Basically a quick pickle, this old-fashioned cucumber onion salad is a delicious low calorie salad that can be made ahead. Try it as a side or even on a sandwich!
Why you’ll love it: This salad is easy, inexpensive to make, versatile and delicious!
How long it takes: 15 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: sharp knife or mandoline, mixing bowl, measuring utensils
Thinly sliced cucumbers and onions are marinated in a simple vinegar dressing and topped with aromatic fresh dill in this very uncomplicated salad. With just five ingredients (not counting salt, pepper, and water), cucumber onion salad is flavorful, versatile, and so, so easy.
While you may have cucumbers aplenty growing in your garden right now, this salad really is great for any time of the year. Cucumbers are always available and quite inexpensive.
In the hot months of summer, cucumber salad tastes great alongside grilled chicken or steak. It’s refreshingly tangy and light, with no oil added. If you have a nice ripe tomato, slice it and top each slice with an artfully arranged spoonful of cucumber and onion salad for a simple low calorie salad.
And in any season, enjoy it as a topping on bun sandwiches. A few slices add a nice crisp bite to pulled pork, burgers, or Cuban sandwiches. Vegetarian? Try this salad on a homemade black bean burger.
With so many uses, you’ll always want to have a bowl of this salad in your fridge.
About This Cucumber Salad
This recipe may remind you of the old-fashioned cucumber and onions in vinegar that your grandma may have served. Quite honestly, this recipe has been around for awhile and different versions can be found in many cultures.
To help you get started, I’ll run through the recipe here and give you a few tips.
You’ll find a printable recipe card with measurements, directions, and notes at the end of the post.
What You’ll Need
- Cucumber: Look for a tender-skinned variety such as English cucumbers, hot-house, seedless, or Persian. If you use a thicker skinned cucumber, you’ll want to peel it and remove some of the seeds, which can be bitter and tend to water the salad down.
- Onion: Any type of onion will work but sweet onions won’t overpower your salad. Red onions are also good.
- Vinegar: Plain ol’ white distilled vinegar is all you need. Other types of vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar may be used but they will change the flavor of this salad.
- Dill: Fresh dill adds so much piquant flavor, there’s really nothing like it. If fresh isn’t an option, substitute dried dill but only use 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons of fresh. I don’t really measure the dill too carefully — I love it so much, the more the better!
- Sugar, Salt, Pepper: Simple seasonings that round out the marinade, they’re basic but essential.
How To Make Cucumber Onion Salad
Begin by prepping the cucumber and onion. Wash, dry, and trim the ends of both. With a sharp knife, very thinly slice the cucumber and onion. A mandoline makes really quick work of this if you have one. Just be careful of your fingers.
Really, the thickness of the slices is totally personal. Some people prefer thin slices, others thicker slices. Thinner slices do absorb more of the marinade.
Next, mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to contain the salad. Doing it this way saves you a dirty dish! Whisk the marinade until the sugar and salt are mostly dissolved.
Add the cucumber and onion slices to the marinade.
Stir well, cover and refrigerate for an hour or so. Stir in dill before serving, and your salad is ready to serve!
Serving tip: If you’re not plating the salad, I like to scoop the salad out of the marinade and put just the cucumber and onions slices into a serving bowl.
Like quick pickles?
This cucumber onion salad will keep about three days in the fridge. Any longer than that and the cucumbers will lose their crispness. Any time you notice mold, cloudiness, or a bad smell, the salad should be discarded immediately.
If you’re used to making canned pickles, you may recall soaking the cucumbers overnight in brine. It helps draw out the excess moisture. This step really isn’t necessary with quick pickles.
Make It Your Own
- Replace the dill with a different fresh herb, such as basil, oregano, parsley, mint, or lemon balm. Be adventurous! Different herbs will add a distinctively unique flavor to this simple salad. Combinations of herbs are great, too. My favorite is dill, parsley, and just a few chives.
- Add thinly sliced radishes or carrots for a more colorful salad.
- Looking for a creamy cucumber salad? Try this reduced calorie cucumber ribbon salad with yogurt herb dressing.
- Like things a bit spicier? Try Korean pickles, an easy quick pickle with spicy gochugaru (Korean red pepper) and garlic.
Make-Ahead Ideas and Storage
These marinated cucumber and onion slices are an ideal make-ahead salad. The salad should be made at least 60 minutes before serving but it will keep for three days in the fridge. It actually gets a little better as it marinates. Store it in a tightly covered container.
Store leftover salad in the brine for best results.
- ½ cup cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1 pound)
- ½ red or sweet onion, cut into quarters and very thinly sliced (about ⅛-inch thick)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pepper, until salt and sugar are mostly dissolved. Add cucumber and onion, stir to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 60 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- When ready to serve, drain liquid, stir in dill, and serve immediately (see note).
- If not serving all the cucumbers at once, use a slotted spoon to take out desired portion, leaving the rest in the liquid.
- Cucumber onion salad will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Add thinly sliced radishes and/or carrots for a more colorful salad.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.