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Simple & Vibrant Tomato and Cucumber Salad

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Recipes

Tomato and Cucumber Salad is a light, refreshing side dish that’s perfect for the warmer weather of Spring and Summer. This seasonal recipe uses a slightly sweet lemon vinaigrette to make the natural, fresh flavors of the veggies shine. It’s an excellent choice to bring to a cookout; especially for those looking for an alternative to the heavier grilling season classics of potato salad and macaroni salad.

Close up photo of Cucumber and Tomato Salad in a small bowl. in the background is a small bowl of dressing and another bowl of Cucumber and Tomato Salad.

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This Tomato and Cucumber Salad is crazy easy to make. Best of all, it comes together it just 15 minutes! It’s a great recipe for nights where you’re pressed for time, but want to get something healthy on the table. To create this fresh and delicious side dish, I diced tomato and cucumber and mingled them with a little thinly sliced red onion. Then, I drizzled them with a bright, slightly sweet lemon vinaigrette that’s super easy to make. To make the vinaigrette you need just four ingredients–lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and a touch of white sugar.

Given my Grandma’s love of tomatoes and cucumbers, I’m sure I saw her make something like this Tomato and Cucumber Salad when I was a kid. However, I myself was never big into either vegetable while growing up. Cucumbers were just bland and watery to me. And tomatoes were only something I ate because of Grandma; she would slice them and serve with dinner when she babysat me in the Summer.

Sliced tomatoes were always enjoyable when she served them. Somehow, my Grandma always knew how to pick out a tomato at the grocery store. Rarely were they ever a grainy texture, but rather always firm and slightly sweet. As I got older, my love of tomatoes grew pretty fast. Unfortunately for cucumbers, I still saw them as just taking up space in the produce section of the grocery store.

JUMP TO:

INGREDIENTS    SWAPS    TIPS & TRICKS    HOW-TO    RECIPE

Influences on This Recipe

It wasn’t until my early-20s that I began to see cucumbers in a new light. A co-worker took me to a little Mediterranean café where I had my first taste of Tabouli and Israeli Salad. From my first bite, I was absolutely hooked on these light, bright, and fresh dishes! My Tomato and Cucumber Salad is directly borne out of that introduction to Mediterranean flavors. But it’s also influenced by a legendary Italian deli in the heart of the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Early on in my time in New York, folks kept telling me I had to go to John’s Deli. They raved about the food, especially the tomato salad and told me it was a must try. Everyone was right—the food at John’s is delicious! Their tomato salad is simplistic, but keeps you coming back for more. It’s a light salad of sliced tomatoes and onions, an olive oil dressing, and a sprinkle of oregano.

Close up photo of tomato and cucumber salad in a bowl with dressing in background.

Finding the Perfect Balance of Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion for This Salad

Taking what my taste buds had learned from the café and deli, I set out to make my own mashup. For my Tomato and Cucumber Salad, I wanted some variety in texture. So, I started out by dicing the tomatoes into large chunks and thinly slicing the cucumber and onion. I found that this method created a bit of a mushy mouthfeel. The cucumbers were too thin to bring any crisp crunch to the dish.

On my second attempt, I tried dicing all of the veggies into similarly sized pieces. This was much better in regard to mouthfeel and texture, but dicing the onion meant more surface area exposed. When more surface area of an onion is exposed, it increases the amount of onion flavor in a dish. This didn’t work so well in the salad because it resulted in the onion overpowering the light, simple natural flavors and sweetness of the tomatoes and cucumbers.

My third time on the merry-go-round was the sweet spot for balance of flavor. I diced the tomatoes and cucumber to roughly the same size. I also reduced the amount of onion to three thin slices that are roughly chopped. By using just three slices of onions, I was able to provide a small but noticeable variety in texture. After slicing the onions, I cut each slice into eight wedges. This resulted in a slight bump in onion flavor without adding volume that would overpower the tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Ingredients For Tomato and Cucumber Salad

  • Tomatoes – I prefer beefsteak or Roma (“plum”) tomatoes for this salad, and they’re always a good deal at the grocery store during tomato season.
  • Cucumber – I prefer to use English cucumbers because they’re either seedless or tend to have very few seeds.
  • Red Onion – I like red onion in this recipe firstly for the additional color that it brings to the dish. It’s also not as sharp as a white onion, but not as sweet/smooth as a yellow or sweet onion. Red onion has just enough bite to make sure you know it’s in the salad. But, it’s not enough bite to overpower the other flavors.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – I’m not big on vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is much more mellow than regular white vinegar, so I find it much more palatable. Also, it brings some natural sweetness to the dish that would be missing if you swapped it for white vinegar.
  • Lemon Juice – Lemon is the main player in the dressing for this Tomato and Cucumber salad. I chose lemon because it’s a bright acid that enhances the natural flavors and sweetness in the tomatoes and cucumbers. It gives the dish a little zing and zip.
  • Olive Oil – A key ingredient in any vinaigrette dressing is olive oil. I like to use extra virgin olive oil, it’s just my go-to in pretty much every application (despite what the experts advise).
  • White Sugar – Just a touch is added to the dressing. It balances out the acidity of the apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. If you prefer the dressing to have more of a bite, reduce the sugar by half.
  • Kosher Salt – Salt helps emphasize the natural flavors of the veggies. It also amplifies the sweetness of the dressing by balancing out its acidity.
  • Black Pepper – Pepper helps provide flavor to the dressing and balance out the other elements.

Pin this recipe to make later!

Tomato and Cucumber Salad Pinterest Pin image.

Ingredient Swaps & Variations

  • Grape or Cherry Tomatoes – When tomatoes are out of season locally, I prefer cherry or grape tomatoes for two reasons:  1) they’re generally on sale for $2-3 and 2) they’re already bite-sized and all I have to do is cut them in half or quarter them.
  • Lime Juice – If you don’t have lemon on hand for your acid, you can swap for lime though be warned that it will give the dish a slightly different flavor profile.
  • Avocado or Grapeseed Oil – If you like something a little lighter in flavor, I suggest using a light olive oil. If you prefer something more neutral in flavor, I suggest using an avocado oil or a grapeseed oil.

Recipe Tips, Tricks & Notes

Storage – Store leftover Tomato and Cucumber Salad in an airtight glass or plastic container in the fridge. The acid in the dressing will break down the veggies the longer the salad sits. Given this, this salad is typically best on the day it is made and the day after. By Day 3, the quality begins to degrade with regard to texture though the taste will be just as good. I personally tend to try and use up my leftovers of this salad by the end of Day 3.

Ways to Use Leftovers – I like to use salad leftovers to make an easy wrap with grilled chicken, mixed greens, and whatever shredded cheese I happen to have on hand.

How to Make Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Step 1. In a small mixing bowl, add apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine ingredients. Set dressing aside.

Step 2. Rinse the tomatoes and pat dry with a towel. Cut the tomato into 1/4 inch thick slices. Stack a few slices on top of one another and cut slices lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick sticks. Next, cut the slices crosswise into 1/4 inch thick sticks to create your diced cubes of tomato. Repeat with remaining tomato slices and add the diced tomatoes to a large mixing bowl.

Step 3. Rinse the cucumber and pat dry with a towel. Slice the cucumber lengthwise into three equally sized slabs. Cut each cucumber slab into thirds lengthwise and then cut again crosswise to create a 1/4-inch dice. Add the diced cucumbers to the mixing bowl with the tomatoes.

Step 4. Cut three 1/8-inch slices of onion. Stack the onion slices on top of one another and cut the stack in half lengthwise. Take one stack of halves and cut into two halves crosswise; cut each half again crosswise to create four equally sized wedges. Repeat this process with the other stack of onions. Add the sliced onions to the mixing bowl with the tomatoes and cucumbers.

Step 5. Drizzle 2-3 tbsp of the dressing over veggie mixture and stir to evenly coat with the dressing. Serve salad with the remaining dressing on the side.

Macro photo of Tomato and Cucumber Salad in a serving bowl.

If you make this recipe, tag me in your photos on Instagram—I love seeing what you guys decided to make!

Frequently Asked Questions

How far in advance can I make Tomato and Cucumber Salad?

I wouldn’t make this salad more than 12 hours in advance of when I intend to serve it.

What can I serve with this salad?

Tomato and Cucumber Salad goes really well with grilled steak or chicken. It would also be great with baked chicken or fish. If you’re looking for a meatless option, you could add it to a bed of mixed greens. Then, add in some grains like farro or quinoa to create a light, but filling main entree.

Other Recipes You May Enjoy

Close up of Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

With a slightly sweet lemony vinaigrette, this light and refreshing summer salad of juicy cherry tomatoes, cooling cucumbers, and a hint of red onion comes together in just 15 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp white sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper

Instructions

1. In a small mixing bowl, add vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine ingredients.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. Drizzle 2-3 tbsp of the dressing over veggie mixture and stir to evenly coat with the dressing.

3. Serve salad with the remaining dressing on the side.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving:

This nutrition data is provided and calculated by Nutritionix. Please keep in mind that your specific nutritional values may vary based on the brand of ingredients you use to make this recipe.

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Hey there! I’m Krystal, the sassy-mouthed, self-taught, home cook behind the content here at Sweet, Savory & Sassy. I have a deep love for sharing food with people and showing folks just how easy it really is to make dishes that will bring a little extra joy to those you love. There’s nothing like making something special for friends and family and seeing their face light up in delight during that first bite!
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