This is the kind of salad that your grandma would serve you and it’s absolutely delicious. I added a few tweaks to it too, to make it even better. You can make it relatively quickly and enjoy it straight away. If you have the time, you can make it in advance and refrigerate it for later consumption. Both ways will work well and I am sure you will love this salad both freshly made or chilled for a few hours in the fridge.
I grew up eating a lot of cucumber salads dressed in mayo or sour cream. I love them. Mayo gives cucumber salads that velvety creaminess and a pleasant tang.
A special ingredient for the cucumber salad – chili oil
Just to make things a little more interesting, I once added a little bit of Asian hot chili oil to the mayo dressing and it literally transformed the salad. No doubt.
Have you tried spicy salmon or tuna rolls? They are made with a very similar spicy mayo. I love them. Why not make spicy chili may salad, right? You don’t need to add a lot of chili oil though, only a little bit just to barely feel the bite is enough. Of course, you can add more if you like more heat, there’s nothing wrong with that.
… and don’t forget sesame seeds
Once you add chili oil, you almost feel like you have to add sesame oil or sesame seeds. I don’t know why, but I get that feeling. Sesame oil is too overpowering for delicately flavored cucumbers. Sesame seeds are just right. They add a bit of flavor and some crunch. I like added toasted white sesame seeds mixed with the mayo dressing. On top, I sprinkled some black sesame seeds. These are less for flavor and more for visual appeal. They really transform the look of the otherwise plain-looking mayo cucumber salad.
To add more color, texture and flavor to the salad, add some red onion and chopped herbs, like dill, parsley, cilantro, sage or any other greens you may like and have on hand. Radishes work well in this salad too.
When making this cucumber salad, I like to slice cucumber fairly thick, about 3/8″. Very thinly sliced cucumbers just don’t have the same crunch, the same substantial texture. I think chunky cucumbers work way better in this salad. Of course, this is a matter of personal preference.
Best cucumbers to use
It goes without saying that locally grown cucumbers when they are in season make the best cucumber salad. Each summer I grow several heirloom cucumber plants in my backyard, those taste ridiculously good. So, try to make this salad in summer to really enjoy those delicious summer flavors.
To chill your cucumber salad or not
It’s customary to make cucumber salads in advance and serve them chilled. It’s not necessarily the case with this salad. I like it just as much made with freshly-picked cucumber from my garden, still warm from the hot summer sun, as I do when it’s chilled. I think it’s a personal choice. Try it made both ways and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
Storing this salad
Unlike tomato salads, cucumber salads store very well in a fridge. But don’t wait too long, this salad won’t taste as well after a day or two and the cucumbers will begin to lose their crunch and release more water. Whenever possible, make just enough to eat and make a fresh salad another day.
- 4 cups sliced cucumbers about 2 large or 4 medium cucumbers, sliced 3/8" thick
- 1 red onion quartered and thinly sliced
- 3/4 Tbsp sea salt
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp chili oil plus more to taste
- 1 clove garlic pressed
- 1 Tbsp fresh dill finely chopped; or 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro finely chopped; or 1 tsp dried cilantro
- 1 Tbsp fresh chives or green onion finely sliced;
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
- Mix cucumbers, red onion, and sea salt together in a bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Drain off the accumulated liquid, mix and let sit for 15 minutes more. Drain off the liquid again.
- In a large bowl, stir mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped herbs, green onion, garlic, and black pepper together in a bowl until smooth.
- Add the drained cucumbers, white sesame seeds and stir well to coat the cucumbers with the dressing.
- Plate the salad in layers as shown on the picture. Garnish with black sesame seeds and whole dill and parsley or cilantro twigs.
- Serve right away or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.