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This summer, stay cool as a cucumber with this easy technique for salting and draining cucumbers. All you need is a healthy pinch of salt and a little time, and you’re well on your way to the crispest salad ever.
When it comes to making the best cucumber salads, I find that unless you take the time to properly salt and drain the cukes, the end product is watery, limp, and less than tasty.
This easy extra step makes extra crunchy slices, takes almost no effort at all, but gives a big payout in the crunch department.
Salting and draining notes:
- Osmosis: Adding salt to sliced cucumbers draws out the extra moisture in the vegetable, through a process called osmosis. Over time, the salt absorbs the water from the cucumber. What you’re left with is a slightly drier cucumber, which won’t ruin your salad.
- Time: Some people insist that 20 to 30 minutes is enough time to drain salted cucumbers, but I like the dryness that an hour gives. You can’t really overdo it. In the Midwest, some cooks make German style cucumber salads by salting the cucumber slices, placing the layers between paper towels, and letting them drain for up to 2 days!
- Texture: If you’re using a dairy or mayonnaise-based dressing, the extra water in the cucumbers could curdle. No one wants that. Even if you’re making a cucumber salad with a vinaigrette, salted cucumbers don’t water down the dressing, so every bite is flavorful.
- To start, you will need a colander or a mesh sieve, and a bowl. Peel the cukes if you want to (or not). Cut, chop, or slice your cucumbers into your preferred shape.
- Next, layer the slices in the bottom of a colander, and sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over them. Place another layer of cucumbers over the first layer, and salt again. You don’t really have to measure, but I usually use about ¼ teaspoon salt for each layer. Make sure you place the colander over a bowl to catch the liquid as it drains out so you don’t have a mess (or set your strainer over your kitchen sink). If your kitchen is warm or you have the space, pop the colander and bowl in the refrigerator to do its work.
- After one hour, your cucumbers should be ready to go. Using a clean paper towel, gently pat the extra salt off the slices, and then proceed with your salad.
Put your cucumbers to work:
How to Drain Cucumbers
- 1 cucumber sliced (see note 1)
- 1 teaspoon salt (see note 2)
- Layer cucumber slices in the bottom of a colander, and sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over them.
- Place another layer of cucumbers over the first layer, and salt again. Continue layers until all cucumbers are salted.
- Let cucumbers sit for one hour with the colander over a bowl to catch liquid, or set the colander in your kitchen sink.
- Rinse the cucumbers well with cold water. Spread out on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels and pat dry.
- Cucumbers: This recipe works for any cucumbers (standard, hothouse, Persian). Peel and/or seed cucumbers (if you plan to) before slicing and salting. Cucumbers can be sliced, halved and sliced, or cut into chunks before salting, depending on what your recipe calls for.
- Salt: Some recipes call for a blend of salt and sugar, and that works well too. Just rinse the cucumbers before patting dry.
- Yield: Your true yield will depend on the size and weight of whatever cucumbers you use. On average, 1 8-inch, 8-ounce cucumber will yield about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of sliced or diced cucumbers.
- Storage: Store drained cucumbers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (ideally in paper towels to keep the process going).
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
Hi Meggan –
Some of the cucumber sweat tutorials have you rinse the salt off, some just have you pat them dry. What is your preference?
Hi Lindsay! I use a paper towel to pat them dry. Take care! – Meggan
Thanks for the info. I’m 72 now alone and trying to cook, ha. My sour cream cukes with onion , s + p, were good when first done , next day a soggy mess , threw em out. I’ll try the drain routine for 1 hour and let you know what happens . Thanks Geoff
Hi Geoff, I hope they turn out well! Please do stop back and let me know how they turned out! Take care – Meggan
When you use the salt to draw out the water out of the cucumbers then quickly rinse the salt off, is the sodium increased in the finished cucumbers?
Hi Donna, it’s possible some amount of salt would be left behind on the cucumbers after rinsing. I don’t know exactly how much would be left behind as it probably would change based on how long you allow them to sit with the salt and how watery the cucumber is. Sorry about that! -Meggan
seems like it works ok
Maybe I missed it put why are we capturing the liquid? Is it used in other recipes?
Hi David, sorry for the confusion. We only capture the liquid to prevent it from getting all over the counter, or something like that. You don’t need it, you can set your strainer over a sink and just leave it there. I have never saved the liquid from this and put it to use. Thanks! -Meggan