This bright and colorful Cucumber Tomato Salad is a dish that you'll find all over the Middle East. While I learned about this salad in Israel where they call it vegetable salad or Arabic Salad, it's important to note that it is a dish adopted from the surrounding regions. For some reason, however, I have seen people in the United States call it Israeli Salad.
In Afghanistan it's called "salata," in Turkey and Azerbaijan it's called "çoban salata," in Bulgaria it's called "shepherds salad," in Syria it's sometimes called "Armenian salad," in Iraq it's called "Iraqui salad," in India it's called "kachumbar salad," in Libya it's called "sharmoula," and in Kuwait it's called "daily salat." You will also find it in Armenia, Bahrain, Egypt, Morroco, Jordan, Moldova, Tunisia, North Africa, and so many other places.
This salad is really similar to Shirazi salad with key differences. The size of the diced vegetables in this salad is slightly bigger and you'll also note the absence of any mint which is an optional addition to a Shirazi salad. Shirazi salad is also sometimes made with sour grape juice or lime juice instead of lemon juice.
You'll find versions of this reflected in many different countries and cuisines in that part of the world. Each cuisine may have slight variations but the staple ingredients are the same. I'm showing you how you can quickly and easily make this delicious salad at home and serve it with all of your favorite main meals.
Why this Recipe Works
This is a very minimalistic salad with only a few prep steps. The dressing is really simple, just olive oil and lemon juice, and you don't have to cook any of the individual ingredients which makes it quick to put together.
The main ingredients have a high water content which means that it's light and fresh and goes well with many different dishes. You'll often find cucumber tomato salad served with falafel or in falafel bowls and pita, or kabobs.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Tomatoes – Roma tomatoes have an easily-recognizable shape, and are a bit bigger than plum tomatoes. You could replace with plum tomatoes, but these will be slightly less crisp and more watery in the salad.
Cucumber – Persian cucumbers are easy to spot as they are smaller and shorter in size than regular cucumbers. They have thin, tasty skin, making them perfect for this recipe.
Red onion – Do not substitute with other onions. The flavor of most other onions used raw won't will be too strong and sharp in this salad.
Parsley – Use fresh parsley, not the dried version.
Olive oil – Use the highest quality olive oil that you can for this recipe.
How to Make this Recipe
To get the right size dice on the cucumbers you're going to want to cut each cucumber into quarters lengthwise first.
Then, dice the cucumbers into ½-inch chunks. Use the cucumber size you can see in the pictures. The next step is to dice your Roma tomatoes into pieces the same size as the cucumber chunks.
The red onions should be very finely diced, and the parsley should be minced.
Add all of your ingredients to a large serving bowl including the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Taste test the salad and adjust the seasoning of salt, pepper, and lemon as needed.
Yes, it is! In fact, it is kosher, vegan, vegetarian, and it's gluten-free so it's an excellent recipe for those with dietary restrictions.
It's actually often served for all three meals during the day! I love it as a part of my breakfast with yogurt and toast, at lunch with canned tuna and hummus, or for dinner with some kabob or falafel.
While you could substitute Persian cucumbers with regular cucumbers, I don't recommend it because most cucumbers have waxy skin and hard seeds. When included in the salad you'll find that they can create a bitter taste, too.
You'll definitely want a sharp knife for all the dicing that this recipe requires. Use whatever knife you have on hand as long as it is sharp. A vegetable santoku or chef's knife is preferred. The best brand is the one that fits best in your hand and has a high-quality blade.
Although it's origin is unclear, you will find versions of this salad all over the Middle East. For example, you will find it in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Moldova, Morroco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and so many more.
A salad is a perfect start to a delicious meal! If you love this recipe, you'll probably love one of these favorites:
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Mediterranean Cucumber Tomato Salad
- 1 lb Persian cucumbers
- 1 lb Roma tomatoes
- ⅓ lb. red onion finely diced
- 1.5 oz. parsley fresh, minced
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice fresh
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pepper plus more to taste
- Cut each cucumber into quarters lengthwise. Then dice into ½-inch chunks.
- Dice the tomato into pieces that are the same size as the cucumber chunks.
- Add the diced cucumbers and tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a serving bowl.
- Mix well, taste test, and adjust for salt, pepper, and lemon.