31 Days of Vegetables

Cucumbers: The Best Ways to Pick Them, Cook Them, and Eat Them

updated Jul 14, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

If I could pick just one vegetable to eat raw as a snack, it would be, without a doubt, cucumbers. From the regular slicing cucumbers with their refreshing seedy gel in every crunchy bite, to the slim and crisp English cucumbers, to the miniature cukes my kids gobble by the bag, cucumbers are the most refreshing snack in one compact package.

But they’re not just snacks, made for dipping in ranch — cucumbers can do so much more. Here’s everything you need to know about the cucumber, king of summer snacking.

The Cucumber Top 5

Five must-reads for cucumber-lovers.

  1. The most popular cucumber recipe on Pinterest.
  2. A strange cucumber recipe from Julia Child herself.
  3. Why Persian cucumbers are the best cucumbers.
  4. A fabulous way to use up cucumber peels.
  5. How to turn cucumbers into cups.

Is a Cucumber a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Like tomatoes, zucchini, and other fruit-borne produce, the cucumber is botanically a fruit. It grows out of a flower and has seeds inside. But culinarily, like those other examples, it is used as a vegetable in primarily savory applications, given its relatively low sugar content.

Types of Cucumbers

The most common type of cucumber you find in the grocery store is the dark-green, smooth slicing cucumber. But you can also sometimes find (especially at farmers markets) skinny and ridged Armenian cucumbers or the smaller pickling (Kirby) cucumbers. There are also Persian cucumbers, which look like English cucumbers but are different (read more about that here).

Here’s a visual guide to some common varieties.

Plus …

Some cucumbers at the grocery store, particularly the thin-skinned English cucumber, are usually wrapped in plastic. Why is that? It’s to keep them and their thin skins from drying out! Read more about that here.

Cucumber Nutrition

Cucumbers are high in water and relatively low in other vitamins and nutrients, but also very low in calories. One hundred grams of cucumber contains about 15 calories.

Are Cucumbers Keto-Friendly?

Cucumbers have about 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. This is relatively low and puts them in a similar place as other crunchy, low-starch vegetables.

The keto and low-carb eating practices rely on eating lower amounts of net carbs (carbs minus the fiber). Depending on one’s carb budget, cucumber can be a refreshing and satisfying way to eat nutritiously while following this eating practice. 

What’s the Difference Between Zucchini and Cucumber?

Zucchini and cucumber are closely related botanically, and they look and sometimes taste similar. They both are about 95% water, and have similar nutritional values. However, cucumbers are crisper and sweeter in their taste, with a watery texture that is more refreshing. Zucchini usually has a more bitter flavor when uncooked and a drier texture with a thicker skin.

How to Store Cucumbers

The best way to store cucumbers is actually at room temperature. They will last longer in a room-temperature setting with good air low. Keep them separated from bananas and melons. If you love ice-cold cucumbers for snacking (don’t we all!), chill them for no more than a day or two for peak taste and texture.

The Best Ways to Cook with Cucumbers

Do you ever actually cook cucumbers with heat? We rarely do (although Julia Child does recommend baking them!). But you can still cook with cucumbers in salads and as raw “noodles.” Here are several ways to use cucumbers in your cooking.

How to Make Cucumber Pickles

The one way we do cook cucumbers over heat is in pickles! Here is your simplest, most basic guide to make crunchy dill pickles:.

Plus …

Can Dogs Eat Cucumbers?

A moderate amount of fresh vegetables like cucumbers is fine for dogs. As always, consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions about feeding human food to your pets.

Why Are Cats Scared of Cucumbers?

There are hundreds of videos of people being, quite frankly, mean to their cats by placing a cucumber behind them. The idea of a cucumber sneaking up on a cat is funny, but probably triggers their instincts and even looks like a snake. Read more here. (And don’t be mean to your kitty!)

The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Cucumbers

The best way to use up leftover fresh cucumbers is to eat them! Just slice and serve with ranch dressing or in salt and vinegar. Yum.

Can You Freeze Cucumbers?

Yes, you can. But cucumbers are best fresh. If you freeze cucumbers they will probably be best in soup or in juice. You can, however, brine them and freeze them as an easy pickle.

Our Top 20 Cucumber Recipes

What’s your favorite recipe or use for cucumbers? Any favorite way to cook it?

31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days. How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!