Cooked cucumber might sound unusual, but stir frying is actually a great way to enjoy this crunchy veggie! Paired with a savory sauce, stir fried cucumber is a delicious side dish. I'll also show you how to make a quick and easy vegan "pork" to take this dish to the next level. Enjoy as a low-carb vegan meal or over rice or noodles.
Can you cook cucumber?
You bet! Sure, cucumbers are a staple in salads, but stir frying is also a quick and delicious way to use them. Cooking with cucumber is especially nice during summer when they're so plentiful.
Today's recipe is adapted from a Serious Eats recipe I stumbled upon recently. Theirs includes ground pork, but since we don't eat animals, I decided to use marinated soy curls to add a meaty element to the dish.
You can also omit the pork substitute and serve the saucy stir fried cucumbers by themselves.
Here's what you'll need for a basic cucumber stir fry. Details about the vegan "pork" are below.
- cucumbers - technically, you can stir fry any variety of cucumber. I chose English cucumbers for their thinner skin and sweeter flavor.
- garlic - use as much as you like!
- high heat cooking oil - to stir fry the garlic and cucumbers; I used avocado oil.
- sauce ingredients:
- soy sauce - for gluten-free, choose a certified GF tamari.
- rice vinegar - adds acidity to the sauce.
- maple syrup - or agave; adds a touch of sweetness.
- toasted sesame oil - gives the sauce a nutty and rich flavor that's totally irresistible.
- red pepper flakes - reduce for a milder sauce or add more for extra heat!
- corn starch - just 1 teaspoon gives the sauce a sticky, thick consistency.
See recipe card below for quantities and full recipe.
Variation: Including Mock Pork
Again, since I set out to make a vegan version of a dish that includes pork, I wanted to show how easy it is to do just that! The soy curl "pork" provides protein and a meat-like texture that makes the dish extra satisfying.
- soy curls - not familiar with soy curls? Be sure to check out this post.
- boiling water - since soy curls are a dried product, we need to rehydrate them and add some flavor before cooking.
- seasonings: soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, onion and garlic powder, black pepper, and a pinch of cloves.
You can also use plant-based meat alternatives such as seitan, tofu, or tempeh instead of soy curls. Feel free to experiment!
In that case, you wouldn't need to go through the step of hydrating with water and seasonings. Cut the meat alternative into thin strips or cubes, season with some of the same flavors in the marinade, and cook them in a little oil until they are browned and slightly crispy.
How to Prepare the Cucumbers
To achieve the perfect stir-fry with cucumbers, it's important to prep them correctly. Start by washing and peeling the cucumbers. If you're using a thin-skinned variety, like English cucumber, I recommend leaving some of the skin on. The finished dish looks extra appealing (haha, no pun intended) if you peel the cucumbers so they have alternating stripes (pictured below).
Next, slice the cucumbers in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and cut into half moons approximately ⅓-inch thick. Place in a large bowl and toss with salt.
Let the cucumbers rest for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the moisture while also adding flavor. If including the vegan mock pork in your stir fry, now is the perfect time to hydrate the soy curls.
To finish preparing the cucumbers, rinse very well under cold water, then pat dry with a tea towel. Now the cucumbers are ready to be cooked.
The vegan "pork" is included here so you can see how the whole process flows together. If you're preparing plain stir fried cucumber, simply skip the steps with soy curls.
- Toss the cucumber with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Rehydrate the soy curls in boiling water that's been lightly seasoned with soy sauce, maple syrup, onion, garlic, and clove.
- Stir fry the mock pork for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy at the edges. Transfer to a plate.
- Rinse the cucumber and dry well. Make the sauce.
- Stir fry the garlic in the oil, then add the cucumber. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the sauce.
- After about 1 minute, add the soy curls back to the wok, and toss to incorporate with the cucumber and sauce.
Garnish with green onion, if desired, and serve hot.
Equipment & Batch Size
A wok is best for stir frying, but an extra large saute pan, preferably with tall sides, will also get the job done.
The recipe serves two as an entree (with the soy curls), or three to four as a side dish. Stretch it farther by serving over rice or noodles.
When stir-frying cucumbers, it's important to cook them quickly over high heat. Overcooking can take them from perfectly crisp-tender to too soft. Even slightly overcooked they're still delicious! But we prefer when the cucumbers retain a bit of crunch.
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Cucumber Stir Fry With Mock Pork
To prep the cucumbers:
- 2 large English cucumbers, partially peeled to create alternating stripes; see Notes - about 1 ½ lbs.
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
For the mock pork:
For the stir fry and sauce:
- 3 teaspoons high heat cooking oil, divided - such as avocado or grapeseed
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- After partially peeling the cucumbers, slice in half length-wise, and scrape out the soft center area. If using regular cucumbers, scrape out the seeds. Slice into half moons approximately ⅓-inch thick. Place in a large bowl and toss with the salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the moisture while also adding flavor. If including the vegan mock pork in your stir fry, now is a good time to hydrate the soy curls.
- For the mock pork, combine all ingredients (soy curls - black pepper) in a large bowl. Stir well and let soak for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once rehydrated, pick up handfuls of the soy curls and squeeze over the sink to remove excess liquid. Discard any liquid left in the bowl.
- Rinse the salted cucumber very well under cold water, then dry with a lint-free towel.
- To make the sauce, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, maple syrup, vinegar, pepper flakes, and corn starch. Set aside.
- Preheat a wok over medium-high heat and add 2 teaspoons oil. Stir fry the soy curls until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and carefully wipe out the wok with a damp paper towel.
- Return the wok to medium-high heat, add add 1 teaspoon oil. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn. Add the cucumbers and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into the wok and cook for 1 minute - it should look thickened and sticky. Return the soy curl "pork" to the wok, and toss to combine. Serve hot. See Notes for serving suggestions.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.