Smashed Cucumber and Feta Salad

published Jun 7, 2024
summer
Smashed Cucumber and Feta Salad Recipe

The smashed feta dressing is light, creamy, and what totally makes this salad.

Serves4 to 6

MakesMakes 5 cups

Prep15 minutes

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overhead shot of a smashed feta cucumber salad in a bowl, topped with red onion and mint
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Spencer Richards

My favorite summer side dish — cucumber salad — is quick, simple, refreshing, goes with just about everything, and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Plus there’s so many fun and different ways to whip one up. I love a tangy classic cucumber salad, and I will always have a soft spot for my mom’s cucumber salad. And anytime there’s a carton of buttermilk in my fridge, you can bet I’m making buttermilk cucumber salad. But this summer I simply cannot get enough of this smashed cucumber and feta salad.

It’s fun and flavorful; it has the best mix of crisp, crunchy, soft textures; and it’s so pretty. The real highlight, though, is the smashed feta dressing, which is inspired by former Kitchn editor Grace Elkus. It creates a creamy, yet light dressing that’s especially incredible with cucumbers. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • This cucumber salad has the best mix of flavors and textures. It’s fresh, salty, tangy, and bright with a mixture of crispy, crunchy, soft, and tender bites.
  • It goes with just about everything. This salad is great on its own and is easy to pair with everything from chicken and pork to fish to beef and lamb. I also enjoy bulking up the leftovers with chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, or canned tuna for a quick lunch.

Key Ingredients in Smashed Cucumber and Feta Salad

  • Persian or mini seedless cucumbers: Because of their thin skin, crisp texture, and mild, sweet flavor, Persian cucumbers are an ideal fit for this salad, and for smashing in general. These cukes are only about 5 to 6 inches longer, and you’ll usually find them sold with six to eight pieces in a package.
  • Kosher salt: This is key for not only seasoning the salad, but for ensuring the cucumbers stay crisp rather than soggy.
  • Feta cheese: Skip the feta crumbles. It’s always better to start with a block of feta cheese and crumble the cheese yourself. This way the cheese is creamier, more flavorful, and not dry.
  • Fresh mint. Mixed into the salad and sprinkled over top as a garnish adds a pop of freshness that’s a nice contrast to the salty feta and a natural partner to cool cucumbers.
  • Shelled pistachios. A good salad has a contrast of textures. These meaty nuts add the best crunch to this refreshing salad. Take your pick of salted or unsalted; both work great.

How to Make Smashed Cucumber and Feta Salad

  1. Smash the cucumbers. After trimming the ends from the cucumbers, it’s best (and safest) to slice them in half lengthwise before smashing. That way you can put them cut-side down; they stay put, and aren’t roly-poly. 
  2. Salt the cucumbers and marinate the shallot. It’s going to seem like you’re sprinkling a lot of salt on the cucumbers — it’s not. Trust me, and go with it! The cucumbers won’t taste salty, I promise. And let the cucumbers sit for the full 30 minutes. This pulls some of the moisture out of the cucumbers and keeps them crisp. While the cukes are sitting with the salt, combine a thinly sliced shallot and some lemon juice in a small bowl. The acid from the lemon juice mellows the bite of the shallot and also gives it a little bit of a quick pickle effect.
  3. Smash the feta and prep the other ingredients. Cukes aren’t the only thing getting smashed in this salad, the feta cheese gets smashed, too. Add to a large bowl you plan to serve the salad in. Toss in the chopped fresh mint (no need to stir together just yet). And chop the pistachios for garnish. 
  4. Mix the salad. When the cucumbers are ready (no need to rinse off the salt!), add them to the bowl of feta along with the remainder of the salad ingredients and toss together. Garnish with more chopped mint and pistachios. 

Helpful Swaps 

  • I know that pistachios aren’t a nut that everyone keeps in the pantry. Chopped toasted almonds or even pepitas make a good substitute. 
  • Fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro can be used in place of mint.
  • You can get away with using English cucumbers here (plan on 1 1/2 to two cucumbers). I recommend quartering it lengthwise, smashing the pieces, then cutting each section into 1/2-inch pieces.

Smashed Cucumber and Feta Salad Recipe

The smashed feta dressing is light, creamy, and what totally makes this salad.

Prep time 15 minutes

Makes Makes 5 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    Persian or seedless mini cucumbers (9 to 10)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1

    small shallot

  • 3 ounces

    feta cheese

  • 1

    small bunch fresh mint

  • 2 tablespoons

    shelled pistachios

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground sumac

  • Few grinds freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the ends off 1 1/2 pounds Persian or seedless mini cucumbers and slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Using the flat side of a large chef’s knife or cleaver, press down to crush the entire length of the cucumbers. Do not press so hard that they turn to mush. Slice crosswise on a slight diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 5 cups).

  2. Transfer the cucumbers to a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and toss to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

  3. Juice 1 medium lemon until you have 2 tablespoons. Add to a small bowl. Thinly slice 1 small shallot (about 1/3 cup) and add to the bowl. Stir to coat. Let sit until the cucumbers are ready.

  4. Place 3 ounces feta cheese in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork until you have tiny crumbles. Pick the leaves from 1 small bunch fresh mint and coarsely chop until you have 1/4 cup, plus more for garnish if desired. Add to the feta. Coarsely chop 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios.

  5. When the cucumbers are ready, add to the bowl of feta. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground sumac, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, a few grinds black pepper, the shallot mixture, and mint. Gently toss until the cucumbers are fully coated. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

  6. When ready to serve, garnish with the pistachios and more mint if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.