Cucumber salad is a simple side dish that everyone loves. This is a replica of the type of salad found in most New York delis and pairs perfectly with burgers, barbecue, grilled meat, and sandwiches.
Cucumber salad is one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways.
You’ll find many variations of it, but this version is one we keep coming back to over and over again.
This recipe is inspired by the cucumber salad you’d find in any New York deli with its onion slices, fresh dill, and sweet vinegar brine. It’s not typical for delis to use red onion, but feel free to use one if you want to add some color to this classic.
Having worked in several delis, Jim has been on a mission to bring these recipes to you, such as macaroni salad and potato salad, along with some interesting stories in the New York deli podcast episode.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice 4 large English cucumbers and 1 medium sweet onion. Mince 2 tablespoons worth of fresh dill.
- Spread the cucumbers and onion onto a baking tray and season with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper. Allow the cucumber and onion to sit for 15 minutes to absorb the seasoning.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine 2 cups of white vinegar and 1 cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat off and add 1 cup of cold water to the pot and allow the mixture to cool down.
- Move the cucumbers and onions into a dish deep enough to hold the cucumbers and the sugar/vinegar mixture. Pour the vinegar mixture (it doesn’t have to be cold) over the cucumbers, add the dill, and gently mix until combined. Cover the dill cucumber salad and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight, mixing it gently halfway through. Serve alongside your favorite sandwiches or main courses and enjoy!
- Cucumbers. We recommend using English cucumbers because they have less seeds and very thin skin. If you can’t find English cucumbers, you can use other types, but you may want to use a peeler to remove all, or some of the skin.
- Slicing. We used a mandoline to slice the cucumbers and onions because it yields super thin slices with a uniform thickness. If you use a mandoline, be sure to take precautions, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and use the guard.
- Vinegar and sugar. We used distilled white vinegar here since that’s what’s used in most NY delis. The vinegar and sugar combination is a key component in achieving the NY deli flavor. Be sure the mixture cools down before adding to the cucumber salad. If the liquid is too hot it can lead to soggy cucumbers.
- Refrigeration. We recommend refrigerating overnight for maximum flavor, however, you could serve after 2 hours in the fridge. Be sure to gently mix the salad halfway through through the refrigeration process.
More cold salads and sides
Here are a few more sides for warm-weather gatherings and cookouts.
- New York deli coleslaw – brined with vinegar, sugar, water, and mayo.
- Greek pasta salad – with cucumbers, dill, feta, tomatoes, peppers, and olives.
- Cauliflower salad – Sicilian-style with lemon and capers.
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- 4 large English cucumbers thinly sliced
- 1 medium sweet onion sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill minced
- Slice the cucumbers and onion and spread onto a baking tray or large flat surface. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the cucumbers and let them sit for 15 minutes.
- Combine the sugar and vinegar in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Once dissolved turn the heat off and add 1 cup of cold water to the pot. Let the mixture cool down.
- Place the cucumbers into a flat baking dish and pour over the vinegar mixture and mix in the dill. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. At the halfway point, mix the cucumber salad and return to the fridge. Enjoy!
- Seasoning the sliced cucumbers and onion before marinating is key to a much better flavor.
- Avoid pouring the sugar/vinegar mix over the cucumbers when boiling hot. That will make the cucumbers way too soggy.
- This salad gets even better after a couple of days in the fridge. Leftovers can be saved for up to 5 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.