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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner
Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Popular Creamy Cucumber Salads and the Winner Uses a Super-Smart Trick

published Jul 8, 2021
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Creamy cucumber salad is a classic summer side. It pairs well with just about everything, making it great for weeknight dinners and cookout spreads. To me, a really good one features crisp cukes and a well-seasoned dressing that’s a little bit tangy and creamy, but not too creamy.

For this recipe showdown, I was determined to uncover the secret to the absolute best creamy cucumber salad. Is salting and draining the cucumber a must? Does sour cream make a better dressing than mayo? What about yogurt? How long should the salad sit before serving? I headed to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Meet Our 4 Contenders

To narrow down the search, I looked for recipes that took different approaches to this classic recipe. The four I landed on varied in their dressing ingredients, their approach to salting and draining the cucumbers, and their recommendations for how long to chill the salad before serving.

Allrecipes’ popular cucumber salad relies on mayonnaise for the dressing, has you salt and drain the cucumbers for one hour before assembly, and recommends chilling the salad for two hours before serving.

Ina Garten’s cucumber salad calls for salting and draining the cucumbers for a minimum of four hours to remove excess liquid and draining the whole-milk yogurt for the dressing as well. The strained yogurt is then mixed with sour cream, and the salad chills for a few hours before serving.

Taste of Home’s cucumber salad is the most simple and straightforward of the bunch. The cucumbers are not salted or strained, and there isn’t any salt added to the salad, either. The dressing is made with a scant amount of sour cream.

America’s Test Kitchen’s cucumber salad goes the extra step of seeding the cucumbers, then pressing down on the salted cucumbers (with a water-filled, gallon-sized zip-top bag!) during draining to remove even more liquid. The dressing is a sour cream-based one with plenty of fresh dill.

How I Tested the Creamy Cucumber Salad Recipes

All four recipes were prepared and tasted on the same day. To minimize ingredient variability, I purchased cucumbers and onions from the same store and used the same brands of ingredients to ensure I wasn’t swayed by brand-specific differences. Each cucumber salad was evaluated at the time suggested in the recipe, at the end of the day in a side-by-side comparison, and again the following day.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

1. The Fastest Creamy Cucumber Salad: Taste of Home’s Sour Cream Cucumbers

This is a simple, straightforward, and speedy salad. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to win me over. The biggest thing I learned from this recipe is that cucumber salads need salt, which is nowhere to be found here. The lack of salt left the salad tasting flat, and without anything to balance the sugar in the dressing, it skewed a little sweet.

I did appreciate that the cucumbers weren’t swimming in dressing, which helped keep them crisp and crunchy. This recipe is a solid option if you’re running short on time — as long as you add a little salt.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

2. The Most Eye-Catching Creamy Cucumber Salad: America’s Test Kitchen Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

America’s Test Kitchen is famously known for going the extra mile to make the best version of classic recipes, and this creamy cucumber salad is no exception. With sour cream as the base, this salad’s dressing was thick and incredibly creamy, with a tang that kept me coming back for more. It was also packed with a generous amount of fresh dill. But perhaps my favorite thing about this salad is the way the cucumbers were prepped: halved, seeded, and sliced on the diagonal into strips. It made this salad stand out visually and even made it feel a little bit fancy. I’ll definitely be using this technique from now on.

In the end, this recipe also faltered when it came to salt, but here the issue was too much instead of not enough. I found that there was no need to add additional salt to the dressing. Trust me — there’s plenty from salting and draining the cucumbers.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

3. The Cucumber Salad That Gets Better with Time: Allrecipes’ Dad’s Creamy Cucumber Salad

The most unexpected thing about this recipe was just how much my opinion of it changed every time I tasted it. I know that most cucumber salads get better and more flavorful the longer they sit, but this one had a serious transformation!

The dressing, which is made mostly of mayo, was totally overpowering when I first tasted it. Honestly, I thought it was terrible and couldn’t eat more than a bite. But after the recommended two-hour chill, things improved. By the four-hour mark, the overpowering taste of mayo mellowed, the flavors melded, and this salad was good. By the next day, it was really good. It tasted like a totally different salad.

The only thing I’d change in this recipe is the amount of dressing. It makes a lot. The next time I make it, I’ll stick with 1 cup of mayo rather than 1 1/2 cups.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

4. The Absolute Best Creamy Cucumber Salad: Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad

The problem with most creamy cucumber salads is that the dressing is too thin and runs right off the cucumbers. Not surprisingly, Ina has solved for that issue. In addition to salting and draining the cucumbers to keep them crunchy, Ina strains the whole-milk yogurt, which you mix with sour cream for the dressing. It’s such a smart move, and creates a dressing that’s thick, rich, and impossibly creamy, without feeling heavy. It clings to the crunchy cukes, which was exactly what I was looking for.

My only issue with this recipe is that Ina doesn’t peel the cucumbers, and I felt like the toughness of the skin took away from the salad. It’s a simple-enough fix to peel them next time, though — and there will 100% be a next time very soon.

Do you have a favorite creamy cucumber salad recipe? Let us know in the comments!