Recipe Review

Ina Garten Has a Clever Trick for Making the Best Cucumber Salad Ever

published Jul 7, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

If there’s anyone who can take a simple, classic salad and give it a tiny twist to make it feel elegant, it’s Ina Garten. We’ve already learned she makes a memorable potato salad and a crave-worthy chicken salad, so I was eager to try her creamy cucumber salad. Originally published in her 2008 cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, the recipe is also shared on Food Network’s website, where it gets many rave reviews.

There were several things that caught my eye as I read through this recipe. First was the dressing, which uses a mix of whole-milk yogurt (that gets strained for at least four hours), sour cream, and lots of fresh dill. Next was the fact that Ina calls for salting and draining the sliced cucumbers and onion for a minimum of four hours. Lastly, the amount of salt jumped out to me: You use nearly 2 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt as well as 2 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper. Here’s how it went when I made Ina’s cucumber salad for myself.

Get the recipe: Creamy Cucumber Salad

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

How to Make Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad

To begin, mix thinly sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, and salt in a large bowl. The recipe calls for Hot House cucumbers, which are the same as English cucumbers — you know, the extra-long ones wrapped in plastic. Transfer the vegetables to a colander, place the colander inside a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Discard the liquid.

Meanwhile, line a fine mesh strainer with paper towels, place over a bowl, and add yogurt to the strainer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Discard the liquid.

Roll the cucumbers in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to press out any remaining liquid. Place the cucumbers, yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, fresh dill, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours. Season with additional salt and pepper, and serve chilled.

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

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad

The problem with most creamy cucumber salads is that even if they taste great, the dressing tends to be thin, dribbly, and run right off the cucumbers. This also means the creamy dressing runs into everything else on your plate.

But Ina’s creamy cucumber salad is unlike any other version I’ve ever tasted. The dressing is thick, rich, and impossibly creamy, without feeling heavy. Best of all, it coats the cucumber slices without dribbling off. Despite the blend of plain yogurt, sour cream, and vinegar, the level of tang is mild, which leaves room for the cucumbers and fresh dill to shine without being overpowered.

The first time I read through the recipe, salting the cucumbers and straining the yogurt for at least four hours felt a little fussy. But now I know it’s worth it. Straining the yogurt removes so much of the liquid (in this case about a full cup!) that would otherwise make the dressing thin and runny. When tackled the day before, all that’s left to do before serving is mix the salad ingredients together in the bowl and chill for a little while.

I will say I’m surprised Ina didn’t call for peeling the cucumbers. In fact, I read the recipe at least five times because I was sure I’d missed the instructions. I went with it because Ina almost always knows best, but for a salad that otherwise totally impressed me, I didn’t like the tough texture of the cucumber skin. I also found the recipe to be too heavy-handed with the black pepper. Neither turned me off from this salad, though, and both are simple fixes for the next time I make it.

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad, a Few Tips

  1. Peel the cucumbers. The recipe doesn’t call for peeling the cucumbers, but I think it’s well worth taking a few minutes to do this.
  2. Make this salad the day before you plan to serve. With at least four hours needed for draining the cucumbers and straining the yogurt, plus another few hours reserved for chilling the salad before serving, it’s best to make it a day in advance.
  3. Mix the dressing together first. It’s far easier (and less messy) to mix together the yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper, and then mix in the cucumbers and onion.
  4. Use the full amount of salt. Using 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt for straining the cucumbers plus another 2 teaspoons for the dressing will feel like too much — but it’s not. The recipe makes a lot of cucumber salad, which ends up tasting well-seasoned and not too salty. With that said, you can skip the final 1/2 teaspoon of salt at serving if you wish.
  5. Cut back on the black pepper, or omit it entirely. At a full 1 1/2 teaspoons, the flavor of the black pepper is strong, and the longer the salad sits, the more it comes through. If you don’t like the taste of black pepper, leave it out entirely (or cut back to about 1/2 teaspoon). The cucumber salad will still be great.

Overall rating: 9/10

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

Have you tried Ina Garten’s Creamy Cucumber Salad recipe? Let us know in the comments!