This cucumber wakame salad is my version of the Japanese sunomono salad without refined sugar. Wakame is a seaweed rich in vitamins, minerals and helps to balance hormones among many health benefits. Cucumber wakame salad is a refreshing summer salad to get more sea vegetables into our diet.
I love the refreshing and tangy sweet sunomono salad. It’s a dish I order regularly at Japanese restaurants. “Sunomono” just means “made with vinegar”, but does not reflect the ingredients of the salad. Often we see cucumber, seafoods, daikon, seaweeds and other vegetables in sunomono salads.
Wakame Seaweed is Nutritious
Most of us in North America don’t eat enough sea vegetables. I like to make my sunomono salad with wakame seaweed, because cucumber wakame salad is a dish I can get my kids to consume seaweed easily with.
Wakame, like other sea vegetables, has a ton of health benefits from preventing cancer, to controlling weight and blood sugar, to balancing hormones and preventing thyroid diseases. Sea vegetables contain a wide range and high amount of minerals from the ocean, such as calcium, iodine, manganese, iron, etc., as well as anti-oxidants and unique compounds. This makes sea vegetables really standout and irreplaceable by vegetables grown in the soil.
Selecting and Preparing Seaweed for Wakame Salad
Wakame seaweed usually comes in packaged dehydrated form in the grocery stores. They can be whole or already cut into smaller size. I buy the pre-cut dehydrated wakame because they are easy to use. If you have whole wakame, simply break them up with hands before soaking in water to rehydrate. All dehydrated seaweeds store well for years, so you don’t have to worry about not using them up quickly.
I soak dried wakame in warm water for about 15 minutes. In this time, they will completely soak up in water and expand significantly in size. A useful tip, warm water works much better than cold water for rehydrating wakame.
Cucumber Wakame Salad Ingredient Substitutions
The dressing is traditionally made with rice vinegar (the lighter kind). Yes, there are darker kinds of rice vinegar too that taste much more pungent, so don’t get mixed up. Don’t stress if you don’t have rice vinegar. There are other vinegar you likely already have in the pantry to use as replacement. For example, apple cider vinegar is stocked in many kitchens and taste very similar to the rice vinegar in this dressing. In addition, apple cider vinegar is widely recognized for its health benefits therefore a great replacement.
I often hear that people don’t want to use refined sugar. In this recipe, I used maple syrup to replace sugar.
I tested out both the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup replacements already, so you can rest assured this cucumber wakame salad will taste amazing and authentic!
Salting Cucumber for Wakame Salad
Be sure to salt the cucumbers and remove excess cucumber juice for this recipe, else you will end up with a cucumber wakame salad swimming in a ton of liquid. I learned my lessons from the time I got lazy. The cucumber juice is salty and contains nutrients from the cucumber. I hate to throw it away, so I freeze the cucumber juice into a block and add into the next batch of soup I am making.
A Word of TCM Wisdom
Cucumbers are in abundance from July to September, and this cucumber wakame salad is truly a summer salad. As you know, I am a huge believer of Traditional Chinese Medicine, so once in a while, I will have to throw in some bits in here.
In Chinese medicine, seaweeds and sea vegetables are considered cool to the body core, therefore raw seaweed salads are typically only suitable for hot weather. During the winter months, we should cook sea vegetables in soups instead.
I recommend not to over-eat raw wakame and sea vegetables if you have a weak stomach and spleen easily affected by cold and raw foods. Sea vegetables are super nutrient-dense, so a little bit will go a long way!
Related: More Tasty and Nutritious Salads You Will Love
- Instant Pot Beets Salad (Paleo, Whole 30, Vegan)
- Avocado Salad in Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
- Smoked Salmon Potato Salad with Pickle Juice Dressing (a Probiotic Twist)
- Sprouted Salad + Tahini Lime Dressing
- Spicy Szechuan Tripe Salad
Cucumber Wakame Salad
- 1 medium english cucumber
- 4 tbsp dehydrated wakame seaweed
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp naturally-brewed tamari soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- Place 4 tbsp dried wakame seaweed in a bowl. Break the wakame into smaller bite size pieces if they are not pre-cut. Pour warm water to completely cover the wakame by at least a couple inches. Dried wakame soak up a lot of water. Check in a few minutes and add more water if necessary to ensure all the wakame are submerged. It takes about 15 minutes to rehydrate.
- In the meanwhile, slice 1 medium english cucumber into thin slices. You can use a knife, mandoline, or a spiralizer like I did in the video.
- Mix 1 tsp sea salt evenly with the sliced cucumbers. Let it rest in a bowl for about 10 minutes. The cucumber will release the excess juice through osmosis.
- Combine rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar, maple syrup (or equal amount of sugar if you don't have maple syrup), tamari soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl to make the dressing.
- Squeeze out the excess cucumber juice, and strain away excess water from the rehydrated wakame. Discard the water used to rehydrate wakame, but you can save the salted cucumber juice for other use. See recipe notes.
- Place strained cucumber and wakame in a bowl, pour over the dressing, and garnish with black and white sesame seeds.
James McNulty says
Addendum: And if you or your partner hates Maple Syrup as mine does, and you want to keep this dish organic, use ORGANIC COCONUT PALM SUGAR instead of the cheap white sugar. It has a Glycemic Index of 35 whereas white refined sugar has a Glycemic Index of 90. You use it in an exchange rate of 1 to 1 so it is easy to substitute. Available from Walmart, all major grocery stores, and Amazon in the USA..
James McNulty says
Remember, in the States, Apple Cider Vinegar is diluted to 5% acid strength, while Rice Vinegar is diluted to 4% acid strength. Rice Vinegar is available in all leading grocery stores in the Asian or International Sections. My wife says she can differentiate between 4% and 5% vinegar, and she prefers the “milder” 4% Rice Vinegar in Japanese Cucumber salads.
This looks so fresh and tasty Yang! I love eating seaweed in dishes, this looks like a great way to get some more seaweed into your diet 🙂
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
This cucumber salad looks so refreshing! I love wakame in cucumber salads like this. It’s so pretty too!
linda spiker says
What a lovely green salad! Cukes are so good!
This is one of favorite salads at Asian restaurants! So refreshing. I can’t believe how easy it is to make!
Raia Todd says
This sounds yummy! I love cucumber salads.
Kortney Kwong Hing says
So true we don’t eat enough sea greens. This sounds like something we would love in my household. Thanks for opening my eyes to a new ingredient.
This is so lovely. My kids are crazy for cucumbers so this would be a great way to introduce seaweed to them! You are right – we don’t get enough of it here in the States! Thank you!