viennese cucumber salad

My first day back to work after New Years started with my laptop flatlining, having to clean the office pantry microwave after my oatmeal blew up in it, finding myself completely and frantically over my head in a new bit of work I personally requested the week before and a wind-tunneled trip to the new Apple store to gaze at the shiny brightness. In short, I had hoped to be gently eased into 2008, but since that wasn’t in the cards for me, I ended it with a dinner of French Toast. What? Tell me that you’re not jealous.

Enough of this, however: I know what you holiday detoxing and highly-resolved people want really want–something healthy, fresh, guilt-free and completely delicious, thus I have for you today the best cucumber salad I have ever made, and hoo boy, I have made a lot. It’s even better than the pickle slices that go in that beloved potato salad, because the pickling is milder, more complex, and–here’s the best part–it doesn’t take as long to get the flavor out that you want. I made this bowl for us last week, and we ate it in one sitting. (We’re serious about our cukes here, in case that’s not clear.) And my second batch will be what this old lady, still moving slowly after the weekend, needs.

viennese cucumber salad-6

Not what you were craving? Here are some our other salad favorites. I know you’ll find the one for you.

One Year Ago Balthazar Cream of Mushroom Soup

Viennese Cucumber Salad

You can find dill seed inexpensively online, but if you don’t wish to keep it around fresh dill works too for a slightly different flavor profile. Add a tablespoon or two at the end, minced.

  • 2 large seedless cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I used Diamond brand; use half of any other)
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed

Score cucumbers lengthwise with a fork or zester* tool and slice thin, preferably with a mandolin*. In a large bowl toss cucumbers with salt and let stand 1 hour.

In a small saucepan heat vinegar and water with sugar, garlic, and dill seed, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and let mixture cool.

In a colander drain cucumbers and rinse under cold water, then drain well, squeezing out excess liquid. In a bowl or large jar, combine cucumbers with vinegar mixture and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.

* Note: I am using this zester tool and this mandoline. You can find the other things I use in the kitchen on this page.

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74 comments on viennese cucumber salad

  1. RA

    Is it funny to anyone else that all the ads I see now are for Hidden Valley Ranch? Anyone? Ah, well.

    Nice job on the kitchen tip, Deb. I do miss the tagline, though.

  2. mollysusie

    I always hated when recipes called for soured milk — what was I supposed to do, sit and wait two months until my milk soured? It was *years* until I picked up somewhere that adding vinegar, lemon juice, or – shudder – pickle juice to milk caused it to curdle. And viola, instant soured milk! It’s like magic!

    I wonder…could you use buttermilk in place of soured milk?

  3. deb

    RA — I’ll put the tagline back. I took it down when I had the NaBlo tag up because I thought it was getting too cluttered, and I hate clutter (Alex, stop laughing).

    Mollysusie — They can be used interchangeably. I agree that buttermilk is pretty nasty, but so wonderful in baked goods. It made that caramel cake just sing.

  4. Celeste

    Cooks Illustrated did a little comparison on buttermilk substitution using your tip. The curdled milk works to give the dish the tang, but they didn’t think it worked quite as well in baked goods, I think. I’m pretty sure they said that you could freeze buttermilk acceptably to keep it on hand. I know people freeze lots of cooking liquids in ice cube trays and then bag the cubes, but to my mind this gives space for freezer burn. I froze breast milk flat in freezer ziplocs and would freeze buttermilk this way. Then you can stack the bags; they’re also easy to defrost because you have a lot of surface area to work with.

  5. Ooo, yummy looking salad! Must try. But right now I’m headed over to the Bloggies to vote for YOU! And I thank you for pointing to those of us in your collective “tasty” blogroll as potential nominees as well. :-)

  6. M

    How do you have time to be so dedicated to this awesome site (you make it better and better all the time!) and be successful at a challenging day job? You are superwoman, I tell ya.

  7. Elizabeth Ann

    That tip of the day thing is bloody brilliant – I never knew I could make my own buttermilk – that will save me many a trip to the store. Thanks!

  8. So what do you do if you don’t have a garlic press and your family is extremely burned out on buying you kitchen things after having generously denuded your wishlist for christmas?

  9. Yeah I need a salad. I have been not stop chocolate binging since I quit smoking on the first. I HATE IT. I want a cigarette SO EFFIN badly right now that I want to scratch someones eyes out. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
    I’m giving it another day or two to get better…..we’ll see. I can’t live like this. I love smoking. Why does everything so good have to be BAD! UGH.

  10. I thought I had figured out my New Year’s resolution — but it’s already TRASHED! And today is only January 3rd. So I’m thinking since I never wrote down my resolutions — well I didn’t really break any! I think so far I might just be ahead of the game. We’ll see. All the best in ’08!

    I have an easy cucumber salad too. The 1-2-3 salad. YUM! Too cold in my kitchen to even think of making it. 1 thermostat in the coldest part of the house…furnace kicks on and on and the upstairs — forgettaboutit…it’s hot as blazers up here! I’m schvitzing!

  11. Sharon

    Is it weird to *request* a tip-of-the day? Well, I hope not. I often want to cook with butternut squash and I find it SO difficult to cut that I end up avoiding what is one of my favorite foods (unless, of course, someone else prepares it for me). If you had a tip on dealing with that (i.e. can you just throw the whole big squash in the microwave or something for a short while before trying to cube/peel it), this CA girl would be very grateful!

  12. Oh. My. Heavens.

    If this is like the stuff they serve at my favourite Thai restaurant with satay chicken, then I have a feeling I will be making it this weekend.

    …please say it is, please say it is…

  13. Patty

    OoO I love this salad. my 17 yr old son and I fight ( yes, lol I mean fight) over cucumbers, tomatoes, onions …I made this and he said *AHEM, this is all mine*.well needless to say I was ahead of his game , I made separate bowls. yay!mom scores …again

    I love your site! you are awesome, keep up all the yumminess you churn out .

    Happy New Year and God Bless…

  14. rachel

    Thank you so much for this! I have been drooling over it since seeing the photo on Flickr. I have an old standby that I make with seasoned rice vinegar that I love, but need to break out of the rut of that one. And I know I owe you some recipes, I will get on that soon!

  15. I can second that cuke salad–my family has made it for years and it’s a good one–second only to the version that adds sour cream, but that would kind of nix the New Year’s lightness of it, huh? The Tablespoon ratio is what I’ve always used, and have always had great results, even in baked goods.

  16. Sorry, something went weird with my comment. It was supposed to read:

    As for the buttermilk, the ratio I’ve always heard is 1 Tablespoon vinegar per cup of milk, rather than 1 teaspoon. The tablespoon ratio is what I’ve always used and have always had great results, even in baked goods.

  17. Oatmeal explosion in the office kitchen — been there, done that. More than once. Always a fun way to start a busy work day, no? I’m a huge fan of cucumber salads — my mother used to make one just like this when I was growing up.

  18. ung

    sharon: the microwave works extremely well. quarter the squash and pop it in there for a minute, let it cool, and peel off the skin.

    and my original comment: it’s final. if the recipe’s not on smitten kitchen, i’m not making it. that being said, deb, i knew you were (eventually) going to put up a rugelach recipe up. not sure if you have everyday food, but if you do, is the recipe in the december 07 issue any good?

  19. cricket

    I almost always have plain yogurt in the fridge, so I use that 1/2 and 1/2 with milk and just a tiny smidge of lemon juice or vinegar to up the acid content a bit. It comes closer to the texture of buttermilk, I think, and with no waiting.

  20. (My first post here!) Had to tell you how beautiful that looks. And so simple! Simply delicious. Now that’s one of the things I love best about Smitten Kitchen — the range from zip-zap-zoom to worth-braving-hot-stove-for-on-sweltering-summer-day… Off to vote for Deb!

  21. Traci

    Oooh – that sounds very similar to what my mom calls Hungarian cukes. Same theory, peel, slice and souse with a mixture of water, vinegar and sugar – but my mom’s version leaves out garlic and dill and instead adds a healthy dash of paprika.
    But now I have another variety to make when the mood strikes. Yay!

  22. Hey there – Thanks for the credit link in regards to the Tip of the Day. You’ve implemented it really well. The Tip sits perfectly in your sidebar! :)

    The RSS feed problem is a WordPress problem, more specifically, in the files that make the feeds (Your main feed isn’t working either). Did you upgrade WP recently? I think some of your files haven’t been updated. You should try re-uploading your files (In particular, the /wp-includes directory/, and the files in the root level (wp-config.php, wp-rss.php, wp-rss2.php etc.)

    Sorry I can’t leave an on-topic comment though. I’m not much of a cook I’m afraid!

  23. deb

    Baking powder or buttermilk? Baking powder with the cornstarch in it will keep for months in an airtight container–likely as long as the baking soda does. Buttermilk I wouldn’t keep beyond the milk’s expiration date. However, I’ve heard about people freezing unused buttermilk for later use but haven’t tried it yet.

  24. leigh

    Eileen- This is very similar to a Thai version I make all year long. Just add some crushed red pepper to taste to the vinegar mixture as you’re heating it and thinly sliced onions of any variety (if you like onions- fine without them). Radishes are a lovely addition too. It keeps very well and I usually have a batch in the fridge all the time(especially in summer).

  25. Perfect – my girlfriend is on a raw foods bender as her new year’s resolution and this recipe will fit the bill. Have you tried making pickled seaweed salad as well? I’d be really curious to see that recipe. Great photos, as always!

  26. deb

    No. It is an actual seed, and I had a surprisingly hard time tracking it down (finally: last night from McCormick for nearly $5, which baffled me since it was such a tiny bottle). In this recipe, I added fresh dill at the end instead, because I couldn’t find the seed. If you are using dried, I’d add it sooner.

  27. Kate

    How might these be minus the sugar? I love savory-sweet things involving meat and cheese, but I can’t stand for my veggies to be tainted with sugar! Is it undetectable?

    ps- Dill seed is kind of expensive. If you grow your own dill, it will “go to seed”, aka: grow big sunflower-esque seed branches at the end of it. You can cut these off, let them dry, and shake out the seeds. It’s easy to grow, too, like parsley :)

  28. Jennifer

    Made the salad and the goulash tonight– yummy! Thanks so much for simplifying my meal planning. Should I mention that we’re having your fried chicken tomorrow??

    1. Laura

      I’m wondering about leaving the dill seed in the marinade versus straining them out before pouring the marinade on the cukes. The seeds do not look delicate. I’m not used to using this spice, just dill weed.

  29. Christy

    I was craving cucumber salad, and lo! here was a recipe that looked delish. And let me just tell you that half of it was gone before it was even done marinating. The garlic and dill flavors were just perfect. Absolutely outstanding. Will be a summer staple, I’m sure.

  30. Alissa

    The cucumbers are marinating now, can’t wait! An FYI about the dill seed– Try natural food markets where they have big jars of bulk spices. I went to Whole Foods and got a few scoop-fulls for $1.75…Much cheaper than spices in bottles!

  31. tara

    I agree with the comparison to the tasty thai side dish–it would also be good with red onions, carrots, and maybe even crushed peanuts!

  32. Rachel

    I just made this yesterday, with a few changes – no dill seed or fresh dill, so used dried dill tips instead, and no white wine vinegar so i used a mix of 2/3 white vinegar and 1/3 red wine vinegar instead. They turned out well! Crisp and refreshing, though a bit tart for me to eat lots at a go plain. I crumbled a little mild cheddar on it and that helped temper the edge a bit, but i think if I made it again I’d make smaller quantities and toss it into a green salad instead.

  33. Grover

    This sounds delicious, but I’ve never seen seedless cukes where I live, in Sydney Australia. If I use regular cukes, what effect do you think this would have on the final product? Visual only, since the cukes are salted anyway?

  34. RE: Viennese Cucumber Salad
    Hi Smitten Kitchen. I just L-O-V-E this cucumber salad – especially the gorgeous picture. But the saddest part of this post, is that there is another blogger and cookbook author who goes about seeking whom she can offend and steal from. Here are the sites where your cucumber salad picture is posted, sadly and fraudulently as HERS.
    Read it and weep.
    DVD-FREE-Book-The-Bully-/270882471794?pt=US_Nonfiction_Book&hash=item3f11da7f72 (EBAY)

    Hungarian Cucumber Salad

    I am not surprised, as she has stolen pics from the likes of famous food photographers as well.

    I hope you can protect your work as we enjoy it very much.
    Hot Hungarian Chef

    1. deb

      Cora — No problem, but the color might be a little muddied. You can also use plain vinegar. It doesn’t have as nuanced of a flavor but I find the effects to be similar here.

  35. Hi Deb. This looks like a close cousin to the Hungarian version. We have a bad habit of drinking the vinaigrette when we have finished eating the cucumbers.
    Is the lovely picture yours? Please comment.

  36. Eliza

    LOVED it! I made it with green and yellow cukes for a super pretty side salad. I scored the sides with a fork, did the full hour salt drain, used regular vinegar but I skipped the dill. This will be a frequent summer dish for us. Thanks!

  37. Eliza

    Love it again! We cant even wait for it to “pickle,” we’re just eating it right away. I used the food proc for a super quick and easy large batch. Thanks!

  38. Jean

    Cukes with tahini are a marvelous snack. A dish of each pushes buttery popcorn and other unhealthy snacks out of the way when watching TV or a movie. In your Vietnamese salad, i substituted Tupelo honey for sugar – yummy.

  39. Ruth

    Same as my Viennese-Hungarian grandmother’s recipe, but without the dill. We love it. We actually eat it with goulash and hot red cabbage (and to go with that I bake little red potatoes, cut crosses in the top and fill with horseradish and rocket)

  40. Deb

    This is a delicious salad. It made a nice contrast to the creamy chicken ala king I served it with. Made it with fresh dill and sprinkled a little red onion on top.

  41. Jacqueline

    I’m wondering about the purpose of the salt here. I have an old favorite recipe that is similar, but only use a 1/2 t. salt, and it doesn’t call for adding the salt before the other ingredients. What does that step do for the dish?

    Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes, tips, coaching, and thoughtfulness found on your website. Although I’ve never commented before, I’ve followed and learned from you for years.

    1. deb

      The salt here is to wilt the cucumbers and then it’s mostly washed off. Essentially, the liquid here drains off rather than weaken the dressing. Hope that helps. And thank you very much.

      1. Juli J

        I make something similar to go with swedish meatballs (different spice no dill) from Chef Marcus Samuelson
        They are a great contrast to meatballs and mashers
        How long will these keep in frig? A few days, a week?

  42. Elizabeth

    I added a teaspoon of dried dill weed in addition to the dill seed for some extra dillsomeness and it turned out perfectly! This is now my fav cucumber salad recipe, after many, many other recipe tests. It’s perfectly crispy and the white wine vinegar gives the perfect acidic bite. Thanks, Deb!