Cucumbers are known for their health benefits and for being a versatile type of fruit that it’s used in several different recipes. Despite its popularity, some people cannot digest cucumbers or they simply dislike their slightly bitter taste.
Many recipes that feature cucumbers are simply too delicious to miss and if you’re looking for a cucumber substitute, you’re in luck because there are several types of cucumbers and several other vegetables that can make a good replacement for it.
The best substitutes for cucumbers
Although many people are not aware of this fact, cucumbers are not vegetables, but fruits. In fact, they have seeds and grow from the ovaries of flowering plants, just like their very similar cousins, zucchini.
Cucumbers are part of the same family that also includes melons and squashes, that’s why their taste is sometimes described as melon-like. Not everyone enjoys their sour taste, which is a shame because they’re a great source of valuable nutrients.
Cucumber is mainly used in salads, soups, sandwiches, and juices. There is also the famous cucumber water, which is a low-cost, easy-to-make drink that has many health benefits when consumed regularly.
Depending on the recipe you have in mind, you can try one of the following cucumber alternatives.
Among all vegetables that look like cucumbers, zucchini takes the crown. In fact, the common dark-green variety of zucchini you can usually find in stores is so similar to cucumbers that the two fruits are often confused for each other.
Zucchini has a mild sweet taste and is incredibly versatile. They can be cooked in almost every way, but it is not recommended to boil them because their core tends to become mushy when cooked for too long or in too much water.
This cucumber-like vegetable doesn’t need to be peeled and it can also be sliced thin and eaten raw. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy zucchini is to slow-cook them in a frying pan with oil, salt, and diced onions. They will make for a flavorful side dish or work as a tasty pasta sauce.
Zucchini and cucumbers share a high water content and a crunchy texture, which makes zucchini the ideal substitute for cucumber in salads.
Celery is known for being one of those crunchy and low-cal greens that make for the ideal snack when you’re trying to lose weight, but there is much more behind this “diet vegetable”.
Recent studies have highlighted the valuable anti-inflammatory properties of celery. Moreover, celery is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and vitamin C. Needless to say when you substitute cucumber with celery you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Celery’s refreshing flavor and its juicy crunch make for a perfect replacement in salads and sandwiches, but you can also opt for celery juice, which is growing more and more popular.
When talking about Jicama, you will only ever hear about its roots, because the rest of the Jicama plant is actually toxic! The roots are the only edible part of this plant and are usually eaten raw.
This Mexican root vegetable is often considered a superfood because it’s rich in vitamins and inulin, on top of being low in calories.
Jicama is a good cucumber substitute in recipes that require raw vegetables like salads and sandwiches, but it’s also a successful celery substitute. It can also be sliced thin and eaten as a snack on its own. Often, it is seasoned with lemon juice and chili powder.
4. Iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is usually found sliced in thin, pale stripes and despite having a reputation for being poor in nutrients (probably because it’s often present in hamburgers and other fast foods), it is actually not the case.
In fact, iceberg lettuce is a good source of:
– Vitamin A
– Vitamin K
– Vitamin C
Even though it cannot be considered a vegetable similar to cucumber, it is a perfect substitute for raw cucumber, especially for kids who might dislike the bitter taste of cucumber but are surely used to the taste of the iceberg lettuce.
5. Armenian Cucumber
This cucumber-like vegetable is actually neither a cucumber nor a vegetable. In fact, Armenian cucumbers are a variety of melons that look almost exactly like cucumbers and can perfectly work as a cucumber substitute in both cooked and raw recipes.
Armenian cucumbers are great when added raw to green leaf, pasta salads, and chopped salads, but can also be grilled, sautéd or pickled. They have a mild flavor that becomes the perfect addition to sandwiches and sushi as well.
They’re available in summer and are a good source of vitamins A, K, C, and potassium.
Radishes are a root vegetable that features a crunchy texture and a peppery flavor. The most common varieties found in stores is the one with red skin and white flesh, but you might also find black radishes, which have a stronger flavor.
You can find radishes all year round and they’re also extremely easy to grow if you’re up for some gardening!
Radishes and cucumbers are interchangeable, in fact, cucumbers are often mentioned as the main alternative to radishes.
The common red-skin radishes are best used raw in salads, where they will make a savory and crispy alternative to cucumber. Daikon radishes can also be stir-fried.
7. Green beans
Green beans are a delicious, low-calorie, and nutrient-packed alternative to cucumbers for both raw and cooked recipes.
They’re a good source of vitamins K and C, folate, fibers, and silicon, which helps keep your hair, skin, and bones healthy.
Ripe green beans should have a bright green color, feel firm to the touch and make the signature snapping sound when you broke them. They’re easy to find during summer.
You can substitute cucumbers with green beans in soups, salads, and casserole. They also make a savory stand-alone side-dish when sautéd with olive oil and garlic.
8. Green bell peppers
Green bell peppers aren’t the closest cucumber replacement you can use, but they’re extremely easy to find and chances are you already have some at home since bell peppers are featured in a large variety of recipes.
Green bell peppers are slightly different from their colored brothers, which taste pretty sweet. The green variety of bell peppers tastes a little sour, resembling the taste of cucumbers. They also carry an earthy flavor.
What makes them similar to cucumbers is their crunchy texture and their versatility. You can substitute green bell peppers in basically every recipe, whether cooked or raw. You can use them sliced, diced, or even stuff them with other ingredients.
9. Green papaya
Green papaya is the unripe version of the papaya fruit, which is why it’s bright green in color. It’s considered a powerful fruit because it strengthens the immune system and helps fight several conditions and diseases.
It’s available all year round, but depending on the area you live in, it may not be as easy to find as other fruits and vegetables. When in doubt, you can visit your nearest Asian market or Thai restaurant, where they could give you tips on where to buy them.
Green papaya can be consumed alone as a crunchy snack, better if dipped in vinegar in order to obtain a good balance between sweet and sour flavor.
You can also use green papaya as a replacement for cucumber in salads because its texture and mild flavor closely resemble cucumbers.
10. Borage leaves
Borage is a Spanish plant that has green leaves and star-shaped flowers. Both the blooms and the leaves are edible and can be used in different ways.
The leaves resemble cucumbers in flavor and smell, so they can be used as a substitute in dips and salads when they’re young and fresh.
Older leaves can be cooked in the same way you would cook spinach, or can be a cucumber-tasty addition to soups.
If you can’t find borage leaves in your area, try calling nearby greenhouses or gardening centers. You can also choose to purchase borage seeds and grow the plant in your garden!
Fennel is the root vegetable of wonder because it can be cooked in any way you prefer and can also be used in its entirety, from the seeds to the stalks.
It is very popular all around the world and is available throughout the year, although the best fennel is found during cold months.
Fennel can work as a cucumber substitute in salads when eaten raw, because of its fresh taste and crunchy texture, but you can also cook it in stews and soups, where the bulbs become silkier.
The bittersweet flavor of fennel could also add the right kick to your sauce!
Although many squashes could work as fairly successful substitutes of cucumbers, the crookneck variety is the most popular cucumber replacement when it comes to squashes.
They’re easy to grow at home and work in a large variety of recipes because of their versatility. They’re easily recognizable because of their bottle-like shape and they mostly grow in summer.
The crookneck squash can be eaten raw, steamed, stewed, grilled, breaded, or fried. It’s a popular ingredient for casseroles, but it can also replace cucumber in a nutritious green smoothie.
13. Cucumber essential oil
Cucumber oil is obtained by cold-pressing the seeds at the center of the cucumber. The seeds contain a substantial amount of oil, which has many health benefits and it’s used for many different purposes, from cooking to skincare.
In fact, cucumber essential oil is a famous detoxifying agent for the skin because it cleanses our pores and fights free radicals, which are responsible for the aging process.
In the kitchen, cucumber essential oil is a healthy and time-saving alternative to cucumbers. Use cucumber oil if you want to give your recipe the fresh taste of cucumbers without having to go through the preparation of the actual fruit.
How to choose a cucumber substitute.
When preparing salads, most raw alternatives to cucumber are interchangeable without big differences. For cooking recipes, it is important to do research beforehand in order to make an informed choice.
Although many vegetables have rewarding outcomes when cooked in the most common ways, some vegetables like zucchini aren’t ideal for boiling or long-cooking processes, because they become mushy and will ruin the texture of your dish.
Another fundamental thing to consider is that the secret to a successful recipe starts with choosing the freshest raw products. For vegetables and fruits, we can judge the book by its cover.
It’s important to choose seasonal products that look good, meaning they have shiny and firm skin, are devoid of unusual spots or blemishes, and do not feel spongy or too soft to the touch.
There are rare exceptions to these rules, but when in doubt do look up the specific product in advance.