I'm always looking for an easy summer salad to serve at a pot luck or an outdoor barbeque. My criteria for a perfect summer salad is pretty easy: fresh ingredients, zingy dressing, and little bursts of unexpected flavor. My Mediterranean Tomato Cucumber Salad is refreshing and pairs perfectly with just about any meal served al fresco or at your dinner table.
Obviously, this dish isn't just one to take to a pot luck. I often serve this salad for dinner with my Oven Baked Salmon. It pairs nicely with Asparagus Amandine, as well. Or, if you are looking for other easy salads to take to a pot luck, my Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad and Caprese Pasta Salad are always a hit.
This Mediterranean Tomato Cucumber Salad has a list of flavorful ingredients - many of which you probably already have on hand!
- Red onion
- Baby spinach
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Kalamata olives
- Pearl couscous (aka Israeli couscous)
- Vegetable broth
- Lemon juice and zest
- Fresh dill
- Flat leaf parsley
- Olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper
See recipe card for quantities.
Assembling the salad is very easy. There is a little chopping and you need to cook the pearled couscous. Overall, this recipe comes together in under 30 minutes and it is packed with flavor!
Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.
Add tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and chickpeas and marinate while couscous cooks.
Cook couscous in vegetable broth.
Add couscous, spinach, and olives to the tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and chickpeas. Top with crumbled feta cheese, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve!
I love this recipe because it is both satisfying and nutritious. The pearl couscous gives the salad body, but the primary focus is on the deliciously marinated vegetables. Kalamata olives and feta cheese give the salad a salty punch and the vinaigrette imparts the perfect amount of acid. Your taste buds will sing as you eat this salad.
Typically, I serve this salad in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe and juicy. However, the recipe calls for the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and chickpeas to be marinated in a vinaigrette ahead of salad assembly. This was not an accident - marinating is like an insurance policy for your tomatoes. They will taste good and have a great mouthfeel, even if you make this salad in the fall or winter!
This Mediterranean Tomato Cucumber Salad is incredibly versatile and can fit into just about any diet.
- Make it an Entrée - If you want to serve this salad as a main course, no problem! Add sliced grilled chicken or oven roasted salmon and the only thing missing would be a glass of white wine!
- All Ingredients are Optional - This salad can be modified by dropping a primary ingredient (tomato, cucumber, onion, olive, etc.) and it will still taste great.
- Low Carb - You can make this salad lower in carbs by replacing the couscous with another drained can of chickpeas or subbing the couscous with riced cauliflower. You could also double the amount of veggies!
- Gluten Free - Same as above: if you want to make this salad gluten free, you can drop the couscous and increase the amount of veggies, add another drained can of chickpeas, or sub riced cauliflower or a gluten free pasta.
- Vegan - The salad is already pretty close. You would just want to drop the feta cheese and sub the honey for another sweetener (I recommend agave nectar) to make this a vegan dish. You could also replace the feta cheese with crumbled tofu!
- Not a fan of feta? No worries! You can replace the feta with your preferred salty, crumbly cheese: halloumi, ricotta salata, cotija, goat cheese, paneer and queso fresco would all work in this salad (although, some may make it less "Mediterranean").
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks that I keep in my back pocket when making this recipe:
- Take the bite out of raw red onions: If you are like me, raw onions aren't your favorite. I find that raw onions in a dish can be quite overpowering. Try this: Soak your sliced raw onions in a bowl of ice water for 15-30 minutes prior to adding them to your dish. Dry them off and add them. The result: Your onions will have a milder flavor and less bite!
- Cook couscous in stock, not water! Replace water with your favorite broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, etc.) and you will impart so much flavor into what can be a relatively bland ingredient.
- Tone down the sharpness of feta: Much like the trick for raw onions, if you soak a block of feta cheese in fresh water, it will tone down the sharpness of the cheese. I don't recommend doing this with crumbled feta, just block feta.
- Cut tomatoes with a small serrated knife. This tip will change your life! Squishy, hard-to-slice tomatoes are a thing of the past!
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This is a great make-ahead salad. You can make it a day or two in advance, which will give the flavors an opportunity to marry and the couscous an opportunity to soak up the delicious vinaigrette. I recommend adding the spinach, cheese, and any fresh herb garnish shortly before serving. If you add these ingredients a day or two in advance, the greens will wilt too much and the cheese may get mushy. Everything else stands up well to refrigeration for up to 4 days.
I do not recommend freezing this salad.
Mediterranean Tomato Cucumber Salad
- 1 whisk
For the Vinaigrette
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 2 tbsp. fresh dill chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 2 tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
- ⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes optional
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Salad
- 3 medium tomatoes diced
- ½ English cucumber diced
- 15.5 oz. can of chickpeas drained
- ½ medium red onion thinly sliced
- 1 cup Kalamata olives pitted and drained
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup feta cheese crumbled
- 1 cup pearl couscous aka Israeli couscous
- 1.5 cups vegetable broth
- ½ tsp. salt optional
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil optional
Make the Vinaigrette
- In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill, parsley, salt and pepper.
Begin Marinating the Vegetables/Chickpeas/Olives
- Add tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and onions to the vinaigrette. Stir to coat vegetables and chickpeas with the vinaigrette.*Chef note: If you want to make the red onions less zingy, soak the sliced onions in a bowl of ice water for 15-30 minutes before marinating them.
Cook the Couscous
- While the vegetables and chickpeas are marinating, cook the couscous.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.
- Add salt and olive oil, if desired.
- Stir in pearl couscous. Cover with lid.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has cooked out.
Assemble the salad
- Add cooked couscous to the marinating tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and onions.
- Add drained olives and spinach. Stir to combine.
- Top the salad with crumbled feta and garnish with chopped parsley and dill. Toss salad before serving. Enjoy!
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