Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

August 13, 2015
7 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

This is a cross between a pickle and a salad, adapted from a pickled cucumber and shallot recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables. It's about as simple as it gets as far as cucumber salads go, though it does require a brief salting, a step that makes all the difference in the final salad—salting ensures the cucumbers will better soak up the dressing. I like this salad on its own, though it is delicious atop toasts slathered with hummus, too. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 2 cucumbers (about a pound)
  • 1 small red onion or a few shallots
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar such as white balsamic, white wine, or rice
  • Fresh herbs such as basil, dill, mint or parsley
  • Olive oil (optional)
  1. Peel cucumbers. Slice one cucumber crosswise and taste. If it tastes bitter, halve the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then slice the cucumber into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick pieces. Otherwise, slice the cucumber into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick rounds. Repeat with remaining cucumber.
  2. Peel the onion or shallots, cut in half, and slice as thinly as possible. Place them in a large bowl with the cucumbers and toss with the salt. Let sit for 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse the cucumbers and onions, drain, and taste for salt. If they are too salty, rinse and drain again. Place in a clean towel and press lightly to dry. Transfer cucumbers to a clean bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Toss with herbs. Taste. Often I find I don't even need to add oil, but add a splash if you wish. Serve. Note: If you want to make this ahead, add the herbs just before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Christine Connor Williams
    Christine Connor Williams
  • FoodFanaticToo
  • catalinalacruz
  • inpatskitchen
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

27 Reviews

Alyssa October 9, 2023
A simple, fantastic recipe. I used one teaspoon of salt and it was plenty. Chianti balsamic, olive oil and fresh mint made for a lovely combination. Thanks!
KarenRaven August 17, 2020
Didn’t have kosher salt do used 1tsp of corse sea salt — perfect!
pattiebrown52 July 16, 2020
Ali, I made this salad this week to go with a quick dinner. I think I over salted it and will cut back next time, but we really enjoyed it and ate the whole bowl! Another winning recipe!
Alexandra S. July 17, 2020
So nice to hear this, Pattie! I haven't made this one in ages, but I will re-visit it soon ... it is the season!
shortnsweet October 15, 2017
i think this is fabulous with cilantro--i also whisked a little bit of pepper sauce (on the hot/sweet end of the spectrum) in with the vinegar.
Christine C. May 16, 2016
I plan to try this soon. Do you have a favorite herb or combination of herbs you use in this?
Alexandra S. May 16, 2016
Hi Christine,

Dill is probably my favorite, but you have to be a dill fan to use it here — some people really don't like dill. Otherwise, I'll just use a little bit of one: mint is nice if the leaves are tender (the mint i've been buying recently has been too tough), basil is always nice, chives are nice, too.
Alina November 17, 2015
WOW! I have had something similar to this at a restaurant before and always wanted to try making it. I cannot wait to try this recipe, it looks delicious and healthy. To make for a large group of people do you just double the recipe? Thanks!
Alexandra S. November 17, 2015
Yes, I would double the cucumbers and onion, but maybe don't double the salt — I think it will be too salty. Adjust with more salt at the end if necessary. Hope you enjoy it!
denise&food August 21, 2015
Loved this salad!
Alexandra S. August 24, 2015
Yay! so happy to hear this.
FoodFanaticToo August 17, 2015
Is the salting time really 45 minutes? My salad was overly salty, as no matter how long I rinsed the cucumbers and onions, it would not wash away!
Alexandra S. August 17, 2015
Yes! And oh no! How many cucumbers were you using?
FoodFanaticToo August 17, 2015
I measured out a pound, and used 2 tsp salt. I will make it again and try half of the salt for 45 minutes; thanks!
Alexandra S. August 17, 2015
Oh, bummer. I'm sorry. I find that the cucumbers are definitely seasoned after the 45 minutes and one rinsing usually is enough to rid them of any excess. I hope you have better luck next time! Also, a pinch of sugar (not that I'm suggesting you mask the saltiness) might help balance the salt a bit.
Bigjim August 1, 2019
I find following a recipe's salt amount is counter productive. First, use coarse Kosher salt and grab one big pinch and then toss and let it alone.
catalinalacruz August 16, 2015
I've recently noticed on another recipe the substitution of red onion for shallots. I'm not too clear on the diffence between the two. Can you help?
Alexandra S. August 16, 2015
Sure thing. Shallots are sweet like red onions but don't have quite the same bite. Chez Panisse Vegetables describes them as having a "flavor that is more intense than that of sweet onions, and at the same time less hot." I love using shallots in a salad dressing — macerating them in vinegar with salt, then whisking in olive oil to taste. Mostly because shallots are more expensive (and a teensy bit more of a pain to peel), I use red onion when a recipe calls for sautéeing a lot of onions or even using them raw in a salad. They can be used interchangeably though shallots maybe have a slightly more refined flavor if that makes sense.
catalinalacruz August 16, 2015
Thank you, Alexandra!

Alexandra S. August 16, 2015
Of course!
inpatskitchen August 15, 2015
LOVE this salad! I make a similar one that has son's only request when he comes to town:
Alexandra S. August 15, 2015
Oh similar! I have a feeling I would love a little sugar in here.
WHB August 16, 2015
Both of these wonderfully light and zesty salads remind me of an Asian preparation that includes salt, rice vinegar, sugar, chiles of some kind, and sometimes a bit of fish sauce. I don't recall salting the cucumbers. But all these flavors are great and so fabulous for these hot August days. Thank you!
amysarah August 16, 2015
My cuke salad (via my mother) also includes a little sugar - just enough to make it slightly sweet - onion and always fresh dill. Got to have dill. One of the simplest and best summer salads ever.
Alexandra S. August 16, 2015
Yes, dill and cucumbers are such a good match. Dill would be wonderful here!
gandalf August 14, 2015
Don't you simply re-hydrate the cucumbers when you rinse them off as you describe in Step #3? Would this be a problem if your reason for salting the cucumbers is to remove as much water as possible? Just curious.
Alexandra S. August 15, 2015
You would think that rinsing would bring more liquid into the picture, which would dilute the dressing, but it doesn't. I also added an important step: dry off the cucumbers lightly before adding the vinegar. This will prevent any excess water from diluting the dressing. It definitely is important to rinse the cucumbers, however, because they will taste too salty if you don't. Hope that makes sense! I always thought steps like salting seemed like too much work or unnecessary, but I've found it really helps not only bring out the flavor of cucumbers but also helps them soak up dressing.