This quick and easy cucumber salad recipe makes for a delicious side dish, but it’s also great for topping on sandwiches. Crunchy vegetables are thinly sliced and marinated in a flavorful sweet and tangy dressing.
Cucumbers make the perfect vegetable side dish as they go well with just about any meal. This long-shaped ingredient is high in fiber and moisture which makes it neutral-tasting, but easy to infuse new flavors. This recipe includes a simple brine that adds tangy pickling in just one hour!
Marinating the thin-cut pieces with pungent red onions, vinegar, honey, and salt adds a sweet and tangy pickled taste. The longer the vegetables sit, the tangier they become, making it a great make-ahead dish. Just slice, stir, and soak! It’s a great refreshing summer salad to serve with barbecued meats, or layer a few on top of burgers and pulled pork sandwiches.
How to make cucumber salad
Cucumbers and onions are marinated in an acidic vinegar and salt solution. Honey adds a balance to the pungent taste of the brine. Typically the vinegar mixture is boiled first which helps mellow out the vinegar and kill any bacteria for long term preservation and storage of the vegetables.
However, since this dish was developed to serve the same day and kept no longer than a week, spoilage isn’t as much of a concern. Plus, I wanted the vinegar to be as potent as possible to flavor the vegetables. Allow the ingredients to soak for an hour, drain, and then toss with fresh dill right before serving.
Pick the right cucumber
Use English cucumbers for this salad recipe. These long and slender gourds can grow to a foot long, perfect for making a big batch. I like to use them because their skins are tender, no peeling required. Keeping the skin on helps retain the crisp texture better during the marination process, past several days. Also, the seeds are very small and not pulpy, so you don’t have to remove them.
Properly slicing the vegetables
The perfect width to cut the cucumbers is about 1/8-inch thick. Wafer-thin slices will become too watery and not stay as crunchy. Too thick and the dressing won’t infuse fast enough if enjoyed within an hour of preparation. Use a chef’s knife or a mandoline grater for a fast method to make even slices.
Pickling made easy
This recipe requires a little patience to marinate the vegetables in a vinegar mixture for maximum flavor. Don’t worry, in just an hour the taste change is noticeable. I use a combination of white vinegar, water, honey, salt, and pepper to soak the cucumbers and onion. It takes about an hour for a quick pickle flavor.
Make sure to stir the vegetables after 30 minutes, to ensure even contact with the tangy brine. I keep the salad in the refrigerator during pickling so that the vegetables stay cold and snappy when ready to eat.
Making ahead of time
This cucumber salad can be made up to 5 days in advance. I recommend transferring it to an airtight container with the dressing. The pickled flavors get stronger each day, however, the cell walls will begin to soften and become more flexible. I find that you still get a little crunch though.
What to serve with the salad
How vinegar affects taste and appearance
The acetic acid in vinegar flavors the vegetables while preventing spoilage for a short period. You can use any type of vinegar to make a cucumber salad. Distilled white vinegar was selected for the cleanest and neutral taste. White wine or unsweetened rice wine vinegar has a similar profile. If using apple cider or red wine vinegar, the taste will be more complex, but change the color of the salad to a darker shade.
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- ½ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 pound English cucumber, cut into ⅛-inch thick slices
- 1 cup red onion, cut into ⅛-inch thick slices
- In a medium bowl whisk together vinegar, water, honey, salt, and black pepper until salt is dissolved, some larger grains may remain.
- Cut the cucumbers and red onion into ⅛-inch thick slices.
- Add the sliced onions and cucumbers to the vinegar mixture, stir to combine.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 60 minutes, stirring halfway through. The salad can be refrigerated and stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Right before serving drain the vegetables. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Stir in the fresh dill then transfer to a serving bowl.
- Recipe Yield: 3 cups
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Sweetener substitution: Granulated sugar or pure maple syrup can be used instead of honey.
- Vinegar substitution: White wine, rice wine, or champagne vinegar can be used instead of white vinegar. Apple cider or red wine vinegar can be used but will yield some color change of the vegetable.
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