German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)

SonjaSalads33 Comments



Growing up, Gurkensalat meant summer. There wasn’t a meal that this German cucumber salad couldn’t compliment. (Yes, our family was fancy. Alex’s family just called it “pickles”.)

Whatever you call it, a good cucumber salad can’t be beat in the summer. We’ve vinegar-philes in this household, so we’ve been dying to get our hands on some cucumbers. The recipe is my family’s standard, tweaked a bit for our taste. It’s easy to prepare, and requires only a few ingredients. It’s a great accompaniment to a summer meal (perhaps some burgers?).

Got lots of cucumbers? We’re still waiting on our garden cucumbers, but we’ve got lots in store for them, including this recipe!

German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)
This German cucumber salad is a summer tradition in our household. And leftovers are best -- the taste is even better the next day!
Serves: 8
What You Need
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
What To Do
  1. Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible, using a mandolin if desired. Peel and thinly slice 1 onion. Layer the cucumbers and onions in a large shallow bowl, sprinkling salt between each layer and alternating onion layers between cucumbers. Let stand for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, then drain thoroughly.
  2. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add ½ cup white vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, fresh ground pepper and additional salt, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in a few ice cubes and let stand 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


33 Comments on “German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)”

  1. Jacqueline

    I haven’t tried a cucumber salad like this before. I feel I am missing out. SO simple, but I bet it packs a punch and I am liking the thought of it on a burger.

    1. Sonja

      When I mentioned burgers I was thinking of the cucumbers as a side, but I love the idea of using them as a burger topping! Great thought :)

  2. Jess

    This is one of our favorite summer salads! What a great way to use all the cucumbers we have in the garden!

  3. Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum

    When I was in Ukraine a few years ago, we would have a similar salad except it had tomatoes in it. I love the acidity from the vinegar! yum.

    BTW – just got a fabulous book in the mail yesterday! :) Bjork read it to me while I was making dinner. New tradition! :) Thanks you two!!

    1. Alex

      Yum, that would excellent with tomatoes – like pickled salsa…

      I’m imagining Bjork reading it in his best Bittmanesque New York accent :)

  4. Marilyn

    I am starting to get great gobs of cucumbers and I brought some into work today. My co-worker and I were just talking about this salad. Thanks for posting so timely!

  5. Debbie

    My mother used to make this and I never paid attention to how she made it. She’s no longer alive so I couldn’t ask her. Anytime I tried to make it it never tasted the same. I was missing the sugar.The one thing she did differently was to put a few ice cubes in it to, in her words, crisp it up.

    1. Sonja

      Funny – our recipe also called for stirring in a few ice cubes too, but I left it out since I thought the refrigerator would do something similar. I’ll have to try it again and see if it “crisps up” like your mom alleges! :)

  6. Amanda

    I’ve had many a cucumber salad with vinegar, but I’ve never added sugar before, nor have I let the cucumbers set out to release some of the water content. I followed your recipe and the results were fantastic. This is my new go-to. I like knowing the German name for it, too; it makes it more special.

    1. Sonja

      I’m so glad you liked it! Yes, Gurkensalat sounds much more fancy than plain old cucumber salad, doesn’t it? :)

  7. penandra

    I grew up in a Polish household and this was a staple in our house growing up — with fresh cucumbers from Dad’s garden. Thanks for the memories! This is on the menu for this evening (and I am a very happy camper looking forward to it!). ;-)

  8. Cathy rogozyn

    My mother came from Ukraine and she made German salad with vinegar sugar cucumber onion and sometimes put a table spoon of sour cream. I haven’t had it in some time and read your recipe and added sour cream and it tasted just like my mothers.

  9. Mary Ann

    When I was a little girl, during the summer my grandmother would send me to the vegetable stand across the highway and buy fresh tomatoes (for BLT’s for lunch that day), onions and cucumbers to make this EXACT recipe. I too loved it. And like you, having this for that evenings dinner was one of the most memorable moments for me as well. Thank you for posting this. I found your post while searching for the origins of this salad. FYI, I use organic English cucumbers.

    1. Sonja

      What a lovely memory! Just like you, it’s a fond remembrance of summer and family to us (I could go for some right about now, while we’re waiting for spring). Glad you enjoyed the post!

  10. Eugenia

    Just WUNDERBAR ! My husbands German Aunt Claire always made this salad and we all loved it. Never had the receipe, but delighted to have it now. It is sliced and salted and I can’t wait to finish it up for tonights dinner. Thank you so much.

  11. Wulf

    Thanks for this!
    My parents used to make this rather too often for my taste when I was growing up. At that time I didn’t like it at all; but when I (and my taste buds) grew up I realized how foolish I had been not to love this stuff. My wife makes it in the summer and I feel guilty for how much I put away in a sitting.
    I love drinking the leftover brine, too; I can’t be the only one…?

  12. enid

    This is the quintessential German cucumber salad; my grandmother used to make it and it was awesome! Miss her and the salad.

  13. sue ellen

    Thank you for the recipe! I too have fond memories of this salad. We always had it in summer using the fresh cukes from the garden, and it even had it’s own special bowl, a pink depression era glass bowl that had an imprint of cherry blossoms on it. Thank you for putting this online, this is one recipe my Mom did not write down, it was from her mother who was Austrian.

  14. Kemi

    Thanks for sharing! We ate this salad growing up… it was the first thing that I learned to “cook”. My mom would slice and then let me layer and dress this. I loved helping. We always did a bowl of cucumbers and a bowl of tomatoes. My mother learned this recipe from our German neighbor, so we called them German pickles. She always made both but never combined them. Yum!
    When I make them now I layer the cucumbers and tomatoes together and serve them as soon as they are dressed (no onions either). I think I will try the old way and see if my family likes it!

    1. Sonja

      What a fun memory! Foods we ate growing up are so nostalgiac, aren’t they? Hope your family likes the old way when you try it out on them!

  15. Mary Ann

    My Mother came from Austria as a child and made this recipe often. So happy to see this and will try to make it – looks like the exact recipe she made!

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