Nana’s Cucumber and Onion Salad
This make-ahead Cucumber and Onion Salad is a summertime superstar. Simple and delicious, the fresh ingredients let the garden-fresh produce shine in this easy cucumber salad. From my Nana’s kitchen to yours, be the hit of your next BBQ or potluck with this classic cucumber salad recipe.
My Nana always made the best food. She was the head of our family’s tradition of “dump cooking”, as in you dump stuff in without really measuring. “Oh hell, just eyeball it” was her way to share the recipe.
One of Nana’s best savory dishes was a sliced cucumber and onion salad. It was refreshing and usually served during family BBQs in summer. It was always best when the cucumbers were grown in her garden.
Each time I’ve brought this dish to an event, I’m asked for the recipe. My sister has taken it to BBQs and got cornered for the details.
This cucumber and onion salad is delicious, but more importantly, I think it is so popular because it reminds people of childhood. It reminds them of grandmas, nanas, and nonnas.
And while it is the exact opposite of this easy cucumber salad recipe, you may also be interested in my Nana’s Almond Roca Recipe. It was a 10-year quest by my aunt to recreate it after Nana’s passing.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Cucumber Salad
- It’s so fast to make! Like 5 minutes total of hands-on time.
- You can keep in the fridge for days and days. Total make-ahead/meal prep game changer.
- It can be safely served at room temperature, which makes it the best dish for BBQs and potlucks.
- Cucumber salad is super affordable!
What to Serve With Cucumbers and Onions?
This dish is awesome at BBQs because it is a light side dish that goes really well with heavier main dishes like burgers.
What Ingredients are in Cucumber and Onion Salad?
Try not to be overcome with surprise, but the main two ingredients are cucumbers and onions. I’ll pause to pick you up off the floor. So glad you didn’t hit your head.
If you’re smart, you’ll use Walla Walla sweet onions because they rule, and I am a proud Washingtonian.
You’ll also find vinegar, dill, sea salt, celery seed, and a little bit of sugar.
I really dialed down the sugar content compared with what Nana used and other recipes you may see. Maybe it is just me, but when I am eating cucumbers and onions, I am not looking for a candied veg side dish.
What is the Best Vinegar for Cucumber and Onion Salad?
I use plain ol’ white vinegar but have also had great success with apple cider vinegar. Rice vinegar is also pretty dang delicious.
In my experience, red wine vinegar and flavored vinegar fought with the “dillness” of this recipe.
What Kind of Cucumbers to Use For Cucumber Onion Salad
Three types of cucumbers are typically available at most stores – slicing, pickling, and English.
Slicing cukes are uniform in size and have dark green skin. Pickling cukes are smaller and squat with tiny seeds.
English cucumbers are sweeter than slicing cucumbers and have teeny tiny seeds. They’re also ridiculously sold wrapped in plastic (to protect their more delicate skin).
Conventional grocery store cucumbers are coated in wax for appearances. This wax can make the peel extremely tough and unappetizing in this cucumber salad recipe. Either peel fully or use the “tiger stripe” method listed below in the Tips/Tricks section.
This great post from The Spruce goes more in-depth into the cucumber differences. Because I know you’re berzerkin for the gherkin.
I use slicing or Persian cucumbers (tiny, extra crispy slicers) for this cucumber salad. When our DIY garden trellises are covered in cukes, this dish gets made on the daily.
Can This Dish Be Made Whole30 Compliant? What about Keto?
You betcha. Just leave out the sugar and then go rock on with your bad self.
How To Make Cucumber and Onion Salad
In a microwave-proof container (I used a 4-cup glass measuring cup), microwave the vinegar and sugar on high for 2 minutes. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool.
To make this dish extra fast, I use a mandoline, but a sharp knife works too. Slice the cukes and onion thinly, and add to a large container that has a lid.
Sprinkle the dill, sea salt, and celery seed into the bowl.
Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over the top. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 1-12 hours.
Pro Tips/Recipe Notes for Cucumber and Onion Salad
- Need to make more or less of the recipe? Click and slide the “servings” number on the recipe card and the ingredients will adjust as needed. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
- Unpeeled cucumbers become tough. If you peel the cucumbers all the way, they get mushy. If you’re going to be using regular cucumbers, peel a few strips off (will give a bitchin’ striped effect) and it is the perfect texture compromise.
- The brine (liquid) won’t cover all the veggies completely. That’s ok! As the cucumbers sit in the brine, they will release their own liquids. Give everything a stir after a few hours and you’ll be good to go.
- If you want to turn this into a creamy cucumber salad, add 1/3 cup of sour cream with 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the seasoning. Leave out the water.
- To make this a cucumber tomato salad, add thinly sliced tomatoes just prior to serving.
More Healthy Vegetable Recipes
- Blistered Shishito Peppers
- Air Fryer Asparagus
- Healthier Fried Zucchini Chips
- Spicy Green Beans
- Addicting Feta Stuffed Grilled Tomatoes
- All my vegetable recipes
Making this recipe or others?
This make-ahead Cucumber and Onion Salad is a summertime star. Simple and delicious, the garden-fresh produce shines in this easy cucumber salad.
In a microwave-proof container, microwave the vinegar, water, and sugar on high for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Slice the cucumbers and onion thinly, and add to a large container that has a lid.
Add the dill, sea salt, and celery seed.
Pour the cooled vinegar water solution over the top. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Unpeeled cucumbers become tough. If you peel the cucumbers all the way, they get mushy. If using regular cucumbers peel a few strips off (will give a bitchin' striped effect) and it is perfect texture compromise.
The brine (liquid) won't cover all the veggies completely. That's ok! Give it a stir after a few hours and you'll be good to go.
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This post was originally published in August 2013. It has been retested and updated with reader feedback. New photos have been added and the recipe has been made printable.