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Marinated Cucumber, Tomato, and Onion Salad Recipe

Made from basic ingredients, this marinated cucumber, tomato, and onion salad recipe is full of bold flavor.

It’s an all-time favorite salad highlighting some of the flavors of summer.

Marinated cucumber tomato and onion salad recipe ready to eat in a white bowl

Growing up in the South during the 90s a fresh tomato, crisp cucumber, and onion salad was at just about every summer cookout along with potato salad and deviled eggs.

Nowadays you can find delicious fresh cucumbers and tomatoes year round in grocery stores so I even like to make this salad at Christmas time since it features all the popular Christmas colors and is a fresh side dish amongst all the carbs.

It’s a light no-lettuce salad that features a tangy dressing and is refreshing on a hot summer day with juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers and onion.

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Ingredients

This salad features all things fresh and is a great way to preserve fresh vegetables for a couple of days that you might otherwise be too busy to get to.

The cucumber salad is also quite forgiving and can be made with different similar items you have on hand.

  • Cucumbers – I like using English cucumbers because the seeds are much more palatable. You can use other varieties but may need to scoop out the seeds first.
  • Onions – I like using yellow onions but you can use white onion, sweet or red onions – whatever your favorite raw onion is.
  • Tomatoes – I like using grape or cherry tomatoes as they are already bite-sized and require less prep. Slicing tomatoes, like a beefsteak variety, also works well though.
  • Oil – I use avocado oil. Olive oil and vegetable oil are also popular options.
  • Vinegar – I used red wine vinegar but you can use distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even rice vinegar as well
  • Sugar – I don’t add sugar to my salad as I don’t think it needs it. However, sugar is traditionally included so you may find you prefer the salad slightly sweetened
  • Salt – I usually use Kirkland fine ground sea salt, but seasoned salt is also a good choice
  • Pepper – I use freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs or Italian seasoning blend – fresh dill, fresh basil, oregano, and parsley are all good fresh herb choices. The salad I grew up with didn’t have any herbs but I find they really add a lot of welcomed flavor.
  • Water – This is optional depending on how “juicy” or astringent you want your salad. For these pictures, I didn’t add the water.

See the recipe card at the end for exact quantities.

Instructions

This salad is very easy to make and requires no cooking.

The longest parts are getting all of the veggies prepped and then the refrigeration to allow the flavors to meld.

Sliced onion, tomato, and cucumber in a glass mixing bowl

1. Prep your vegetables and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Cucumbers – You can peel or not. Or do peel stripes. Some find the peel to be quite bitter so at least partially removing it can help with that.

After peeling and removing the ends, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise.

If you use English cucumbers they likely won’t need to be deseeded.

If using other varieties or regular cucumbers that stayed in the garden a bit too long you’ll likely want to deseed before using. Or if you taste a slice of the cucumber and the seeds taste too bitter.

After deseeding if needed, cut into thin half-moon slices. Place the sliced cucumbers into a large bowl.

Onion – Remove the top and root of the onion. Place one of the now-cut flat sides down on your cutting board.

Cut the onion in half and remove the skin and first layer of onion if needed.

Cut the onion halves into half-moon slices. If your onion is exceptionally large you may wish to cut those half-moons into quarter-moons.

Add to the bowl with the cucumbers.

Tomatoes – I like to cut both cherry or grape tomatoes in half as this allows the dressing to really season them.

If using slicing tomatoes, cut off the top and bottom and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Add to the bowl with the cucumbers and onion.

Marinated cucumber, tomato, onion salad dressing in a glass bowl

2. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbs, along with sugar and water if using, in a small bowl.

You could technically use one less bowl by making the dressing first and then adding the vegetables on top, but I find things mix together better if you pour the dressing over the vegetables.

Ingredients for cucumber, tomato, and onion salad mixed together in a glass mixing bowl

3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and gently mix with a spoon or spatula until everything is evenly coated.

Marinated cucumber, tomato, and onion salad in a refrigerator safe container

4. Cover bowl or container and refrigerate the salad for at least 2 hours or overnight. I like to give the container a gentle shake now and then to make sure everything marinates equally.

The salad really is the best if you let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

I prefer to do so overnight, especially if I’m making it for a get-together and I’ll have other cooking to do the next day.

Hint: Keep in mind that the longer the salad sits, the more watery it will get especially after the first day.

Use a regular serving spoon if you want to enjoy the juices when eating it or use a slotted spoon to leave them behind.

Substitutions

As I mentioned before this salad is very versatile in that you can use a variety of ingredients including:

  • Cucumbers – I like using English cucumbers because the seeds are much more palatable. Persian cucumbers are similar, though smaller. You can use other varieties but may need to scoop out the seeds first.
  • Onions – I like using yellow onions but you can use sweet (Vidalia onion) or red onions, whatever your favorite raw onion is. A sweet onion like a Vidalia is commonly used in the South.
  • Tomatoes – I like using grape or cherry tomatoes as they are already bite-sized and require less prep. Slicing tomatoes also work well though.
  • Oil – I use avocado oil. Olive oil and vegetable oil are also popular options.
  • Vinegar – I used red wine vinegar and prefer it or apple cider vinegar for the best flavor but distilled white vinegar is the traditional option.
  • Sugar – While I grew up eating this salad with added sugar, I don’t personally find it’s needed as an adult. If you’d like to add a touch of sweetness without using sugar you can certainly use your favorite sugar substitute.

Variations

If I have fresh bell peppers that need to be used they are also great in this salad.

To change things up a bit I also enjoy adding crumbled feta cheese or mozzarella pearls.

Keep in mind that when adding additional ingredients you may need to reduce the amount of veggies or increase the amount of dressing you make to keep the same consistency and flavor intensity.

Equipment

This simple recipe requires basic kitchen equipment you likely already have including:

Storage

This is a cold vegetable salad that should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

It should not be left out for more than two hours, less if it is outside on a warm day.

It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days but keep in mind it will become more watery the longer it sits.

Top tip

This is definitely a versatile easy salad that can be changed up with different flavors like a variety of herbs, vinegars, and vegetables depending on what you have on hand or have a hankering for at the time.

Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:

Pairing

These are my favorite dishes to serve with cucumber, tomato, and onion salad:

Pinterest image for marinated cucumber tomato onion salad.
Ingredients for cucumber, tomato, and onion salad mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

Marinated Cucumber, Tomato, and Onion Salad Recipe

Yield: 5 servings (side dish sized)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

A delicious no-lettuce salad using fresh summer produce and simple ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 large cucumbers, English variety works best
  • 3 medium to large tomatoes (recommended: beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes) (or about 16 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • ¼ cup oil of choice (I use avocado)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar of choice (I use red wine vinegar)
  • salt to taste (start with about ½ teaspoon)
  • pepper to taste (start with about ¼ teaspoon)
  • 1 ½ teaspons dried Italian herb blend (or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup water (optional)

Instructions

  1. Wash cucumbers, peel if desired, and deseed if needed. Slice into about ¼ inch rounds or half-moons depending on the cucumber size, placing slices into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Wash, destem, deseed if needed, and cut tomatoes into bite-sized chunks (or halve cherry/grape tomatoes). Add to the cucumbers.
  3. Cut off the root and tip of the onion. Halve the onion and then peel. Slice into about ¼ inch half-moons, adding to the tomatoes and cucumbers.
  4. Make the dressing by whisking together ¼ cup oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, salt, pepper, 1 ½ teaspoons dried herbs, and sugar if using. Add water if you want a juicier salad, keeping in mind that the produce will release some juice as it sits.
  5. Pour the dressing over the produce and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. Occasionally stir or gently shake the container.
  6. Stir again and taste for seasoning before serving.
  7. You can let the salad sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature before serving if you don't want it to be super cold.

Notes

Other varieties of onion can be used with red/purple being a popular option.

Different oils can be used. I like avocado but olive oil or vegetable oil also works well.

Different vinegars can be used. I like to use red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar but can you also use white vinegar though it doesn't add as much flavor.

Water is traditionally added to this recipe but I prefer to make it without as it does literally water down the flavors.

Sugar is also traditionally added but I find that it doesn't need sweetening. If the salad is too tart for your liking you can certainly add some in.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 151Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 129mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information may not be accurate. Optional ingredients, garnishes, and toppings aren't included. Nutrition information is calculated automatically by and provided by Nutritionix. Exact nutrition information depends on the specific ingredients, brands, and amounts you use. For more precise nutrition information please input the exact ingredients, brands, and amounts into your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Food safety

  • The CDC does recommend washing fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating them, even if you plan to peel them
  • Remember to keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat in your shopping cart, bags, and refrigerator
  • Salads should be chilled at 40°F or colder. They shouldn’t be left out for longer than 2 hours after preparation or when serving. If they are in temperatures above 90°F, leave out no more than 1 hour.

See more guidelines at USDA.gov.

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