Weeknight Beef Donburi Topped with Quick Pickled Cucumber – Zenwise Weeknight Beef Donburi Topped with Quick Pickled Cucumber – Zenwise
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Weeknight Beef Donburi Topped with Quick Pickled Cucumber

Donburi is a staple of Japanese cuisine. It refers to a large bowl filled with rice and topped with a medley of meat, veggies or fish simmered in a soy-based sauce.

This version of Donburi features ground beef, peas, fresh ginger, and pickled cucumber spooned over steamed rice. It’s a casual, hearty meal that is simple to make and ready to serve from fridge to table in under 40 minutes.


Why We Love These Ingredients

Ginger is among the healthiest (and most delicious) spices on the planet. It’s been used for centuries as a remedy for nausea, indigestion, and even morning sickness. Modern research shows that ginger is not only an effective digestive aid. It also can reduce joint aches, balance your blood sugar, and improve brain function.

Rice vinegar, an Asian staple made from fermented rice, contains essential amino acids critical for healthy immune function.  But that’s not all. Research shows that adding a tablespoon of vinegar to your daily health regimen can increase satiety and reduce your appetite.  It can also support blood sugar balance and reduce glucose spikes after meals.

In addition, rice vinegar supports healthy blood pressure, protects against pathogens and acts as a natural detoxifier.

Cucumbers may be considered a vegetable, but they’re actually a fruit. They’re a reliable source of fiber plus they’re 96% water, which makes them ideal for increasing hydration, supporting smooth digestion, and preventing constipation. Cucumbers are also packed with health enhancing antioxidants and essential nutrients like Vitamins C and K.

Our quick pickle recipe uses Japanese cucumber, a slender, dark green variety with a thinner skin and fewer seeds.  It’s refreshing crunch and mild flavor adds a tasty touch to our Donburi.


No sake? No problem.

You’ve probably heard of sake, the traditional Japanese wine made from fermented rice. But if you don’t have sake and need it in a pinch, you can substitute dry white wine or vermouth. 

For a non-alcoholic version, mix 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar with 3 tablespoons water. Add a pinch or two of sugar to help balance out the vinegar tang.

White grape juice is another alcohol-free option. It has a sweet yet refreshing taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to give it a bit of a kick.

Ready? Let’s start cooking.


Donburi Topped with Quick Pickled Cucumber

Active Time: 25 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Servings: 4



  • 1 pound ground beef [85% - 93% lean]
  • 1/3 cup sake [see substitutions above]
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 TBSP grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 5 cups hot cooked rice
  • Pickled cucumber [recipe below] for garnish
  • 1 Roma Tomato, thinly sliced for garnish



  1. Stir together ground beef, sake, soy sauce, water, and sugar in a medium-size, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high, stirring often to break up large lumps of beef, 5 minutes.
  2. Add peas and ginger to the beef mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly evaporated and beef is no longer pink but is still moist, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Divide rice evenly among 4 large bowls. Spoon beef mixture over each. Garnish sliced tomato and pickled cucumber [recipe below].


Quick Pickled Cucumber

This quick pickle recipe comes together in just 30 minutes and is the perfect partner to our Donburi dinner. You can use this quick pickling brine for any vegetable including carrots, radishes, onions, or daikon.


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Japanese cucumber peeled and sliced
  • 1 pinch salt


Mix sugar, salt, vinegar, and water until sugar is dissolved. Pour pickling liquid over sliced cucumbers, seal, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Keep Leftover vegetables in the liquid in the fridge.



Recipe sources




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