Creamy cucumber salad is the light and refreshing antidote to a sweltering summer’s day. Cucumbers are crisped with a touch of salt and mixed with a tangy, garlicky, and protein-packed Greek yogurt dressing. (That’s right, no mayo!)
This creamy cucumber salad is the perfect dish to serve alongside recipes with a bit of a kick, like spicy harissa-marinated salmon or chicken. The cooling nature of cucumber, fresh herbs and yogurt balances any main meal with a little heat in it.
I'm a big fan of crunchy, vegetable heavy salads with bold flavors—no lettuce required! And this creamy cucumber salad ranks right up with with our Fattoush or Cucumber Radish Salad! Think everything you love about Tzatziki only in salad form.
I’ve seen a lot of creamy cucumber salad recipes that just mix everything together and call it a day, but I take a few extra steps to make sure the cucumbers stay nice and crisp—a must in my opinion!
The whole thing is finished with a garlicky Greek yogurt dressing that has the of buttermilk and the creaminess of mayo but keeps things light and healthy. The best part is it comes together in about 20 minutes.
Table of Contents
Creamy Cucumber Salad Ingredients
This simple salad uses just a few easy-to-find ingredients. To get started, grab:
- Cucumbers: English cucumbers are best here as they are sweeter and have thinner skin. If you need to use regular garden cucumbers, be sure to peel the waxy skin completely and do not skip removing the seeds. Smaller Persian cucumbers will work too.
- Seasonings: Since this salad has raw onion, I season the yogurt with garlic powder instead of raw garlic. If you want to substitute with fresh garlic, grate or mince 1 small clove (or more to taste). Fresh dill makes this creamy cucumber salad super refreshing and light. If you’re not a fan of dill, substitute with mint or parsley (or a combination). Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the other flavors.
- Brightness: Lemon zest and juice and red wine vinegar add brightness to make this salad extra zippy.
- Yogurt: Plain, whole milk Greek yogurt is not only a healthy source of vegetarian protein (according to the USDA, there’s about 8 grams of protein per ½ cup!). It also has so much flavor. It’s creamy and tangy.
- Onion: I typically use red onion when I’m serving them raw, as they have a milder bite compared with yellow or white. If you need to substitute, use shallot or green onion.
How to Make Creamy Cucumber Salad
First, I remove the cucumber seeds because they hold most of the water. Then, I toss with salt and set them aside to drain and crisp for 20 minutes. Their flavor concentrates and they firm up nicely. While the cucumbers rest, I get to work prepping the dressing, herbs, and other vegetables. Here’s how I do it in under 30 minutes:
- Peel and slice the cucumber. Partially peel the cucumbers, leaving some of the peel to make a rustic stripe pattern. Slice them in half the long way. Use a metal spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds (we keep just the crunchy part for the best texture). Then, cut into ¼-inch thick half moons.
- Salt the cucumber. Place the cucumbers into a large colander and season with a big pinch of salt. Toss well and set in your sink for 20 minutes while you get the remaining ingredients ready.
- Make the dressing. While the cucumbers are crisping, grab a large mixing bowl. Add ¾ cup of Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and ½ to ¾ teaspoon of garlic powder, depending on how garlicky you like things. First zest, then juice ½ of a lemon. Chop up enough fresh dill fronds (discard any thick stems) to make ¼ cup. Add the chopped dill and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk everything to combine. Set in your refrigerator until the cucumbers are ready.
- Combine. Slice ½ of a medium red onion into half moons. When the cucumbers are ready, use a paper towel to pat them dry. Add the cucumbers and onions to the bowl with the yogurt mixture and toss until everything is coated in the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Serve. Garnish with a little more fresh dill and serve.
Why Should You Salt Cucumbers?
Salting cucumbers may seem like it adds unnecessary time to this salad recipe, but it makes a huge difference for three main reasons:
- Salt makes cucumbers crunchy and delicious. Cucumbers have a lot of water. Salt draws out that water, making them firmer and adding that irresistible crunch. Removing the water also prevents the salad from getting watery as it sits. No one likes a soggy salad! Salt is the secret to crisp, crunchy, and delicious creamy cucumber salad.
- Salt starts the flavor party. Salting cucumbers enhances their natural flavors, giving the delicate, slightly sweet qualities a chance to shine.
- Salt reduces any bitterness. Not all cucumbers are bitter. But, if you happen to get a bitter one, the salt will make a big difference. Think of it like you’re taking the cucumber to the spa: it soaks in a little salt scrub and comes out a little sweeter. It’s the same technique I use for eggplants, like with my Ratatouille or Roasted Vegetable Salad.
How to Serve Creamy Cucumber Salad
Creamy cucumber salad is a versatile side dish you could serve with just about anything, but I especially love to take full advantage of its cooling nature.
Serve with boldly spicy entrees, like harissa-marinated salmon or chicken, or Shrimp Fra Diavolo with a chili pepper tomato sauce.
For a vegetarian dinner, serve alongside Roasted Vegetable Salad with Fried Halloumi to fill your plate with big vibrant color and crispy-crunchy-silky-smooth texture.
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Creamy Cucumber Salad
- 2 English cucumbers
- Kosher salt
- ¾ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, stems removed, plus more for garnish
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- Black pepper
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- Peel and slice the cucumber. Partially peel the cucumbers, leaving some of the peel to make stripes. Slice them in half lengthwise. Use a metal spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices.
- Salt the cucumber. Place the cucumbers into a large colander and season with a big pinch of salt. Toss well and set aside in a clean sink for about 20 to 30 minutes to drain excess liquid.
- Make the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, red wine vinegar, lemon zest and juice, dill, garlic powder, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside in your refrigerator.
- Combine. When the cucumbers are ready, use a paper towel to pat them dry. Add the cucumbers and onions to the bowl with the yogurt mixture and toss until they’re coated in the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Serve. Garnish with a little more fresh dill and serve.
- If you’d rather use a fresh garlic clove, start with 1 small clove, either grated or minced. You can always add more to taste, but start slow: the salad will already be punchy from the raw onion.
- If you don’t like dill, you can substitute with mint, parsley, or a combination of the two.
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