Try These 3 Cucumber Salad Recipes for Your Next Picnic or BBQ
Watermelon and feta, sour cream and chives, and chili oil and scallions make these cucumbers sing.
Cucumbers are having a moment right now. TikTok, for one, can’t get over the way in which Kendall Jenner slices them. Perhaps to compensate, users are dishing out the most innovative cucumber recipes, smashing them, turning them into caterpillar-like accordions, and even pickling them in Sprite.
It’s easy to understand why this water-filled vegetable reaches its peak in the warmer months. Cucumbers are hydrating, crunchy, and as absorbent as a sponge, making them excellent vessels for marinades. Plus, they’re best when they’re cold. So make these recipes, toss them into Tupperware, and enjoy at your next summer outing.
Kari Heron, the blogger behind Chef and Steward, was first introduced to this recipe when she moved to Dubai. “Over the many years I lived there, I developed a strong affinity for feta and mint, which are heavily featured in Levant cuisine,” she says. “The Western mind cannot easily comprehend the combination, but trust me your taste buds will thank you for it.”
For this recipe, you’ll need watermelon, cucumbers, and feta cheese. The dressing is a simple lemon-olive oil combo, with both dried and fresh mint for a greater depth of flavor. “Because watermelon is lower in carbs, it is also a great way to satisfy a sweeter craving while watching sugar consumption,” Heron explains. “Pairing the fruit with the protein-rich feta and good quality extra virgin olive oil slows down the release of sugars into the bloodstream.”
As for presentation, Heron likes to cut the watermelon into cubes and either make cucumber ribbons with a mandolin or slice them very thinly. Simply crumble the feta by hand and chop the mint on top or use the small leaves whole.
“This is great as a meal or on the side of grilled meats or seafood, brightened with a squeeze of lemon,” Heron says. “Grilled skewers are great to pack for a picnic and so is this salad. Just separate the ingredients in separate containers and assemble on site.”
A creamy cucumber salad is a classic. Katie Workman, cookbook author and founder of The Mom 100, loves using this one to add freshness to any menu. Cucumber and red onion slices get tossed in sour cream, along with fresh lemon juice, dill, and chives.
“Feel free to play with this recipe: Sub in one cup of sliced scallions, white and green parts, for the red onions if you prefer,” Cookman says “You might also think of adding a cup of cooked corn kernels to this for a summery twist. The crumbled feta or goat cheese at the end is optional—think about the rest of your menu, and then decide if adding some cheese is a good idea, or overkill.”
Workman likes to use baby cucumbers in her salads, “which are now so much more readily available than they were even a few years ago,” she says. But you can also opt for regular cucumbers. Just slice them in half lengthwise, seed them, and cut into half-moons. “If the skin of your cucumber is quite thin and tender, you don’t have to peel them,” she says. “Otherwise, peeling the cucumber makes for a more delicate salad.” Workman loves to serve this recipe with a Greek Turkey Burger.
Smashed cucumber salad
The menu at Justin Lee’s “kind of Chinese, also vegan” restaurant in New York City, Fat Choy, wouldn’t be the same without his smashed cucumbers. Lee thinks of it nostalgically as the Chinese version of Shake ‘n Bake. “Instead of shaking bread crumbs with pork chops, we would smash cucumbers in plastic bags,” he says.
According to Lee, a great cucumber salad is one that plays off of the cucumber’s refreshing nature. “So ours is a little sweet, it’s a little creamy, it’s a little spicy,” he says. Lee prefers Persian cucumbers for this recipe, as they’re thin skinned and often uniform in size. But English, or hot house, cucumbers will work just fine.
The team at Fat Choy uses the back of a cleaver to smash the cucumbers—though you can also use the back of the knife—to achieve a hasselback shape and give the cucumbers more surface area to pick up flavor. “We wanted that dressing to get in and really penetrate, and for the cucumber, which is wet, to actually pick up the dressing instead of just having it flip right off, which is pretty normal for a cucumber if you don't marinate it.”
Once the cucumbers are smashed, they get tossed in salt and left in the fridge for up to 24 hours, which “helps remove some of the liquid that’s in the cucumber, so it kind of concentrates the flavor,” Lee says. Then you’ll toss them in a mixture of tahini, lime juice, miso, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil.
Lee tops his smashed cucumbers with chili oil, balsamic vinegar, scallions, and sesame seeds, but also suggests experimenting with crispy shallots, or anything else “on the wave of bread crumbs or croutons—a textured foil that can also absorb some of that dressing,” he says. “You can almost make it into a panzanella if you have some day-old bread.” Lee’s successful take-out model proves that these cucumbers travel well, but you can always bring the sauces on the side to shake everything up at your outdoor party.
Fat Choy Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
- 6 medium Persian cucumbers
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- ¼ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1. Cut cucumbers in fourths, lengthwise, smash with the spine of a knife in a hasselback pattern, then slice on a steep bias into 2-3” pieces. Toss cucumbers with 1 tsp. salt in a bowl. Set aside for at least 1 hour in the fridge or up to 24 hours. The cucumbers will have released some water, drain well before assembling the salad.
2. Whisk garlic, tahini, lime juice, miso, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, and sugar in a bowl, and toss with cucumbers.
3. Plate the cucumber salad, top with chili oil, balsamic vinegar, scallions, and sesame seeds.