Friday, July 05, 2013

Al's Famous Hungarian Cucumber Salad Recipe (Low-Carb, Gluten-Free)

I was completely wowed by my friend Al's famous Hungarian Cucumber Salad!

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

(For Phase One Fridays I highlight Phase One recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites, and when my friend Becky from Vintage Mixer included cucumbers on her list of Seasonal Produce Guide for July, I remembered Al's Famous Hungarian Cucumber Salad.  This salad is really a wow; hope you enjoy!)

My friend Al Church is not only a former restaurant critic and food writer, but he's also one of the most food-savvy people I know, so when Al offered to make his famous Hungarian Cucumber Salad with me and share it with Kalyn's Kitchen readers, I couldn't wait to try the salad.  I haven't eaten that much authentic Hungarian food, but it's definitely on my list of places to visit, and I love the combination of sweet paprika and sour cream that's used in so many dishes in that part of the world.  And of course my love for cucumbers is well-documented on the blog.

I loved everything about this salad, which was almost even better the next morning (when I gobbled up the leftovers for breakfast!)  If you have garden cucumbers right now, or even if you need to make a trip to the store for the long English cucumbers we used, you must make this right away!

It's best to use cucumbers with small seeds, and two long English cucumbers were perfect for this.  Peel the cucumber, cut in half crosswise, and then score the edges with a fork.

Al sliced the cucumbers with my Mandoline Slicer on the 3mm blade. Please be VERY CAREFUL when you're using the mandoline (just eat the last bits of the cucumber when your hands start getting close to the blade!  (You can also cut the slices with a knife, but the mandoline is quicker and makes more even slices.)

Put the sliced cucumber pieces into a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tsp. fine table salt.  Then use your clean hands to toss the cucumbers so they're all covered with salt.  Let cucumbers sit to draw out the water for at least 15-20 minutes.

While cucumbers sit, make the dressing.  We used my beloved garlic chopper to finely minced two cloves of garlic.

Then mix together the white wine vinegar, paprika, oil, sour cream, garlic, and black pepper to make the dressing. Al recommends authentic Szeged Sweet Paprika, which luckily I had! (You can use other types of mild vinegar, even red wine vinegar that has a good flavor but don't use a sweet vinegar like balsamic.)

After cucumbers have released their liquid for about 20 minutes, drain them into a colander.

Al uses a small plate to press down on the cucumbers and press out as much liquid as you can, or you can also put them in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the liquid.  We blotted the cucumbers with a paper towel as well.

Then toss the drained cucumbers with the dressing ingredients.  (The salad is best if you can let it sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend before you serve it.)

Thanks Al, I absolutely loved the salad.  (Hopefully I can get Al to share a few more Hungarian recipes on the blog!)

Al's Famous Hungarian Cucumber Salad
(Makes about 6 servings; this recipe is adapted from the traditional recipe in The Art of Hungarian Cooking, which Al says most closely resembles the salad from his grandmother's Hungarian restaurant.)

Salad Ingredients:
2 English cucumbers or 3-4 fresh garden cucumbers (cucumbers with small seeds are best for this)
2 tsp. fine table salt (for drawing the water out of the cucumbers)
extra sour cream and paprika, for serving

Dressing Ingredients:
2 garlic cloves, finely minced (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (any mild vinegar can be used, but don't use a sweet vinegar)
1/2 - 1 tsp. sweet paprika, to taste (Al recommends Szeged Sweet Paprika)
1/4 cup sour cream (full fat sour cream is best for this, but you could use light if you wanted)
2 T olive oil (we used extra virgin; other mild salad oil will work)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half crosswise so they are easier to hold in your hand, and score the outside of each cucumber by drawing a fork down the side, until all the outside is scored into ridges.  Slice cucumber into even, thin slices.  (We used my Zyliss Mandoline with the 3mm size blade, but you can also cut the cucumbers with a knife if you don't have a mandoline.  Please be VERY CAREFUL when using the mandoline.  It's better to eat the end piece of each cucumber than to slice your fingers!)

Put the sliced cucumbers into a bowl and sprinkle with table salt.  Use your clean hands to toss cucumbers together so they're all covered with salt, then let cucumbers sit and release their liquid for at least 15-20 minutes.

While cucumbers are sitting, make the dressing.  Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic.  Whisk together the minced garlic, vinegar, sweet paprika, sour cream, and oil.  I would start with 1/2 tsp. of paprika and then taste to see if you want more (we did.)  Season the dressing with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

After cucumbers have been sitting for 15-20 minutes to release the liquid, put them into a colander and let the liquid drain off.  Then put a small plate over the cucumbers in the colander and gently press down to squeeze off as much liquid as you can.  (You can also put cucumbers inside a clean dish towel and gently squeeze to remove the liquid.)  Blot cucumbers dry with a paper towel.

Put cucumbers back into the bowl (which you have dried out with a paper towel).  Add the dressing mixture and gently combine.  This salad is best when it sits for about 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors combine.  Serve with additional sour cream and paprika to add to the salad at the table if desired.

This salad will keep overnight in the fridge, and may even be better the second day.  (I gobbled up all my leftover salad for breakfast the next day, so I don't know if it will last longer for one day in the fridge.)

Click Here for Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
The  South Beach Diet recommends light sour cream, and that's what I usually use.  But for a traditional recipe like this and only 1/4 cup sour cream in 6 servings, I would splurge and use the real thing.  All the ingredients in this recipe are so low-glycemic, that even if you did splurge on the full-fat sour cream, I would eat this for any phase of the diet.  (I believe in following the spirit of the law and not necessarily the letter of the law when it comes to dieting, so if you'd prefer you can still make a great tasting salad with light sour cream.)

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Tasty Cucumber Salads from Around the World:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Ten Favorite Cucumber Salads from Kalyn's Kitchen

Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad from The Kitchn

Effie's Easy and Amazing Cottage Cheese Salad with Za'atar from Kalyn's Kitchen

Cucumber Salad with Mint and Feta from Simply Recipes

Wake Up Your Mouth Thai Cucumber Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen

Thai Cucumber Salad from Cookin' Canuck

Chinese Cucumber Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen

Joanne Weir's Cucumber and Feta Salad from David Lebovitz

Fattoush - Lebanese "Crumbled Bread" Salad with Sumac from Kalyn's Kitchen

Suchuan Cucumber Salad from Appetite for China
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. I think you must be a mind reader, Kalyn. I have several cucumbers and I'm looking for a new take on cucumber salad. Thanks! You've done it again.

    Now I'll have to check your site for stuffed tomato recipes.

  2. This salad sounds great--simple, refreshing, and tangy! It reminds me of a quick cucumber salad my mom used to make--I'll have to ask her about it and see how closely the recipes match. :)

  3. Having a Polish wife means we eat a variation of this, Al's looks absolutely delicious so I'll surprise my wife with his version. If Al does happen to take requests, would love his recipe for lecsó, a kind of rich capsicum stew.

  4. Mimi, hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Thanks Eileen. Would love to hear more about your mom's version.

    Neil, I will ask him about it next time I see him!

  5. When I bought a mandoline years ago, this was just the type of dish I hoped to make with it. I love cucumbers, and love the sound of the sour cream and paprika dressing. Thanks, Al, for sharing this authentic recipe!

  6. Lydia, it was so good; I think you would love it.

  7. My German Grandmother made a variation of this, which I make all summer long and has been a family tradition since I was a child. It doesn't call for paprika. She used sugar instead. Of course, I substitute splenda. It gives that sweet and sour taste that is part of German cooking. She also added a sliced sweet onion. Whenever I make it, people always ask for the recipe.

  8. I just came over from blogher and I have to tell you I'm excited to read about a successful food blogger from SLC! I live in SLC too and just started my own menu planning blog. I can't wait to try a bunch of your recipes. Do you have any that are family dinner favorites? Any tips for a beginner like me?

  9. I'm Hungarian so I had to go over to amazon and order his cookbook! Thanks Kalyn, I LOVE your blog!

  10. I don't think I've ever heard of a cucumber salad prepared like this! Sounds really refreshing.

  11. Judy, that sounds good! It's always fun to share family recipes like that.

    Carissa, there's a whole category of recipe favorites on the blog, and I share a favorite Phase One recipe every Friday, but I'd have a hard time narrowing it down much more than that! Too many favorites. I do have a page of links to blogging tips that might be useful to you.

    Thanks Gabby; I think I can convince Al to share a few more recipes.

    Joanne, it is going to be a definite repeater for me!

  12. This sounds like a great cucumber salad. A great side dish for any meal.

  13. This sounds amazing Kalyn! I have some cucumbers in the fridge that need using up and this is perfect!!

  14. I don't know much about Hungarian food, so I'm so excited to see this recipe on your blog Kalyn. Thanks Al for sharing it and hope to find more recipes from you in the near future.

  15. My absolute favorite salad, I'm Hungarian, I live next to Szeged, in Hodmezovasarhely

  16. I'm excited that so many people are liking this salad. And how fun to hear from someone in Hungary!

  17. It is funny to see how other people from other countries wonder on our cucumber salad, which can be found almost in every restaurant and is an everyday salad in Hungary. :)

  18. It is fun to see how many people like the idea of this traditional salad, isn't it?

  19. Thanks for this recipe! I made this today for lunch with smoked Spanish paprika (as it is the only kind of paprika I currently have at home - it is an amazing paprika by the way) and the kids absolutely loved it!

  20. I'm a fan of smoked paprika too, but Al likes the sweet paprika for this recipe.

  21. Planning on making this soon. Where did you buy your Szeged Sweet Paprika?

  22. Barbara I found it at one of my regular stores (either Smiths or Fresh Market, can't remember which.) It was down on the bottom shelf under the bottles of spices. The Szeged is great (I like their sharp paprika too) but I think any Hungarian paprika sold in a tin would work.

  23. I thought I followed the recipe but it tastes unbearably salty from the salt on the cucumbers. How do I avoid this?

  24. Tessa, when the water drains out of the cucumbers, it should rinse off most of the salt. Maybe toss the cucumbers in the colander a few times when they are draining, or drain a little longer.

  25. I made this today & it was great - can't wait to take it to work tomorrow for lunch too! Thanks!

  26. Intrigued, Kalyn, and have bookmarked this for next summer, when cucumbers are aplenty again!

  27. Pille, I promise you will LOVE this!

  28. Aaaah, my parents and grandparents made a version of this salad when I was growing up. Its super great. Looking forward to seeing more hungarian cooking on the blog.

    Neil's suggestion of lesco would be excellent. In addition to being tasty by itself, it also a good base to combine with other things. Eg in a risotto dish or in an omelette.

  29. Vivzilla, I really need to get Al to come over and cook some more Hungarian food!

  30. This is fabulous. I think I can get my daughter on board for this one. She's a cucumber gal big time. Great recipe.

  31. Thanks for sharing this seasonal recipe!!

  32. I just found your blog, I'm in a mid summer slump and needed new inspiration for healthy recipes. I am half Hungarian and grew up with Cucumber salad, it tastes like summer to me. I just wanted to say I agree with Al's choice for Paprika. Szeged is the best you can get in the states. I like the hot version, it has a smokier flavor.

  33. Steph, I agree; that's the only paprika I buy! Hope you enjoy the blog.

  34. When I was a child, my mother's friend from Paris made this salad all the time. It is such a refreshing salad and I can't wait to make it after all these years.


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