Cucumber-sesame salad with yogurt, mint, and garlicky chili oil: A fresh, bright, crunchy, and totally addictive salad that’s got it all.I came across a meme yesterday that said “It’s not the 18th of April, it’s actually the 96th of January,” which could not ring more true. We’ve had a few days of absolutely gorgeous weather here in Birmingham (high’s in the upper 70’s), but we’ve also had a few nights in the low 30’s, which is absolutely nuts to me having spent most of my seasons in Florida.
Though when we all do get to experience some prolonged warmer weather, this salad is just the ticket for backyard cookouts, weekend brunches, and easy entertaining. Cucumbers and yogurt is one of the most refreshing combinations of all time, but what really adds a layer of intrigue to them is the addition of heat. Inspired by a recipe I stumbled upon on Bon Appetit’s website, the garlicky chili oil adds depth, complexity, and just enough kick to liven up just about anything you pair it with: fish, burgers, grilled chicken, or even strips of baked tofu.
It’s also fantastic as a stand-alone condiment, if you choose to drizzle it over any grilled protein or roasted vegetable you’re cooking up. Besides looking crisp and cool, cukes offer up a nice hit of potassium and vitamin C. Pairing them with toasted sesame seeds provides a double-dose of crunchy texture, plus a nutty flavor boost. You can either purchase sesame seeds pre-toasted (often found in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets), or toast them yourself by heating the seeds in a dry pan over low heat until golden, about 5 minutes.
To make this salad in advance, you can prepare the cucumber mixture and chili oil ahead but wait to assemble and drizzle until ready to serve. Keep the cucumbers chilled and the chili oil covered at room temperature for best results.A light, summery salad option fit for any gathering this season.
Cucumber-Sesame Salad with Garlicky Chili Oil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp. Gochugaru Korean chili flakes or Aleppo-style pepper
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt divided
- 1 lb. mini or English cucumbers sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
- Heat oil and garlic in a small skillet over medium-low. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until garlic is golden and aromatic. Pour into a small bowl and let cool slightly. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Gochugaru or Aleppo pepper, and 1/4 tsp. of the salt; stir to combine. Let cool completely.
- Prepare cucumber salad by placing cucumbers, vinegar, mint, sesame seeds, sugar, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl; toss to combine.
- To assemble, place 1/2 cup yogurt in each of 4 bowls or shallow plates. Top evenly with cucumber salad. Drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp. chili oil, depending on desired level of heat. Garnish with additional fresh mint, if desired.