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

German cucumber salad
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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

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4 from 2 reviews

  • 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
  • ½ 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 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.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: German

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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. LaReesa says:

    I was going to make this with cucumbers but the one in my fridge was rotten 🙄 so I used celery instead and it was so good! I skipped the first step (salting). I ALWAYS have celery in the fridge so this will be a great quick salad to whip up for summer.

  2. Jeanette Gladney says:

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

  3. Mary Ann says:

    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!

  4. Kemi says:

    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 says:

      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!

  5. sue ellen says:

    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.

  6. Martin Valentine says:

    1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil enhances the dressing!

  7. enid says:

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

  8. Wulf says:

    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…?

    1. Alex says:

      Haha! A little pickle juice never hurt anyone :)

  9. Eugenia says:

    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.

    1. Sonja says:

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

  10. Mary Ann says:

    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 says:

      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!

  11. Cathy rogozyn says:

    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.

    1. Sonja says:

      That sounds good too! Thanks for the idea :)

    2. KD says:

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

  12. Nicole @ Half buzzed hostess says:

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

  13. penandra says:

    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!). ;-)

  14. Foy Update - Cook. Garden. Write. Repeat. says:

    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.

  15. Parsley Sage says:

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

  16. Tiffany says:

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

  17. Amanda says:

    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 says:

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

  18. Debbie says:

    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 says:

      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! :)

  19. Heidi @ Food Doodles says:

    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!

  20. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says:

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

  21. Kelly says:

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

  22. Marilyn says:

    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!

  23. Dani says:

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

  24. Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum says:

    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 says:

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

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

  25. Jess says:

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

  26. Jacqueline says:

    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 says:

      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 :)

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