This Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad has a short ingredient list, but always has a long list of rave reviews. It’s fresh, healthy and delicious!
I love recipes that have a history and this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad has an interesting story. Known in Turkey as Shepherd’s Salad, or çoban salatası (Cho-BAHN’ sah-lah- tah-SU’), it’s one of the country’s most frequent served salads. Because of its popularity and the fact that it’s easy and inexpensive to make, it’s also called “the salad of the people”.
The name Shepherd’s Salad came about many years ago in Turkey. According to legend, this salad, along with a loaf of bread was the standard fare for Turkish shepherds. Sometimes there might be cheese or olives in their lunch sacks as well, but almost always this easy, chopped salad.
The story is told that each little Turkish village had a shepherd who would tend the flocks. The villagers would pay the shepherd with the produce they grew, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers being some of their best crops. And the shepherds, in turn, made this wonderful (what I call) Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad to satisfy their hunger while tending the sheep.
Although I’m not Turkish and definitely not a shepherd, I love this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad for so many reasons. It’s fresh, delicious and pairs well with so many entreés. It’s also really easy to put together, can be made in advance and has a short ingredient list. And it’s amazing to me how that short ingredient list combines together to create the most delicious salad – the total, in this case, is definitely more than the sum of parts!
To make this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad super quick and easy, I use my Vidalia Chop Wizard to chop everything except the tomatoes. I remove the seeds and watery pulp from the tomatoes then dice the outer flesh into bite-size pieces. This keeps the salad from getting too watery.
Although the recipe and ingredients for this salad are super simple, there are some important steps to follow according to the recipe I found on a Turkish website called Seasonal Cook in Turkey. This is what she instructs after combining the chopped veggies:
The first thing of all to do with the salad once all ingredients are placed in the bowl is to sprinkle some salt over it. This makes the flavors come out and the tomatoes and cucumbers will start emitting their juices which will then mix in with the dressing, giving it a wonderful flavor. Then you should start pouring over some extra virgin olive oil. A generous drizzle of EVOO is good for the salad. Lastly, the lemon juice is poured on. It is important that the juice goes on last as the acid put directly on the salad without the oil firstly covering it, makes the salad wilt faster.
For salad dressings, the ingredients are usually just combined together and drizzled over the salad. But this makes so much sense… and it works! I adapted the rest of the recipe to our taste but followed her directions and order for the ingredients carefully. The results are wonderful: the oil seems to coat the veggies nicely, the lemon flavor is not too strong and the salad keeps well.
This Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad is delicious with just about any entreé, but one of my favorite ways to serve it is with my Grilled Chicken Shawarma (recipe coming!) and a stack of warm Greek Yogurt Turkisk Flatbreads. Summer doesn’t get much better than that!
Café Tips for making this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad
- Since the ingredient list is simple, use quality ingredients to allow the flavors to shine. Summer tomatoes that are bursting with flavor are best, but I’ve also made this salad with good quality store-bought tomatoes.
- For a pretty presentation, try to chop the veggies all about the same size. I use my Vidalia Chop Wizard for this, but you could also dice them by hand.
- To prepare ahead, chop the cucumbers, onions, and peppers and refrigerate. Wait till right before serving to dice the tomatoes and combine them with the other ingredients. Dress just before serving.
- Add a handful of crumbled or diced Feta and/or some Kalamata olives for another delicious variation of this salad.
- In addition to serving alongside entreés, this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad is delicious in wraps. Try spreading a naan or flatbread down the center with hummus. Top it with grilled chicken, cilantro, and a scoop of this Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad. Fold it together and enjoy!
- Although the dressing is more watery than most, it’s delicious. Serve lots of bread with this salad to soak up the yummy dressing. (I’m certain that the shepherds knew this secret!)
For more seasonal recipe inspiration, check out our May posts from the past few years…
2 years ago – Double Almond Paleo Granola
3 years ago – Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
4 years ago – Blueberry Arugula Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing
This Turkish Tomato Cucumber Salad has a short ingredient list but always gets a long list of rave reviews. It's fresh, healthy and delicious!
- 6 Roma tomatoes seeded and diced
- 5-6 medium Persian cucumbers or 1 large English cucumber diced chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium white onion chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leafed parsley
- Cut tomatoes in half through the stem end. Cut each half in half. Starting at the opposite end of the stem, cut the seeds and inner pulp out of each tomato quarter and discard or save for another use. Chop tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice.
- Combine chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers in a medium bowl. Sprinkle kosher salt over the top and stir.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the veggies and stir gently but well to coat everything with the oil.
- Drizzle the lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with the pepper and the parsley. Again, stir gently but thoroughly to combine. Taste and season, if needed with more salt and pepper and/or lemon juice. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving to allow flavors to meld.
See Café Tips for more detailed instructions and tips.
Recipe adapted from Seasonal Cook in Turkey
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