Old Fashioned Cucumber and Onion Salad with Vinegar

This is the old-fashioned cucumber salad recipe you’re looking for, just like your mom made. You’ll be amazed by how the simplest ingredients of all can make something so good.

A delicious summer classic that’s one of the most budget-friendly side dishes you’ll find. It’s just cucumbers, onion, vinegar and sugar!

white bowl of cucumber salad

Grandma’s Cucumber & Onion Salad {Simple!}

A simple vinegar dressing combined with sliced cucumbers and onions for a make-ahead summer side dish you'll love.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Chilling time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board

Ingredients 

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • ½ small white onion
  • cup white vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • Make the dressing. Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.
    pyrex cup filled with vinegar and sugar
  • Prep the veggies. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Cut into ¼ inch thin slices. Cut the onion into very thin slices.
    cucumbers cut and scooped out
  • Combine and chill. Put the veggies in a mixing bowl and pour the dressing on top. Stir to combine, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
    close up view of crescent shaped cucumbers in bowl

Notes

The thinner you slice the cucumbers, the faster they will absorb the dressing, but thicker slices will stay crisp longer. It’s up to you!
Make sure all the sugar dissolves before you add the veggies. 
If you have any leftover cucumber salad, store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Leftover salad will last for 3-4 days.
Adjust the amount of sugar based on your personal taste and the type of vinegar you use
Calories: 167kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2339mg | Potassium: 885mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 630IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 2mg

Every summer, without fail, Grandma’s Cucumber & Onion Salad becomes the hero of my kitchen. It’s the dish I turn to when the heat waves roll in, and the thought of standing by a hot stove seems unbearable.

ingredients on counter

I love that I can whip it up, let it chill, and then forget about it while I dive into the day’s adventures—be it a trip to the farmers’ market or a lazy afternoon in the garden.

white bowl filled with peeled cucumbers and sliced onion

Cucumber Salad Tips

  • Onion Prep: To mellow the sharpness of the white onion, you can soak the slices in ice water for about 10 to 15 minutes before adding them to the salad. This step makes the onions milder for those who might find raw onions too overpowering.
  • Add Fresh Herbs: For an extra layer of flavor, consider adding fresh dill, parsley, or even mint to the salad just before serving. (I rarely do this, so don’t feel bad if you don’t either!)
  • Salting the Cucumbers: If you have a bit of extra time, try salting your cucumber slices before adding them to the salad. Lay them out on a paper towel, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and let them sit for about 30 minutes. This process draws out excess water so your salad stays crisp and not watery.
  • Dressing Adjustments: Vinegar can vary in acidity and flavor intensity. If yours is very sharp, you might want to add a little more sugar to balance the flavors or dilute it with a bit of water.
  • Using Different Cucumbers: Fresh garden cucumbers or English cucumbers with fewer seeds and thinner skins are ideal for this recipe. They tend to have a crisper texture and better flavor.
  • Add a Kick: If you like a bit of spice, sprinkle some red pepper flakes into the salad for a subtle heat.

When dinner time rolls around, and the grill is fired up for some easy-going barbecue, that salad is there: crisp, refreshing, and infused with memories of summers.

Serving Suggestions

We tend to just put this on the dinner table for a few nights until it’s gone, no matter what we serve. But it’s especially good with burgers and grilled chicken.

Perfect Pairings: This cucumber salad is a great way to add a fresh side dish to your summer cookouts. It pairs well with burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, and even pork chops.

Mix It Up: For a twist, try adding other fresh veggies like bell peppers or fresh basil to the salad. It’s also a great addition to a pasta salad or served alongside a tangy vinegar dressing on a hot summer day.

Presentation: Serve your old-fashioned cucumber salad in a large bowl or a pretty serving bowl for a nice presentation at your next gathering.

FAQs

Can I use red onions instead of white onions in this salad?

Red onions will work wonderfully in this salad. They have a slightly milder flavor and add a beautiful pop of color. Just remember, if the flavor is too strong for your liking, soaking the slices in cold water for about 15 minutes before adding them to the salad can help mellow them out.

I’m trying to cut down on sugar. Can I make this salad without it?

Yes, you can adjust the sugar according to your taste or dietary needs. Some folks like to use a sugar substitute, while others find that reducing the amount doesn’t drastically change the overall taste. If you’re cutting it out completely, you might want to experiment with the vinegar ratio to ensure the salad isn’t too tart.

How far in advance can I make this?

This salad actually gets better as it sits and the flavors meld together. Making it a day in advance is perfect for allowing the cucumbers and onions to marinate in the dressing, enhancing their taste. Just keep it covered in the fridge, and give it a good stir before serving.

Can I use a different type of vinegar?

Absolutely! While white vinegar is the classic choice, you can experiment with apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even rice vinegar. Each type will give the salad a slightly different flavor profile. Adjust the amount of sugar as needed to balance the acidity.

How far in advance can I make this salad?

This salad actually gets better as it sits and the flavors meld together. Making it a day in advance is perfect for allowing the cucumbers and onions to marinate in the dressing, enhancing their taste. Just keep it covered in the fridge, and give it a good stir before serving.

Can I make a creamy version of this salad?

Yes, you can make a creamy cucumber salad by adding a bit of sour cream or Greek yogurt to the dressing. This will give it a creamy texture while still keeping the tangy flavor from the vinegar.

Is there a way to keep the cucumbers crisp?

For best results, use fresh cucumbers with thin skins like Persian cucumbers or old-fashioned cucumbers. Salting the cucumber slices before adding them to the salad helps draw out excess moisture, keeping them crisp. You can also use a mandoline slicer to cut the cucumbers into thin slices.

Remember, recipes like this are starting points. Feel free to tweak it to make it your own. The most important thing is that you enjoy making and eating it!

Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions

You can make this ahead of time but not too far ahead!

Refrigeration:

  • After mixing, if you’re not serving the salad immediately, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the salad to an airtight container.
  • Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. The flavors will continue to meld and develop over time, but the cucumbers will gradually lose their crispness.
  • Before serving again, give the salad a good stir to redistribute the dressing and flavors.

Freezing Instructions:

  • Freezing cucumber salad is not recommended. Cucumbers are mostly water, so when frozen and thawed, they can become mushy and lose the crisp texture that makes this salad so refreshing.
  • The dressing may also separate or become grainy after freezing, affecting the overall taste and appearance of the salad.

Don’t do it!

Additional Tip:

  • If you have leftover salad and are concerned about it becoming too soggy, consider draining any excess liquid before storing it in the refrigerator. This can help maintain a better texture for a little while longer.

Remember, this salad is best enjoyed fresh or within a few days of making it, taking advantage of the cucumbers’ natural crunch and the vibrant flavors of the dressing.

More Fresh Summer Sides You’ll Love

Hot days call for cold side dishes. Serve these with something on the grill.

  • My favorite potato salad EVER! It has tons of flavor from celery seed, hardboiled eggs, and soft redskin potatoes. So good!
  • A creamy macaroni salad, with a twist. This Old Bay Shrimp Macaroni Salad is delicious and makes a great lunch all by itself.
  • Don’t forget about chips, pretzels, or something pre-made. You don’t have to make everything yourself!
bowl of finished salad

This is the perfect dish to bring a light, fresh flavor to any meal, and it’s so easy to make. With just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of prep time, you can have a delicious salad chilling in the fridge, ready to be served whenever you like.

With just the right balance of sweetness and saltiness, the vinegar dressing beautifully complements the crisp cucumber and sharp onion, creating a perfect side dish that everyone will love.

Old Fashioned Cucumber and Onion Salad with Vinegar

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Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you Thank you!! You got these so right! I’m seventy plus, used to make these like Granny since I was a girl! Sad to say I never wrote the recipe down, who could forget something so simple! We’ll I did and try as I may they never tasted quite right! So I started looking for this recipe and it’s amazing what people add to these!😁 Nothing Granny ever had in her country kitchen!
    So again that you! God Bless you and keep you in his loving arms!

  2. 5 stars
    Yes I made this! Just the recipe we were looking for. I actually tripled it so it would cover more of the veggies. Hubby likes to add cut up on the vine tomatoes to this. He loved it. It’s a keeper & I have it written down in my favorite recipe book.

  3. 5 stars
    My sister-in-laws Mother has made this for my family for years,She is in her 90s now and this is the flrst time this summer is not doing a garden. And so she will not be making my fav cucumber salad, I asked her daughter for the reciepe she told me her mom took all the water out of the cuc by putting salt all over them then rinsing them off before making the cuc salad .could this be true? It seems like a lot of work. Have you ever heard of such a thing?? I know she wont give me the recipe…..

    1. Hey Mary, I’ve never heard of that but I could see doing it if you wanted the salad to last days and days in the fridge. I find that scooping out the insides helps a lot though. Bring her some cucucumbers and ask her to make it and just secretly take notes! I bet it’s similar to this one 🙂

      1. 4 stars
        “Salting the cucumbers” is normally done for Tzatziki sauce~ You skin them as you would, quarter them lengthways, and cover them with kosher salt~ You leave them in the fridge, on a rack, over night, and you’ll have a a puddle under them in the morning! RINSE THEM THOROUGHLY!! Soak them if you need to in cold water, and they don’t leach moisture into the greek yogurt~ It turns into a mess, if you don’t! bon appétit!

  4. Was just double-checking my recollection of how my Mom would throw this together in the summertime. It seems almost too easy and I thought I was missing something, but nope! So good.

  5. I use seedless or English cucumbers, no need to remove seeds; also peel the thin skin in stripes, so pretty when sliced