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What vegetable is similar to cucumber?

Cucumbers are a popular vegetable known for their mild, refreshing flavor and crunchy texture. They are cylindrical in shape with dark green skin and moisture-rich flesh. Many people enjoy eating cucumbers raw in salads, making them into pickles, or using them as a healthy, low-calorie snack. But cucumbers aren’t the only vegetable with these characteristics. There are several other vegetables that are botanically and culinarily similar to the cucumber.

Botanical Relatives of Cucumber

Botanically speaking, cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squash, melons, and gourds. Some of its closest relatives in this family include:

  • Armenian cucumber
  • Lemon cucumber
  • Persian cucumber
  • Pickling cucumber
  • Squash (summer squash varieties like zucchini)
  • Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew)
  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkins
  • Gourds

These cucurbit vegetables share similarities with cucumber in their vine growth habit, flowering characteristics, and nutrient content. They also have the same edible seeds and moist flesh when harvested at an immature stage. However, some varieties like winter squash and pumpkins are allowed to fully mature and develop hardened rinds.

Cucumber Substitutes

In addition to its botanical relatives, there are a few other vegetables from different families that make suitable cucumber substitutes based on texture, taste, and uses:

Zucchini

Zucchini is one of the most direct cucumber replacements. Like cucumbers, zucchini is a moisture-rich summer squash that is harvested when young and tender. It has edible green skin and pale, crunchy flesh with a very mild flavor. Zucchini can be easily substituted for cucumbers in most recipes, although the texture may be slightly firmer.

Daikon Radish

Daikon is a large, white East Asian radish variety. When harvested young, daikon has a crisp, juicy texture similar to cucumber. It makes an excellent cucumber substitute in refreshing salads, sushi rolls, and pickles. Daikon has a slightly spicier flavor than cucumber but provides a similar crunch.

Jicama

Jicama is a root vegetable that originates from Mexico. It has brown, papery skin and crunchy, juicy white flesh. Jicama can be used raw as a substitute for cucumber sticks or slices. Its starchy, mildly sweet flavor sets it apart from cucumber’s vegetal taste, but the refreshing crisp texture is comparable.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers can be used as a replacement for cucumbers in certain dishes. Green, red, or yellow bell peppers have a juicy, crisp flesh when raw. They work well for dip scoops, veggie trays, cold salads, and sandwiches in place of cucumber slices. Keep in mind green bell peppers have a slight bitterness that cucumbers lack.

Nutritional Comparison

Cucumbers and their vegetable counterparts also have nutritional similarities and differences worth considering:

Vegetable Calories Carbs Protein Fiber Vitamin K Vitamin C Potassium
Cucumber 16 4 grams 1 gram 1 gram 38% DV 13% DV 13% DV
Zucchini 18 4 grams 2 grams 1 gram 15% DV 35% DV 8% DV
Daikon Radish 18 4 grams 1 gram 2 grams 3% DV 64% DV 6% DV
Jicama 38 9 grams 1 gram 6 grams 5% DV 44% DV 7% DV
Bell Pepper 20 5 grams 1 gram 2 grams 12% DV 128% DV 4% DV

As shown, cucumbers and their replacements are all low-calorie vegetables. Cucumbers, zucchini, daikon, and jicama are all very high in water content. Jicama and bell peppers are slightly higher in carbohydrates and calories than cucumber. All provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but the specific nutrient content can vary.

Pickling Cucumber Replacements

Cucumbers commonly used for pickling are smaller, firmer varieties optimized for brining. Some good stand-ins include:

  • Pickling gherkins
  • Baby Persian cucumbers
  • Kirby cucumbers
  • Small zucchini
  • Daikon radish
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Jicama
  • Cauliflower florets

The vegetables should be sliced or cut into spears or chunks before brining. Focus on firm, compact vegetables vs. watery varieties. Refrigerator or quick-brined recipes work best for crisp texture.

Cooked Cucumber Substitutes

When cucumbers are called for in cooked dishes, try these vegetable swaps:

  • Zucchini
  • Summer squash
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Tofu

Sauteed, roasted, or grilled, these vegetables can replicate the texture and moisture cucumbers add to warm dishes. Adjust seasoning to taste when substituting.

Conclusion

From a botanical perspective, cucumbers have many close relatives in the cucurbit family including squash, melons, and gourds. Zucchini and summer squash make the most convenient replacements in terms of flavor, texture, and appearance. Beyond botanical relatives, daikon, jicama, bell peppers, and other crisp, water-rich vegetables can also substitute for fresh cucumbers in recipes. Each will bring its own unique nutrients and sensory qualities. Consider the cooked or raw preparation when substituting as well. With so many viable options, there are plenty of ways to replicate the cool cucumber when needed.