Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

April 17, 2009(updated on September 22, 2021)

It’s been a quiet week in my kitchen. Between a marathon day of cooking last Sunday, the hit on the head I took Monday and a Wednesday night dinner of sushi with two of my favorite girls, I just haven’t been making even the very basics. In fact, Tuesday was the only night I made dinner at home and, in keeping with the harried nature of the week, it was a meal straight out of my childhood. Baked chicken, steamed broccoli and a small salad of marinated cucumber and red onion.

When I was growing up, my mom cooked dinner nearly every night. She served up an easy to prepare and family-pleasing rotation of hamburger scrambles, baked chicken legs and broiled salmon, accompanied by at least one green vegetable and the occasional starch (brown rice was often a supporting player). We ate a lot of steamed broccoli (dipped in a little pool of mayonnaise), string beans (with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder) and cauliflower (mashed with a few spoonfuls of cream cheese).

One side salad we had often was a quick little thing, made from sliced cucumber and dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried dill, a pinch of sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. She’d make it (always in the same, square stainless steel bowl) at least half an hour before dinner was on the table, to give the cucumbers a chance to soften and mellow in the vinaigrette. As the years progressed, this was the first of her recipes that I co-opted and turned into something of my own, adding slivered red onion and, during the season, hunks of ripe tomato (shaved radish is also wonderful in here).

Despite the changes I’ve made, this salad never fails to give me a satisfying sense of culinary continuity. A favorite thrift store even offered up a mate to my mother’s shallow square bowl, allowing me to match my presentation to that of memory.

The reason I include this recipe here is that is can be classified as a quick pickle and would be quite at home tucked away in a jar (leftovers are delightful). It’s best made with English cucumbers, but does work nicely with your basic garden cucumber, as long as you peel and seed it.

Bowl filled with slivered red onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes
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Cucumber and Red Onion Salad


  • 1 english cucumber cut into quarters and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion thinly slivered
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • pinch of white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill crushed between your fingers to brighten flavor (honestly, I don’t know if that actually works, but I always give my dried herbs a squeeze prior to adding them to a dish, because someone once told me it enhanced their flavor. I may be quite gullible, but it doesn’t hurt)
  • sprinkle of garlic powder I really encourage using garlic powder as opposed to fresh in this salad. It adds a nice flavor without making it too garlicky.
  • 2 large pinches of kosher salt
  • 5-6 grinds black pepper


  • When I make this salad, I don’t do anything fancy. I don’t whisk the dressing together prior to mixing the salad together. I don’t salt my cucumbers first, in an attempt to draw their moisture out.
  • All I do is chop the veggies and dump them in the bowl. I pour everything else on top (honestly, I don’t even measure) and stir it to combine.
  • Taste it a few minutes later and adjust the flavors a bit, if necessary (if my dill is old, which it often is, I add a bit more).
  • Then, let it sit until dinner time. If there’s any leftover, I eat it out of the bowl while cleaning up.

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11 thoughts on "Cucumber and Red Onion Salad"

  • Hit on the head!? what? I must have missed this! Are you ok? What happened?!?!

    First office softball practice of the year and I take a softball to the head. I’m totally fine, but it slowed me down a little. -Marisa

  • So much fancier than my mom’s version, which included white vinegar, raw white onions, and white sugar. And that’s about it.

    I’m sure it was delicious, though! -Marisa

  • Funny how dishes our moms made in our childhoods become our comfort foods as adults.
    I have a cucumber salad recipe my mom made always as a filler. No measuring just a bit of this and that. She made it in a certain bowl as well. I was always the squeezer of the cucumbers. My adult daughters grew up with the salad as well with their Oma made it for them. Now that my mom has passed away my daughters ask for me to make it when we all get together. I think its a reminder of the yesterdays. Good memories.

    There’s something about making salads like these in the ‘right’ bowl that makes them taste even better. -Marisa

  • A very similar salad also sends me right back to summer dinners of childhood. I will send you my mom’s recipe and you can compare. Jeff dubbed them Quickles, but really it’s just a cucumber salad.

    Craige, I would love to see your mom’s recipe. And I love the name ‘Quickles.’ -Marisa

  • That little metal dish just made my heart skip a beat. We had those when I was a kid! I need to go scrounge some thrift stores…..

    Lauren, good luck in your search! I’ve stumbled across four of them over the years, so I imagine they shouldn’t be too hard to find. -Marisa

  • I just stumbled across your site and found this yummy recipe. But I had a question about canning. Would this be possible to either waterbath or pressure cook?

    1. This is just a salad. It is not designed for preserving and would lose all texture if it was attempted.

      1. While you cannot can it, I put it in a jar, and they sit in the fridge for up to 2 months fine. They just get stronger and softer. 🙂