German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)

This refreshing German cucumber salad (gurkensalat) is a summer tradition: thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in a vinegary dressing.

German cucumber salad

Growing up, German cucumber salad meant summer. There wasn’t a meal that this cucumber salad couldn’t complement. Because of my dad’s German heritage, he called it gurkensalat. Alex’s family was decidedly less fancy, and simply called it “pickles”. Whatever you call it, a good cucumber salad can’t be beat in the summer. Here, we’re sharing my family’s gurkensalat recipe, 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 grilled salmon or burgers?

Or, try it creamy! Try our Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream.


How to make German cucumber salad

German cucumber salad is easy to make, but it does take a little patience. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Slice the veggies at thin as possible. The trick to mastering this cucumber salad is to slice the onions and cucumbers as thinly as possible. If you have a mandolin, now would be a great time to whip it out. Otherwise, taking the time to slice the veggies thinly with a knife will work. Slicing the cucumber and onion thinly allows the salt to draw out most of the moisture, and gives this salad the most incredible texture.
  • Let it sit! The other key component of German cucumber salad is time. Once the cucumbers and onions have been salted, they need time to rest to allow the salt to do its work. After you’ve drained them and added in the vinegar and sugar, the salad shout sit for another 15 minutes to let the flavors come together.

Video: How to cut an onion

What speeds up the prep in this German cucumber salad is your knife skills! You’ll need to know how to properly slice an onion. Here’s our step by step guide for how to cut an onion, including a video of me cutting an onion in our kitchen. Fast forward to the slicing an onion step: typically we slice our onions into half moons for this cucumber salad.

Serving suggestions

This German cucumber salad is perfect for summer meals! Here are some of our favorite mains that would pair well with this salad:

Cucumber salads around the world

Cucumber salad is enjoyed in many nations of the world! Here are a few different spins using the hydrating cucumber as a base:

  • Shepherd salad from Turkey features tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and olives, covered in a lemony vinaigrette.
  • Greek salad uses much of the same ingredients, arranged in a flat layer on a plate with a simple oil and vinegar drizzle.
  • Thai cucumber salad features red pepper, cashews and cilantro, covered in a dressing made with Thai red curry paste.
  • Cucumber salad with sour cream from Poland features shallots, dill and a sour cream dressing.

This German cucumber salad recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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German Cucumber Salad

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (12 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 1x


This refreshing German cucumber salad (gurkensalat) is a summer tradition: thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in a vinegary dressing.


  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  1. Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible, using a mandolin if desired. Peel and thinly slice the 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 1/2 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.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: German

Keywords: German cucumber salad, gurkensalat, cucumber salad

Looking for more easy side dishes?

Outside of this German cucumber salad, here are a few more favorite summer side dish recipes:

Last updated: March 2020

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 3:05 am

    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.

    • Reply
      July 15, 2011 at 10:08 am

      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 :)

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 8:55 am

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

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum
    July 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    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!!

    • Reply
      July 15, 2011 at 9:20 am

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

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

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    A German recipe, yay! Great salad, I love cucumbers! Best regards from sunny Germany :)

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Delicious and so healthy!! Love it! (And I also love that super cute picture of your pup at the bottom of your blog, adorable!)

  • Reply
    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
    July 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I love cucumbers! And that you can make the fancy is just icing on the cake!

  • Reply
    Heidi @ Food Doodles
    July 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Yum! That sounds just like what my husbands Opa makes!! I tried to recreate it but it wasn’t as good. I’m trying this recipe for sure :D Thank you!

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      July 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

      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! :)

  • Reply
    July 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      July 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

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

  • Reply
    July 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Today, I made a cucumber salad with the kids I volunteer with. Your version looks fantastic!

  • Reply
    Parsley Sage
    July 17, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Perfect summertime (gurken)salad. Looks amazing :) Buzzed!

  • Reply
    Foy Update - Cook. Garden. Write. Repeat.
    July 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    My German Grandma made this salad but she added a bit of dressing (mayo) to the sauce. She also used to save the dill pickles vinegar so she could drain the sweet pickles and put them in the dill juice.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    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!). ;-)

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Half buzzed hostess
    July 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    This looks so refreshing–perfect for the 100 degree heat. I need more recipes that don’t require an oven!

  • Reply
    Cathy rogozyn
    September 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      September 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      That sounds good too! Thanks for the idea :)

    • Reply
      February 8, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Yes sour cream was a must according to my Oma.. very little vinager, salt, peppet, dill weed no sugar in ours.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    March 2, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      I hope you enjoy it! I love how this salad has such fond memories for so many people :) Enjoy!

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    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…?

    • Reply
      April 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Haha! A little pickle juice never hurt anyone :)

  • Reply
    July 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

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

  • Reply
    Martin Valentine
    July 27, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil enhances the dressing!

  • Reply
    sue ellen
    July 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    August 14, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Jeanette Gladney
    October 30, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Have you ever tried canning this recipe? I absolutely love this salad.

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