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An overhead photo of cucumber salsa in a bowl with a spoon on a platter with slices of toasted baguette. Next to this is a kitchen towel, a plate of limes , a juicer and two glasses of water.

Herby, slightly spicy and incredibly refreshing, this spicy cucumber dip with my Mediterranean twist is useful all summer long!

Close up of a bowl of cucumber sauce with a spoon.
Photo credits: Mark Beahm

I love putting a Mediterranean twist on the food I grew to love in Atlanta, from my pickled Kalamata olive drizzle on tomato salsa to my version of game day guacamole with mint and feta. Blending flavors from all walks of life can be magical! I’m doing the same today with this cucumber salsa recipe.

For an extra refreshing summer salsa, I sauté the tomatoes so the cucumbers do all the talking. Pistachios add a Mediterranean touch and a welcome layer of crunch. And Aleppo pepper adds depth to the spice with its bright, subtly smoky flavor (but you can use regular red pepper flakes if you prefer).

Serve as an appetizer or snack with Pita Chips, or use as a topping for grilled salmon or chicken breast.

Summary
  1. Ingredients and Substitutions for Cucumber Sauce
  2. Featured Ingredient
  3. How to make this cucumber sauce recipe
  4. Ways to mix things up
  5. What to serve with cucumber sauce
  6. Mediterranean sauces, gravies and much more!
  7. Refreshing Cucumber Dip: Mediterranean Style Recipe
Ingredients for the cucumber sauce: English cucumber, jalapeno pepper, Aleppo pepper, shallot, coriander, lime, olive oil, salt and pistachios.Ingredients for the cucumber sauce: English cucumber, jalapeno pepper, Aleppo pepper, shallot, coriander, lime, olive oil, salt and pistachios.

Ingredients and Substitutions for Cucumber Sauce

For me, the point of a great summer salsa is to lighten up everything it touches with a burst of freshness. And what's more refreshing than cucumber? You'll need:

  • English Cucumber: The base for this cucumber dip, which replaces the classic tomato for an extra refreshing touch. Look for English cucumbers (or substitute 3-4 Persian cucumbers), which have a softer skin and sweeter flesh. If you only have a standard cucumber to slice, peel it completely because it tends to be bitter.
  • Jalapenos: Add a good amount of heat, especially if you get a spicy one! Remember that you can always adjust it to your taste.
  • Chili pepper pieces: Adds a nice touch, but if you have Aleppo pepper or Urfa Biber you should substitute them. They will add a more nuanced flavor with a slight hint of smokiness (we have both in our spice shop).
  • Shallot: Add a subtle onion flavor without overpowering it. I find the white and yellow onions too dominant here, but you can substitute with green onions or ½ red onion if scallions are not available.
  • Coriander adds a fresh note that is essential to a good salsa. I wouldn't try substituting dried herbs, but parsley, dill, mint, or a combination would work if you're not a fan of cilantro.
  • Kosher salt enhances the flavor.
  • Lime The juice adds an essential fresh touch to any good salsa recipe. Lemon juice would also work well.
  • Extra virgin olive oil marries the flavors of the sauce (see “Featured Ingredient” below for suggestions).
  • Pistachios are optional, but they add a nice buttery richness, crunch, and Mediterranean flair to the classic sauce. Pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds would also work.
An overhead shot of cucumber sauce in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a dish towel, a plate of limes, and a glass of water.An overhead shot of cucumber salsa in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a dish towel, a plate of limes, and a glass of water.

Featured Ingredient

The amount of oil in the sauce is a matter of personal preference. In different cultures, some sauces include oil, while others rely on the juice of fresh tomatoes and citrus. If you've been around for a while, it won't surprise you that I like to use a little bit of olive oil in my sauce.

Not only does a drizzle of olive oil hold the sauce together, it also adds a ton of delicious flavor and enriches the sauce with healthy fats. The flavor of the oil is important, as low-quality oil is often unpleasantly bitter and overpowering. Use a good extra virgin variety with a pleasant flavor. I especially love the robust, peppery flavor of our Spanish Hojiblanca with this recipe.

Close up of a bowl of cucumber dip with a slice of toasted baguette.Close up of a bowl of cucumber dip with a slice of toasted baguette.

How to make this cucumber sauce recipe

You can vary this recipe to suit your tastes. If you are concerned about the level of spiciness, start with just 1 jalapeño and remove the seeds (which carry most of the heat). Always taste and adjust the salt and lime to your liking. Here are the steps:

  • Strip the cucumber: Cut the ends off a large English cucumber. Starting at one end, peel off a strip of peel lengthwise. Skip a section, then peel off another strip next to the first, leaving a strip of peel in the middle. Continue in this manner, peeling and leaving strips, until you have “partially peeled” or “striped” the entire cucumber. (Leaving a small amount of peel adds texture and flavor to the cucumber without overpowering it.)
  • Remove the seeds from the cucumber and cut it into pieces. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then use a metal spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds (this keeps the sauce from becoming watery). Cut the cucumber into small pieces and add to a medium-sized bowl.
  • Mix. In the bowl, add 1 or 2 chopped jalapeños, ½ teaspoon Aleppo chili pepper, 1 or 2 finely chopped shallots, 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro, the juice of 2 limes, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, a good sprinkle of salt, and 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios (optional). Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.Place the ingredients for the cucumber sauce in a bowl, just before mixing them together.Place the ingredients for the cucumber sauce in a bowl, just before mixing them together.
  • Serve. Use as a topping for roasted proteins, or Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with your favorite potato chips, pita chips or toasted baguette slices.An overhead shot of cucumber salsa in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a dish towel, a plate of limes, a juicer, and two glasses of water.An overhead shot of cucumber salsa in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a dish towel, a plate of limes, a juicer, and two glasses of water.

Ways to mix things up

You can play with seasonal fruits to add creaminess, brightness or a tropical touch. Here are some ideas:

  • Tomatoes
  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
Cucumber sauce in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a kitchen towel, a plate of limes and two glasses of water.Cucumber sauce in a bowl with a spoon on a plate with toasted baguette slices. Next to it is a kitchen towel, a plate of limes and two glasses of water.

What to serve with cucumber sauce

This cucumber dip has a natural talent for going anywhere. Serve it as a snack with chips: it's delicious with store-bought or homemade pita chips. It also works well on toasted baguette slices, almost like a “cucumber bruschetta.”

While we don't really have “sauce” in the Mediterranean, we treat most salads as sauces, scooping them up and spreading them on protein and pita bread while enjoying dinner. I do the same with this recipe.

The smoky flavor of the grill and the sauce have a special bond, so I like to pour it over grilled fish like this grilled swordfish or grilled chicken breast. Roasted proteins of your choice would also work well.

Mediterranean sauces, gravies and much more!

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  • Striping the cucumber: Cut off the ends of the cucumber. Starting at one end, peel off a strip of peel lengthwise. Skip a section and then peel off another strip next to the first, leaving a strip of peel in the middle. Continue in this manner, peeling and leaving strips, until you have “partially peeled” or “striped” the entire cucumber.

  • Remove the seeds from the cucumber and cut it into pieces. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then use a metal spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds. Cut the cucumber into small pieces and add them to a medium-sized bowl.

  • Mix. In the bowl, add the jalapeño, Aleppo pepper, shallot, cilantro, lime juice, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, a good sprinkle of salt, and the pistachios (if using). Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

  • Serve. Use as a topping for toasted proteins, or transfer to a serving bowl and serve with your favorite potato chips, pita chips, or toasted baguette slices.

  • Buy this recipe: Visit our shop to discover quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oil AND Aleppo pepper used in this recipe.
  • For a spicier sauceleave the seeds on the jalapeños.
  • Look for English cucumbers (or substitute 3-4 Persian cucumbers), which have a softer skin and sweeter flesh. If you only have a standard slicing cucumber, peel it completely as it tends to be bitter.

Calories: 47.2kilocalorieCarbohydrates: 6.6GProtein: 1.7GFat: 2.4GSaturated fats: 0.3GPolyunsaturated fats: 0.7GMonounsaturated fat: 1.2GSodium: 6.3mgPotassium: 182.9mgFiber: 1.7GSugar: 2.1GVitamin A: 331.1IUC vitamin: 11.9mgSoccer: 24.8mgIron: 0.6mg

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