the other flavors in the dish with a pop of sweet, cooling flavor.
- Make the Dressing. Use a small bowl to combine the vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil, (optional) fish sauce, salt, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and mint leaves. Whisk the mixture together. Stir in the chopped garlic cloves and serrano chile peppers and set aside.
- Combine Other Ingredients. Combine the cooked shrimp, green bell pepper, green onion, cilantro, and sliced cucumber in a medium bowl.
- Add the Dressing. Pour the freshly made dressing over your shrimp and cucumber mixture. Toss to combine.
- Garnish, Serve, and Enjoy. Serve sunomono with plenty of extra chopped cilantro, mint leaves, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
Sunomono is a Japanese word that translates to vinegared things. Sunomono salad consists of chopped vegetables and herbs that are dressed with a rice vinegar and citrus-based dressing. These vinegary salads are served in small bowls before meals as an appetizer or alongside meals as a side dish.
They can be made with almost any vegetable under the sun but are most commonly made with Japanese cucumbers. Some recipes, like this Japanese cucumber salad, contain ingredients like shrimp, crab, or other seafood and are referred to as “seafood sunomono.”
Keeping these veggies crisp in Japanese cucumber salad, or any salad, can be a bit tricky. Their high moisture content makes them crisp and delicious but can lead to mushy, soggy leftovers if you aren’t careful.
Luckily, this is easily avoided with a little foresight. I recommend slicing your cucumbers a bit in advance. Place them in a colander and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Allow about 15-20 minutes for the salt to do its osmosis magic. It will draw out any excess moisture and set you up for success.
Store any leftover sunomono in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 5 days. The salad will lose a bit of its crunchiness the longer it sits, even if you used the salt trick we just discussed. Don’t worry, though — more time in the refrigerator means more time to marinate in the insanely delicious dressing! Your taste buds will be so happy, you’ll barely miss the crunch.
Can’t find Japanese cucumbers?
Japanese cucumbers are crisp, crunchy, and succulent with bright, melon-like flavors. If unable to find Japanese cucumbers, use a seedless variety with very thin skin, such as English Hothouse or Persian cucumbers.
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Japanese Sunomono Salad
- In a small bowl ,whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce (optional), salt, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds and mint. Stir in the garlic and chile and set aside.
- To a medium sized bowl, add cooked shrimp, sliced cucumbers, cilantro, green onion and bell pepper. Pour dressing over and toss to combine. Serve with more cilantro and or mint leaves with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Refrigerate covered if not eating right away.
- If unable to find Japanese cucumbers, use a seedless variety with very thin skin, such as English or Persian cucumbers.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.