Authentic German Cucumber Salad Recipe (Gurkensalat)

Get ready to try the most delicious German Cucumber Salad you’ve ever had, with the perfect combination of flavors using pantry staple ingredients. This refreshing salad features crisp cucumbers with the tangy taste of white vinegar and a creamy touch of sour cream. It’s all balanced by red onion slices that bring everything together.

close up of german cucumber salad in bowl with spoon

My recipe is one of my grandma’s staples when it comes to nice dinners throughout the year. This Gurkensalat (German for cucumber salad) comes from her family and was passed down to her by her mother, my great-grandma, who came to the United States in the early 1900s from Germany. So, this recipe is as authentic as it gets. 

This cucumber salad isn’t like any other, and my recipe has a simple step that makes all the difference! Marinating the cucumbers in salt overnight draws out excess water to make sure your salad is crisp and not watery. You’ll end up with a refreshing, flavorful salad that has a delightful crunch!

Why I Love This Recipe

Easy to make: This salad is incredibly simple to make. Just like my favorite coleslaw recipe, this salad is made with just a few basic pantry staples, so you can easily whip up this refreshing summer salad. It’s a great recipe for beginners to try!

Quick: The actual assembly of the salad is quick – just add the sliced cucumbers and onion, stir in your sour cream mixture, and voila! The hardest part is waiting for the flavors to meld in the fridge, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Family favorite: With its perfect blend of tangy and sweet, this cucumber salad is a crowd-pleaser. The sour cream, white vinegar, and sugar create a dressing that’s both creamy and zesty, making it a hit with kids and adults alike.

mixed ingredients for salad in bowl

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Key Ingredients

  • Cucumbers: The star of this recipe, cucumbers provide a refreshing crunch to our salad. I recommend using English cucumbers for their tender skin and fewer seeds. 
  • Red Onion: Red onions add a punch of flavor, their slight sweetness and crunch perfectly complements the cucumbers.
  • Salt: Salt is an important ingredient since it draws out the moisture from the cucumbers, enhancing their texture and flavor. 
  • Sour Cream: This gives our salad a delightful creamy texture. Its tangy taste helps balance the sweetness of the onions and the crispness of the cucumbers.
  • Sugar: A touch of sugar brings out the natural sweetness of the ingredients and adds a lovely contrast to the sour cream and vinegar.
  • White Vinegar: White vinegar adds a zing to the salad, elevating the flavors of all the other ingredients. It’s what makes this salad truly refreshing and tangy. 

Equipment

  • Sharp Knife – You’ll need a good knife to thinly slice the cucumbers and red onion. The thinner the slices, the better the flavors will meld together.
  • Mandolin – Alternatively, you can use a mandolin to thinly slice the cucumbers. It’ll give you a more even cut.
  • Airtight Container – This is essential for letting your cucumbers sit overnight in the fridge. It helps to keep the cucumbers fresh and allows the salt to draw out moisture.
  • Colander or Strainer – You’ll need this to rinse and drain the cucumbers after their overnight soak. It’s important to remove as much moisture as possible to ensure the right texture in your salad.
  • Serving Spoon – A large spoon will be handy for tossing the cucumbers with the sour cream mixture and serving up this delicious side dish.

How to Make German Cucumber Salad

Preparation 

To prepare for this refreshing summer salad, start by thinly slicing the English cucumbers using a sharp knife or mandolin. Place these slices in a bowl. Repeat the process with a red onion, but set these slices aside for later use. 

thinly sliced cucmbers

Step 1 – Salt the Cucumbers

Sprinkle the sliced cucumbers with salt and give them a good toss, making sure all slices are coated. Once this is done, transfer them into an airtight container and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 2 – Rinse and Drain the Cucumbers

The next morning, rinse the cucumbers thoroughly under cold water. Drain them well, and pat dry using a clean kitchen towel. Make sure as much moisture is removed from the cucumbers as possible to prevent a watery salad.

sliced cucumbers in colander

Step 3 – Prepare the Dressing

In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, a dash of white vinegar, and a bit of sugar. Stir until well combined.

Step 4 – Combine and Toss

Pour the sour cream dressing over the drained and rinsed cucumbers. Toss until all the cucumber slices are well-coated. Now, add the red onion slices that you prepared earlier and give everything another good stir. 

cucmber salad

Step 5 – Serve and Enjoy!

Your German cucumber salad is now ready to be served and enjoyed! The flavors only get better with time, so if you can let the salad sit for at least four hours for heightened flavors!

taste of cucmber salad

Expert Tips

After making these quite a few times in my home, here are my expert tips to have success every single time you make this recipe.

Slice the cucumbers thinly: Use a sharp knife to cut the cucumbers into small slices. I find this is easier than using a mandolin, but do both very carefully. Keeping the cucumbers sliced thin help them to absorb the flavors of the sour cream dressing and make the salad easier to eat. 

Salt your cucumbers overnight: After slicing the cucumbers, toss them with salt and let them sit overnight in an airtight container in the fridge. Overnight is best as it takes time for the water to be pulled from the cucumbers.

Drain the cucumbers well: Rinse the salted cucumber slices under cold water, then pat them dry with a towel. Removing as much moisture as possible will give your salad a better texture. You also want to remove the salt to avoid a salty salad.

Recipe Variations

Give it a fresh twist: To make this recipe even more refreshing, try adding some fresh herbs. Mint or fresh dill would work perfectly with the flavors in this salad. Just chop your chosen herb and stir it in with the sour cream mixture for a fresh and flavorful twist on this German cucumber salad.

Try it with yogurt: For a lighter version of this salad, you can swap out the sour cream for Greek yogurt. This will give the salad a slightly tangy flavor and a creamy texture that’s just as satisfying as the original recipe. 

Add some crunch: For an added crunch, try topping the salad with some chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds just before serving. This will add a nice texture contrast and a slightly nutty flavor that complements the fresh cucumbers and tangy sour cream dressing.

bowl full of german cucumber salad with spoon

What to Serve With

Venison Roast – This refreshing salad goes great with rich main dishes like this roast.

Chicken Enchiladas – It also goes great with casserole dishes where you want a refreshing, clean-tasting salad on the side.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork – This salad is a great side to some tasty pulled pork sandwiches. (I even think it is delicious on the sandwich!)

Recipe FAQs

Why do I need to let the sliced cucumbers sit overnight in the fridge?

The salt draws out the water from the sliced cucumbers, which enhances their crunchiness.

What’s the purpose of rinsing the cucumbers the next morning?

Rinsing the cucumbers helps to remove the excess salt. After rinsing, use a towel to pat them dry, ensuring as much moisture is gone from the cucumbers before adding the sour cream mixture.

Can I add garlic or lemon juice to this recipe?

Absolutely! A little minced garlic or a squeeze of lemon juice can add an additional layer of flavor to this traditional German side dish. Just remember to add them sparingly so they don’t overpower the other ingredients.

Can I add other fresh herbs to this salad?

Yes, you can add fresh dill or parsley for an extra kick. They’ll enhance the refreshing summer salad flavor of this German cucumber salad.

Storing and Reheating

Refrigerate: This refreshing summer salad is best when it’s fresh, but if you have leftovers, store your German cucumber salad in the fridge for up to two days. Put it in an airtight container to maintain the crisp texture of the salad.

Freeze: Unfortunately, freezing is not recommended for this recipe. Cucumbers have a high water content, which can result in a mushy texture once thawed. So, it’s best to enjoy your Gurkensalat (another word for German Cucumber Salad) fresh or refrigerated. 

Reheat Instructions: This salad is served cold, so no reheating is necessary. If you’ve stored it in the fridge, just give it a good stir before serving to redistribute the sour cream and vinegar dressing. 

Serving Size

What to expect: This recipe makes enough salad to serve 3-4 people easily as a small side dish. Double or even triple the ingredients if you’re serving a larger group.

How to scale: If you want to make more than four servings, you can double the recipe and follow the instructions as directed. Use a larger bowl when mixing all the ingredients together.

bowl full of german cucumber salad with spoon
Created by: Lynette Rice

German Cucumber Salad


Course Side
Cuisine German
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 0 minutes
Servings 4
4
Get ready to try the most delicious German Cucumber Salad you’ve ever had, with the perfect combination of flavors using pantry staple ingredients.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 English Cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup Red Onion sliced thin
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon White Vinegar

Instructions

  • Thinly slice the cucumber and place in a bowl. Thinly slice the red onion and set aside for the next day.
  • Add the salt and toss the cucumber slices together. Let sit overnight in airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • The next morning, rinse and drain the cucumbers. Rinse again. Pat dry with towel to sure as much moisture is gone from the cucumbers.
  • In a bowl, mix the sour cream, sugar and vinegar. Add the sour cream mixture to the drained and rinsed cucumbers. Toss. Add the red onion. Toss again.
  • You can serve immediately, but the flavors are even better if you let them sit at least four hours in the refrigerator.

Notes

Refrigerate: This refreshing summer salad is best when it’s fresh, but if you have leftovers, store your German cucumber salad in the fridge for up to two days. Put it in an airtight container to maintain the crisp texture of the salad.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5Cup | Calories: 54kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 295mg | Potassium: 147mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 117IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.3mg

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3 Comments

  1. Reynolds Dianne says:

    Please clarify. You say rinse and drain the cucumbers. Do you mean rinse with water?
    Thanks!

    1. Yes! Rinse with water.

  2. I would love to get your recipes.