This healthy Mediterranean Cucumber Tomato Salad with feta cheese and tangy, sweet pickled red onions takes only 10 minutes to make and is the perfect vegetarian summer side dish!
This tomato cucumber salad is perfect for a summery side dish, and is a great way to use up a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes (especially if you’re like me and have them growing in your garden!). And it can even serve as a whole meal with additional protein, like chickpeas or grilled chicken!
I had it for a simple lunch with pita bread and hummus.
The great thing about this salad? Even though it has acidic ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and vinegar, the acidity is tamed quite a bit by pickling the red onions and adding just a touch of sugar. The balance of flavors is fantastic!
In this post, I’ll explain:
- how to make this cucumber tomato salad in the most efficient way possible
- what kind of feta is best to use
- how to make this salad in advance
- how to make this into a full meal, and
- suggest easy recipes to serve this salad with.
How to make cucumber tomato salad SUPER FAST!
This salad is a cinch to make and can be made in only 10 minutes, if you time things right!
The first thing you’ll do is pickle the red onions. This may sound complicated, but it actually only takes a few minutes.
Just add some thinly sliced red onions to a small bowl with some red wine vinegar, kosher salt, and some sugar. The onions will soften and macerate as they sit in the liquid- their natural sugars will come out and they’ll taste sweet and tangy, rather than spicy and onion-ey. It seems a bit counter-intuitive, but I promise: it works like a charm!
(Or, you could make a big batch of pickled red onions that will keep for weeks in your fridge.)
The onions need to sit for at least 5 minutes. While they are soaking is the time to prep your other ingredients.
Slice a couple of cucumbers by cutting the ends off, halving them lengthwise, scooping out the seeds, and slicing thinly. You can peel them if you want- I like to peel only some of the peel off, leaving stripes, because I love the color the peel adds. And if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to scoop the seeds out- you can leave them in! They can be a bit bitter (as can the peel), so keep that in mind.
Add the sliced cucumbers to a large bowl, and cut some cherry tomatoes in half and throw them in the bowl as well.
Then, crumble the feta with a fork (unless you’re using already crumbled feta- more on that in a sec) and add it to the large bowl, too.
The onions should be good to go now. Add some fresh parsley and some olive oil to the pickled onions and stir together. This will serve as the dressing for the salad.
Now- last part- toss the pickled onion mixture in with the cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Minus the lemon. Actually, you could totally use lemon juice instead of vinegar in this, now that I think of it.
What kind of feta should I use?
I almost ALWAYS opt for a block of feta and crumble it myself. Crumbled feta that you buy at the store is often too dry and less flavorful.
If you’re short on time, by all means- use pre-crumbled feta cheese!
But it only takes a minute to use a fork to crumble your own feta. Just press the tines gently into the block and twist a bit, until crumbles come off. I use this same method when crumbling goat cheese or blue cheese as well.
I prefer feta made from cow’s milk, but sheep’s milk feta is more authentic. Most of what you’ll find at the grocery store is made from cow’s milk, but I’ve bought sheep’s milk feta by accident on more than one occasion. I find it a little too pungent, personally.
How to make this cucumber tomato salad ahead of time
If you want to make this salad ahead of time, I recommend doing everything EXCEPT the last step- mixing the onion mixture in with the other ingredients.
The onions can stay in the vinegar/olive oil mixture for a while- up to 3 or 4 days in the fridge. The oil may solidify in the fridge- just shake it up, run warm water over the container you have it in, or leave it at room temperature for a little while.
Just before serving, mix the cucumbers, tomato, and feta cheese with the pickled red onion mixture.
Why can’t you mix it all up beforehand? Salt will draw the liquid out of the cucumbers and tomatoes, so the longer it sits in the dressing, the more watery it will be. For the most flavor and best texture, toss it together just before serving.
How to make this salad a complete meal
This is a delicious light and fresh salad, which makes it a perfect side, but it needs a little more substance to make it a full meal.
I recommend adding some protein. Chickpeas or white beans are a great vegetarian option, or grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak would be great for you omnivores. Even some shredded rotisserie chicken, or a drained can of tuna would be delicious!
I think grains would be great added as well- some cooked and cooled couscous or orzo or other small pasta shape would make a great cold pasta salad. You can also add other fun Mediterranean ingredients, such as black olives, capers, roasted red peppers, etc.
Play around with it! This salad is super versatile and is just begging to be experimented with.
What to serve with this cucumber tomato salad:
- Spinach and White Bean Patties with Yogurt Sauce
- Blackened Tilapia
- Poached Salmon
- Pan-Fried Sea Bass
- Baked Chicken Souvlaki
- Lemon, Garlic, and Rosemary Whole Roast Chicken
- Grilled Beef Shawarma (from The Mediterranean Dish)
Other Easy, Summery Salad Recipes:
- Beet Salad with Feta, Cucumbers, and Dill
- Watermelon Salad with Queso Fresco, Lime, and Cilantro
- Tangy Cucumber and Radish Salad with Dill
- Thai Sesame Red Cabbage and Carrot Salad
- Sesame Cucumber Spiralized Salad
- Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts
Did you make this Cucumber Tomato Salad with Feta? Please comment below and Rate this Recipe
Cucumber Tomato Salad with Feta
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup red onion quartered and thinly sliced (about 1 small onion)
- 2 cucumbers medium sized
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 4 oz. feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped, or other herbs such as dill, chives, or cilantro
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a small bowl, mix together the red wine vinegar (2 tablespoons), sugar (1 teaspoon), kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon), and black pepper (1/4 teaspoon). Add the sliced red onions and stir to coat. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- While you let the onions sit: cut the ends off the cucumber, slice in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard the seeds and slice the cucumber thinly, about 1/4" thick. Add to a large bowl. (And if you prefer, you can peel the cucumber before cutting it.)
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the large bowl as well.
- If your feta cheese isn't already crumbled, use a fork to crumble it and add it to the large bowl.
- Drizzle the olive oil (1/4 cup) into the small bowl with the onions, add the chopped fresh parsley (2 tablespoons) or other herbs, and mix together.
- Pour the onion mixture into the large bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Serve immediately for best results.
- To make this ahead of time: do everything EXCEPT mixing the onion mixture with the cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta. Just before serving, toss everything together (otherwise it will get soggy, since the salt will draw the moisture out of the cucumbers).
- Time saving tip: I highly recommend buying a block of feta cheese and crumbling it yourself- it's more flavorful. But if you're short on time, pre-crumbled will do just fine!
- Money saving tip: I used cucumbers from my garden for this (as well as tomatoes). English cucumbers are more expensive than regular cucumbers, but they have fewer seeds and a less bitter peel. If you're looking to save money, buy regular cucumbers and peel them if you prefer.
- Variations: Try adding rotisserie chicken or chickpeas to make this a complete meal, and/or grains such as cooked and cooled pearl couscous or orzo. Add other popular Mediterranean ingredients, like kalamata olives, capers, or roasted red peppers, to add more flavor.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.