Cucumbers are super versatile. We pickle them, turn them into classic salads, mix them with tequila, stack them in sandwiches and sometimes even swap them in for bread. But has it ever crossed your mind to cook a cucumber? If you're like most of us, that's a no.
Considering how commonplace cukes are in our diet, it's surprising we haven't thought to ask this before. Whether or not you've ever wondered if cucumbers can be cooked (like after harvesting a bumper crop from your backyard garden, perhaps), we're here with the intriguing answers.
Related: How to Store Cucumbers
Can you cook cucumbers?
Turns out, yes, you can actually cook cucumbers. You'll discover cooked cucumbers in various food cultures including Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and regional Indian cuisines, where they're incorporated into stir-fries, steaming soups and curries. While many of us haven't cooked a cucumber in our lifetime, it's time to start. Forget what you thought you knew about the humble cuke and consider them fair game for your next veg stir-fry.
How to cook cucumbers
However you plan to cook cucumbers, it's best to remove the seeds first (unless you're cooking with a seedless cuke). This critical step will cut down on the amount of water released during cooking (and minimize somewhat unappetizing seed floaters). Halve the cucumber lengthwise, then use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Next, cut the cucumbers into ½-inch-thick slices crosswise. They'll look like crescent moons.
While it's totally optional, salting the sliced cucumber before cooking will help to draw out excess moisture, reducing the risk that your final dish is watery. Transfer the sliced cucumber to a colander set over a bowl and toss with salt, about ¼ teaspoon salt per pound of cucumbers. Allow them to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse the cucumbers well under cold running water. Be sure to pat them dry using paper towels or a clean dish towel, or give them a healthy whirl in a salad spinner before adding them to a hot pan with oil.
To prevent cucumbers from becoming mushy when cooked, stick with quick-cooking methods like sautéing and stir-frying, tossing them with oil in a hot skillet or wok. (Cook time is less of a concern if you plan to puree them into soups.) Sliced cucumbers will have similar cook times to summer squash like zucchini, just a few minutes until tender and the desired level of char is achieved—if you're going for that look and slightly smoky flavor.
What do cooked cucumbers taste like?
The flavor of cooked cucumbers is best described as that of raw cucumbers … except, well, cooked. They're still mild and slightly sweet, but the biggest difference between the two is texture (no surprise). Cooking cucumbers will minimize their trademark crunch, but we promise that's not a bad thing. Sautéed and stir-fried cucumbers become tender while somehow still maintaining their bite. Think crisp-tender in the best way. They pair well with any number of flavors, including garlic, ginger, soy and toasted sesame, to name just a few.
Adding cucumbers to cooked dishes
You can actually cook cucumbers by applying heat as we've revealed above, but cucumbers also shine when incorporated fresh into cooked recipes to add refreshing crunch and a cool temperature contrast. Don't overlook this humble vegetable for making herby raitas and bright salsas to balance the heat of spicy dishes and Tex-Mex favorites, or for topping everything from noodle bowls to grilled chicken to lettuce wraps for satisfying texture.
Can you cook Persian cucumbers?
Persian cucumbers, a variety similar to English cucumbers, are thin-skinned with few seeds. They vary in size and skin texture, and are less watery than garden-variety cukes. They're perfect for use in cooking and require less prep. There's no need to remove their seeds before dicing or slicing into rounds and tossing into a pan. Kirby cucumbers, those mini cukes with knobby skin, can be treated the same way as Persian and English cucumbers.
It's time to start cooking cucumbers. Think of the vegetables we often eat raw that likewise shine when cooked. We roast radishes, grill watermelon, and wouldn't make chicken noodle soup without celery, after all. Don't assume cucumbers are a one-trick salad veg relegated to topping chopped lettuce and adorning crudité platters—although we still love them like that, too.