Chinese Pickled Cucumber

A quick four-ingredient pickle that yields a crunchy texture and piquant flavor. Snack on them like chips or top a bowl of congee with them.

Pickles play a big role in Chinese cuisine and are a must-have item in our pantry. The pickled cucumber I’m introducing today is a northern style one that requires as little as four ingredients. All you need is: pickling cucumbers, soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, and garlic. This is a quick pickle recipe that does not require fermentation. Once you mix all the ingredient together, seal the jar and let the cucumbers marinate in the fridge for a week. Then you can get these crispy pickles that can be served as a snack or as a topping on congee and noodles.

These pickles can become quite flavorful after three days. But if you wait for a week, the flavors will incorporate more and the acidity will be less pungent. If you want a super quick pickle, you can slice the cucumber into thin strips, halve the garlic cloves lengthwise, and do a quick marinade. Your pickles will be ready in 24 hours.

The recipe below is just a guide, because the amount of liquid ingredients you use ultimately depend on the jar you use. I usually use a 1/2-cup (or a 1/4-cup for a smaller jar) to measure one part of soy sauce and three parts of vinegar. Keep adding liquid until the cucumbers are covered. Make sure that you don’t fill the jar completely, because the cucumber will release some juice during the pickling process.

To give you an idea of a light Chinese dinner, here is what I do. I will cook a pot of congee in a rice cooker with some Chinese sausage. The congee will be ready in about an hour, with the sausage cooked until just tender and juicy. Then I serve a few appetizers such as spinach salad (you can use the pickling marinade to make a dressing in no time) and bang bang chicken (using leftover chicken). And of course these pickled cucumber slices drizzled with sesame oil. They go great with the congee and can be snacked on by themselves.

I ate this type of dinner all the time growing up. It is nothing fancy, but it’s simple, full of flavor, and healthy. The main staples on the table are always congee and pickles. Then you can add a few simple dishes using whatever ingredients are in your fridge, such as a green vegetables with garlic sauce or a tofu salad, to create a quick dinner in no time.

Hope you enjoy!

Chinese Pickled Cucumber

A quick four-ingredient pickle that yields a crunchy texture and piquant flavor. Snack on them like chips or top a bowl of congee with them.
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Course: Appetizer, Side
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8 -12
Author: Maggie Zhu


  • 1 pound pickling cucumbers (or baby gourmet cucumbers)
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 head garlic , peeled
  • sesame oil to serve with (Optional)


  • For a 1-day pickles, cut cucumbers into quarters or sandwich slices. Halve garlic lengthwise. Combine everything in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • For a crunchier texture, pickle whole cucumbers. Add all the ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. If the liquid cannot cover the cucumbers, keep adding soy sauce and vinegar at a ratio of 1:3. Refrigerate for at least 3 days, preferably a week. They will keep for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • To serve the pickles, thinly slice them and drizzle with a bit of sesame oil, if using.



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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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5 thoughts on “Chinese Pickled Cucumber

  1. Fred Rickson

    The best way to measure liquid needed to fill a jar is to fill with material to be pickled…fill jar with water…pour out water into measuring cup, this is amount of brine to make. No waste.

  2. Angela

    Hey Maggie, Thanks for the post! I found your site last week and did a quick pickle search with no results. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find this on the front page! I’m currently living in China, so any quick, easy, time and money saving recipes like this are fantastic. I’m going to try variations like carrot and daikon after I give the cucumbers a go!

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Angela, happy to hear you like Chinese pickles and thanks for leaving a comment! There are many ways to create pickles in China and I cannot wait to share more 🙂 I’ve never tried using this marinade for carrot and daikon. Looking forward to hearing your cooking result!
      Happy cooking and have a great day!