Everyone should have a stash of easy recipes. You know, the kind that you can throw together in 10 minutes. This super simple cucumber dill salad is just that. Fresh cucumbers come together with vibrant dill and sharp red onions in a honey-sweetened vinaigrette.
What is it?
Cucumbers are summer vegetables in the Curcubit family, and are related to winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and watermelon.
They have a cool energy and mellow, light flavor. Because their flavor is so mild, they're a perfect partner for all sorts of vibrant, bright ingredients. Throughout the world, you'll find cucumber salads.
You'll find versions of Cucumber Salad in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Eastern European versions typically partner cucumbers with cultured dairy and fresh dill, while many versions from Mediterranean traditions add tomatoes.
Popular versions in Asia partner cucumbers with chilies, vinegar, and sometimes sesame or soy. Korean cucumber salad is similar to cucumber kimchi, using gochugaru, garlic, and green onions.
What's in it?
While versions vary from recipe to recipe, most will include alliums, fresh herbs or chilies, and a source of acid and a source of salt. In this version, you'll partner cucumber slices with thinly sliced red onion, apple cider vinegar, plenty of fresh dill, and just a touch of honey.
- Cucumbers are the foundation of the recipe. Use firm cucumbers with thin skin. Just about any cucumber will work including English cucumbers or Persian and Armenian varieties. Avoid pickling cucumbers.
- Red onions bright a sharpness to the recipe. You can easily swap in shallots for the red onions if you prefer, and green onions can work in a pinch.
- Apple cider vinegar gives the cucumber dill salad recipe a much-needed punch of acid, and it partners well with honey which provides the right balance of sweetness.
- Fresh dill is the prominent flavor in the recipe. It gives the salad a gorgeous color, complementing the soft pale green of sliced cucumbers.
- Black pepper is a natural partner for dill. For the biggest impact, grind the black peppercorns right before you serve the salad.
This cucumber salad only takes about ten minutes to make. You slice, toss everything in a large bowl, mix and serve. Easy.
While the recipe is a cinch to make, there are still a few tips you'll want to keep in mind.
- Peel the cucumbers to prevent bitterness. If you know your cucumbers will be sweet all the way through, from skin to seed, then it's fine to keep the skin on.
- Salt the cucumbers and let them sit for about 10 minutes in a strainer. Cucumbers have a very high water content, and your salad may be too watery if you skip this step.
- Go heavy on the dill. Where other versions of this recipe call for only a tablespoon or two of fresh dill, I'd encourage you to use a fair amount more - up to ¼ cup. Dill is the primary flavor of this cucumber salad, so you don't want to skimp.
Cucumber Salad Variations
Switch up the herbs. While this version of cucumber salad calls for dill, you can also add whichever herbs you have on hand. Tender, leafy herbs work well for the salad, so choose mint, parsley, tarragon, chives, or a combination of them.
For a Greek-inspired cucumber salad recipe, swap 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar, and add ½ cup yogurt. Add some crumbled feta cheese for a little more substance.
Add chopped fresh tomatoes and plenty of parsley for a Tomato and Cucumber Salad Recipe.
You can keep this cucumber dill salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes, the salad keeps well, and you can make it up to 3 days in advance.
English and Persian cucumbers work particularly well in this recipe. The pale-skinned, serpentine Armenian cucumber is also a nice option. Avoid pickling cucumbers as their flesh tends to be a little too starchy for this recipe.
For this cucumber dill salad, you'll peel the cucumbers first, and then slice them thinly crosswise into rounds about ⅛ inch thick. A mandoline works perfectly for slicing the cucumbers, but a sharp knife and skilled hand is fine, too.
If the cucumber is mature, the seeds may be tough or bitter. If you taste the cucumber and find that to be the case, peel it, and then slice it in half length-wise, exposing the seeds. Scoop out and discard the seeds, and then slice the cucumber halves thinly cross-wise into half-moons.
If the skin of your cucumbers tastes bitter, peel them. If the cucumber is sweet all the way through and the skin thin and pleasant to eat, it's fine to keep it on.
Some cucumbers have bitter-tasting skin. The bitterness comes from a compound found in cucumbers and similar plants called curcubitacin.
Weather patterns, age at harvest, and other factors can increase the bitterness in cucumbers. Dry growing conditions, nutrient-poor soil, and lack of sun can produce a thick, bitter peel.
For this reason, you might have better luck finding sweet cucumbers from a local, organic grower at your farmer's market than at the grocery store.