Old Fashioned Cucumbers and Onions in Vinegar

Old-fashioned cucumbers and onions in vinegar is a classic combination of crisp cucumbers tossed in tangy vinegar, onion, and dill. It’s cool, crunchy and perfect for hot summer days or any time of the year.

A close up of cucumbers and onions in vinegar in a bowl.

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Old-fashioned cucumbers were a must-have on the table during summer when I was young. My mom used to make them all of the time in the summer with the cucumbers from our garden. Her favorite recipe was sweeter than this recipe – she loved sugar. I prefer a more tart taste, and this recipe has just enough sugar in it to balance the tartness of the vinegar. If you prefer a sweeter cucumber salad, feel free to add more sugar to your taste.

Even though this recipe is popular in the summer, it’s also a great recipe for a simple side dish that can be served any time of the year. One of my favorite ways to enjoy old-fashioned cucumbers and vinegar is with Swedish Meatballs. I love the way the tart simple vinegar brine tastes with hearty meatballs and mashed potatoes.

Why you will love this recipe

  • It is a light and refreshing salad – crispy cucumbers, onions, and fresh herbs blend perfectly together.
  • It’s a simple recipe that is healthy! Cucumbers are low in calories, full of nutrients and water.
  • It’s a great make-ahead dish; bring it to your next pot luck.

a photograph of the ingredients needed to make cucumber salad: cucumbers, dill, vinegar, sugar, salt, onions

Here is What You Will Need

This is a brief summary of the ingredients needed to make this recipe and a convenient shopping list from my Instacart affiliate link. For a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card section.

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Ingredients

How to make this old-fashioned cucumber salad recipe

  1. Wipe the cucumbers clean with a damp cloth or run them under cold water and pat them dry.
  2. Use a sharp knife, slicing blade or mandoline slicer to slice the cucumber an thin as possible.
  3. Slice the onion into thin slices, with a sharp knife, food processor or mandoline slicer.
  4. Measure the salt, sugar, vinegar and chop the fresh dill with a sharp knife.
a photograph of sliced cucumbers and sliced onions in a glass bowl with vinegar and salt on the side

STEP 1: Place the sliced cucumbers into a medium-sized bowl with the onion slices.

A photo of cucumber slices in a bowl with onion slices mixed with salt and sugar

STEP 2: Stir in the salt and sugar, and allow the cucumbers to sit at room temperature for one hour.

a photograph of cucumbers in a glass bowl after sitting in a brine for an hour

STEP 3: At this point, the cucumbers will have released water into the bowl. You do not need to drain the cucumbers. If the amount of water seems sparse, add a tablespoon of water.

a picture of cucumbers in a bowl sliced with sliced onions with vinegar pouring in

STEP 4: Stir in the vinegar and chopped dill. Adjust the flavor with more water for a less vinegar taste.

Ingredient notes & substitutions

The complete list of ingredients to make this recipe is above. Below are notes about some of the ingredients, along with ideas for substitutes.

Cucumbers. You can use any type of cucumber in this recipe, but young cucumbers with small seeds work best. When choosing, look for cucumbers that are medium to dark green in color. They should be firm without any soft spots. In the winter, which is not their peak season, I like small Kirby and Persian cucumbers for their delicate flavor and thin skins.

Onions. As with the cucumbers, you can use any variety of onions that you have. Red onions make a pretty presentation, and white onions, yellow onions, or Vidalia onions are also good choices. I like to use Vidalia onions, which are sweet onions, to balance the tartness of the vinegar.

Sugar. I like to use natural sweeteners, like coconut sugar, in this recipe. However, white sugar, honey, or your favorite sweetener can easily be substituted.

Sea Salt. can be replaced with table salt or kosher salt.

Vinegar. I use apple cider vinegar in this recipe, but you can also use white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or champagne vinegar.

Experiment with different types of vinegar in this salad; each one will impart its own flavor.

An overhead view of the cucumbers and onions on a plate

Serving suggestions

This tangy side salad tastes great as a side dish garnished with black pepper and served with a burger, grilled chicken, beef, pork chops, seafood or Swedish meatballs

How to store leftover cucumber vinegar salad

Storing leftover cucumber vinegar salad is easy. Store them in an airtight container making sure all of the cucumbers are covered with vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you like cucumbers, try this Summer Salad with Cucumbers and Feta

cucumbers with onions and vinegar salad in a bowl

Zucchini and Onions Salad – Replace the cucumbers with thinly sliced zucchini or a combination of both sliced cucumbers and zucchini.

Tomatoes – Make a true summer salad, and add cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges to the salad.

Vegetables – Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of more veggies such as bell pepper slices, radishes or zucchini to the salad.

Herbs and use any combination of chopped fresh mint, fresh basil or fresh oregano.

Greek – Add some chopped kalamata olives and feta cheese to the cucumber mixture.

Spicy – Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes or chopped jalapeno pepper to add a spicy to the salad.

Creamy – Combine a quarter cup of sour cream or Greek with the vinegar mixture.

Cucumbers and onion salad on a plate with a fork

Tips

  • For the best results, slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible. If you prefer a quick way to slice the cucumbers, a mandoline slicer or food processor is your best option. Otherwise a good sharp knife will do the trick.
  • The balance of flavor really depends on your taste. The cucumbers usually provide enough water to mix with the vinegar. Taste before serving and adjust to your taste, add more water to reduce the vinegar flavor or more vinegar for a less water flavor.
Why are the cucumbers soaked in salt and sugar?

The cucumbers are soaked in salt and sugar brine to draw the water out of the cucumber slices and add flavor. The water also dilutes the vinegar taste; more water can be added if the vinegar is too strong.

Do I have to peel the cucumbers before making this salad?

It’s okay not to peel cucumbers when the skin is thin, as it is on baby, Persian, or English cucumbers. If the skin is thick and tastes bitter, it’s best to peel the cucumbers.

Should the cucumbers be drained before adding the vinegar?

No! Do not drain the cucumbers before adding the vinegar. The water from the cucumbers will dilute the vinegar, and it can be adjusted by adding more water and sugar to taste.

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cucumbers and onions sliced thin in a white bowl

Cucumbers and Onions in Vinegar

Cucumbers and onions in vinegar is a combination of  crispy cucumbers and onions in a tangy yet slightly sweet vinegar.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Click on serving size to scale this recipe

Course: Salads and Salad Dressing Recipes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Old-fashioned cucumbers and onions
Servings: 4 People
Calories: 59kcal
Author: Anne
Scale this Recipe 4 People

Ingredients

  • 3 medium cucumbers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  • With a sharp knife or mandolin slicer, slice 3 medium cucumbers and 1 medium onion thin
  • Place the onions and cucumbers into a bowl; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and mix well.
  • Set the mixture aside for at least one hour to allow the cucumbers to release water
  • Add the 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill stir – adjust the salad with salt, pepper and sugar and water to taste

Video

Notes

Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to week.
Ingredient notes:
Cucumbers – any type of cucumber can be used in this recipe. If they are thin skinned cucumbers they do not need to be peeled.
Onions – Red, white, yellow or vidalia onions are the best onions for this salad.
Sea Salt – can be replaced with an equal amount of kosher salt or table salt.
Coconut Sugar- can be replaced with an equal amount of sucanant sugar or refined sugar.
Vinegar – Apple cider, white, red or champagne vinegar are good choices.

Nutrition

Calories: 59kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 0.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 1751mg | Potassium: 370mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 178IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe for my country folks that have passed on many times. I have a question for you. After slicing the cucumbers & setting aside to allow water release, do you rinse them or pat dry or anything? Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comment, Debbie. I don’t pat the cucumbers dry, I use the liquid from the cucumbers and then add vinegar. I will adjust the taste with water at the  if they are too salty or the vinegar is too much.