Cool off with my Cucumber Tomato Salad, a crisp, colorful, refreshing side with salty bits of mozzarella and a rich, tangy balsamic vinaigrette.  A delicious dish full of garden delights!

If you have your own garden, or know a generous neighbor who does, you’ve probably spent more time than you’ll admit trying to figure out what to do with a countertop full of cucumbers.

If you’re one of those industrious types willing to take on the challenges of a pickle-canning adventure, more power to you! Otherwise, I suggest making my Cucumber Tomato Salad. This recipe produces a light, fresh side dish with complex flavors and textures that will make short work of those cucumbers and in flavorful fashion!

My cucumber and tomato salad takes me right back to my Grandma’s little pink kitchen. She had a table for four at one end with a beautiful corner window where she and I would sit, eating this old-fashioned salad and watching the squirrels and birds play in her garden. Every time I make this salad, I’m immediately transported back to that table and the special lunches we shared.

This salad is full of crisp cucumbers, perky tomatoes, and peppery red onion. It’s a perfect medley of colors with a tangy dressing that marries well with all those garden veggies.

You may have enjoyed a creamy cucumber tomato salad before, tossed in some combination of mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, and herbs (often a cucumber tomato dill salad), but that dressing makes this salad a bit heavier. It also makes it less friendly for potlucks and afternoon picnics since you have to keep it nice and cold. Rather than make her cucumber and tomato salad with mayo, Grandma used a flavorful vinaigrette, and added a touch of “creamy” with little bite-sized pieces of mozzarella.

Just like I’ve done with many of the recipes I enjoyed in my childhood, I’ve played with this one a bit to suit my own tastes. In Grandma’s tomato cucumber onion salad apple cider vinegar flavored the dressing, along with a homemade mixture of herbs she always had on hand. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with balsamic vinegar and prefer Italian herbs to her blend (or really just about ANY blend), so those are the only changes in my version.  

The dressing itself is really simple, with just a few ingredients, but they all bring tons of flavor to the party. In my version of Cucumber Tomato Salad balsamic vinegar works absolute magic with the tomatoes.

Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes, just like wine vinegar, but uses grapes fermented before they’re turned into wine. The result is a rich, syrupy, slightly sweeter product that really makes it stand out from other vinegars as an entity all on its own. You’ve probably seen it drizzled over Caprese salad, the colorful fresh mozzarella and tomato antipasta often served at Italian restaurants, and that’s because the deep flavors and aroma play off the bright, acidic quality of the tomatoes to create a truly amazing mouthful of flavor.

One of the other benefits of using balsamic vinegar is that it reduces the amount of oil needed for a balanced dressing. Most vinaigrettes are built on one part vinegar to three or four parts oil, but the mild qualities of balsamic mean less diluting is required.

The garlic and herbs, along with just a touch of sugar, make this the perfect dressing to accent the veggies in this tomato and cucumber salad without overpowering them (though, I suppose, tomatoes and cucumbers are technically both fruits, not vegetables).

I like to use English cucumbers in my tomato cucumber salad rather than the shorter, slicing variety mainly because they have smaller seeds. Seeds are where the bitter lives, after all, and if you’ve ever taken a bite of one of those inedible cucumbers, you know exactly why I don’t like to gamble with something else. The skins are usually nice and tender, too, so I can leave them on for a nice pop of rich, green color.

When choosing tomatoes, I prefer grape to their larger cousins because they’re predictably sweet and lower on the acid scale, plus they hold their shape better, especially since the skins are intact.

I know some people shy away from raw onion in salads, but they’re a wonderful contrast to the cucumbers in my cucumber tomato mozzarella salad. The subtle heat gets toned down by the cooling quality of the cucumbers, plus they add extra crunch and color. The balsamic vinegar helps to smooth out the flavors a bit too, so trust me on this one.

Adding the salty bits of mozzarella to this dish is what makes my Grandma’s cucumber tomato red onion salad standout from other, simpler recipes. The soft, creamy bites of this wonderful mild cheese make the salad unique and hearty, and the chewy little chunks really hold onto the beautiful balsamic dressing well.  Monterey jack would be a good substitute too, though, if that’s what you have on hand.

I like to serve this as a side-dish for one of our backyard grill fests, but you can also serve it like my Grandma did, as a great, light lunch with some crusty French bread. Grandma liked to let her cucumber tomato onion salad sit in the fridge overnight, but my family prefers it as soon as it’s made. It’ll definitely keep in the fridge for a couple of days; the cucumbers just start to lose a bit of their crispness.

Just try my Grandma’s salad, and I predict your countertops will be cleaned off in no time!

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad Recipe

Recipe Notes:

Quick dressing – To save a little time, you can make this Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Italian dressing or another store-bought vinaigrette. I obviously suggest using a balsamic version to most closely resemble my recipe, and you’ll need about ¾ cup. Just be sure to taste the salad before serving and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper or even an extra sprinkling of Italian herbs, if necessary.

Vinegar – If you’re looking for a Cucumber Tomato Salad vinegar substitute because you’re not a fan of balsamic, you can definitely stick with my grandmother’s choice of apple cider vinegar. Feel free to experiment with white or red wine vinegar too. You just may find you need an extra pinch or two of sugar if you use something other than the balsamic.

Cucumbers – If you can’t find English cucumbers, or those kitchen countertops are full of the slicing of Kirby varieties, you can definitely substitute five or six in this recipe. If you’re concerned at all about the bitterness, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them before slicing the cucumbers.

Are You Hungry For More Salads?

My Broccoli Salad is loaded with Broccoli, bacon, grapes, dates, and cheese all tossed in an amazing homemade sweet orange dressing that will totally rock your taste buds!!

My Marinated Tomato Salad is fresh and light and every bite tastes like summer sunshine! It’s super easy to make and goes with almost everything.

Pea Salad is wonderful year round. It’s creamy, and paired with a generous amount of bacon and cheddar cheese.