This tomato and cucumber salad recipe highlights the best of summer produce. It’s easy to make, uses the best of seasonal summer vegetables, and doesn’t require any cooking. The whole salad comes together in less than 10 minutes.
What is it?
These easy summer side dishes feature tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and fresh herbs. In addition, you need onions, garlic, olive oil, herbs, and something sour like lemon juice or vinegar.
You’ll find versions of this salad throughout the Mediterranean, including North Africa, the Levant, and Persia. There’s fattoush, which includes bread. Iran brings us salad shirazi which often includes sumac, a crimson-colored spice with a delightfully astringent flavor. In Turkey, you’ll find çoban salatası, which often includes pomegranate and coriander.
Why this recipe works
It all comes together in a single bowl, so clean-up is super fast.
It’ll take less than 10 minutes to chop your vegetables and prepare the salad.
Fresh lemon juice brings the perfect amount of acidity to bring balance to the tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs.
It's an excellent foundational recipe that allows plenty of flexibility. Want more protein? Add some. Is your herb garden going wild? Switch up the parsley for your favorite herb. There are endless riffs for this simple, vibrant salad.
Naturally, there are just two primary ingredients to this recipe: cucumbers and tomatoes. You will also need onions or garlic, olive oil, herbs, and something sour like lemon juice or vinegar.
- Roma tomatoes and plum tomatoes work best for this salad. They’re meaty, firm, and have less water and seeds. Cherry tomatoes can be a fine substitute, too, if that’s what’s available.
- Cucumbers give the salad a beautiful crunch. English cucumbers are widely available and make a good choice, but small Persian cucumbers are also nice. You can also look for heirloom varietals, such as the Armenian Yard-long or the creamy Dragon’s Egg cucumber.
- Onion gives the salad a pleasant bite. Red onion is my favorite for its sharpness, but white onion also works. Green onions and garlic scapes can be nice additions, too.
- Flat-leaf parsley gives the salad a pleasant, fresh flavor. Other popular herbs for cucumber tomato salad include dill, mint, and cilantro.
- Olive oil brings all the ingredients together. A sharp, peppery olive oil can give the salad a beautiful, layered flavor.
- Fresh lemon juice brings a pleasant note of acidity, although white or red wine vinegar are excellent in the salad, too.
Where to find real extra virgin olive oil.
Graza offers single-origin, hand-harvested olive oil from Spain that's perfect for this recipe. They offer buttery, lightly flavored olive oil for sautéing and a more robust green oil for drizzling as a finishing oil.
How to Make It
Tomato and cucumber salad is just about the easiest summer vegetable recipe you can make. You need a sharp knife, a spoon, a cutting board, and a large mixing bowl.
- Prepare the vegetables by coring and chopping the tomatoes, chopping the cucumbers, and dicing the onion. Aim for pieces that are about ¼- to ½-inch big.
- Chop the parsley and any other fresh herbs you plan to use. Then add them to the mixing bowl with the vegetables.
- Drizzle the vegetables and herbs with olive oil and lemon juice. Add a generous sprinkle of salt as you like it.
- Only make this recipe in summer, when the cucumbers are sweetest and the tomatoes red and ripe. Out of season, these vegetables taste lackluster and flat, and so will your salad.
- Chop all your vegetables in one uniform size. Your salad will have a beautiful, consistent texture and well-balanced flavor in each bite.
- Core your tomatoes and get rid of the seeds. The tomato seeds will give the salad a watery consistency, so it’s best to discard them.
- Peel the cucumber if the skin is bitter. If the skin isn’t bitter, keep it on for color.
- Remove the cucumber seeds because they can make your salad bitter. To do this, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds using a metal spoon.
- Stir gently so that you don’t bruise the tomatoes.
It can make a light main dish. Just add feta cheese, kalamata olives, cooked chicken, and serve with flat bread or focaccia.
Variations and Substitutions
Use a variety of herbs. Fresh dill, mint, and basil can bring new elements of flavor to the salad. Use about ½ cup of herbs in total, or they’ll begin to mask the flavor of the tomatoes and cucumbers. In addition to these herbs, purslane, and borage flowers are excellent additions.
Kick up the flavor with spices. Salt and pepper are a classic combination, but adding citrusy sumac or freshly ground coriander can be delicious, too. Other spices that work well include cumin, caraway, and celery seed.
Instead of lemon juice, try another source of acidity. Lime is also delicious, as are red and white wine vinegar. Pomegranate molasses, with its sweet, tangy flavor, is nice, too.
Add some peppers to the salad, including sweet bell peppers or sharp and piquant chiles.
Add a little protein. Salty-sour feta cheese and grilled chicken are delicious in the salad and add a good boost of protein.
Other delicious additions include briny olives, day-old bread torn in pieces, and chickpeas or beans.
Love fresh summer salads? Try these next.
How long does it keep?
The salad will keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for about 3 days.
Can I freeze it?
No. Most fresh tomato recipes do not freeze well.
Can I make it ahead of time?
Not really. It’s best to enjoy the salad shortly after making it. However, you can store it in the refrigerator for a few days. The texture of the tomatoes changes with storage.
Why should I bother with coring the tomato?
When preparing tomatoes for salad, it’s best to core them and remove the seeds. The tomato core is liquid and can make your salad watery.