You’ve got a to love a recipe with built-in secret ingredients. The key to this Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad is perfectly fresh veggies – juicy tomato, crisp cucumber, buttery avocado, and zesty red onion. Simply dress it with a few tasty mainstays from your pantry, and “hello, fresh!” With 15 minutes of prep time and minimal scraps to clean up, it’s a textbook summer salad that’s big on flavor, not on fuss.
It is impossible for me not to preach the gospel of fresh vegetables year-round. But come summertime, I’m a zealot. Sure, I love pie and bacon and cheese; but it never ceases to amaze me that some of the best tasting food on the planet can come right out of the ground with little alteration or preparation needed.
I am truly envious of those kids who get sent off to Grandma’s farm for the summer, and I wonder if they know how lucky they are? Sometimes I fantasize there is a “Grandma’s Farm” for adults. Sometimes I just daydream about what a fully-realized vegetable garden of my very own would look, smell, and taste like…
And then I remember: I am the mother of two adorable, rambunctious backyard monsters who have trampled anything and everything I have put in the ground, and I have a full-time job and a household to manage – so I do not have a farm. Alas, my scrappy container garden will have to give me the illusion of a farm oasis for the considerable future.
But to quote Liam Neeson in Taken, “what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career…”
Farmer’s Markets. Roadside Stands. Farm Shares. And my beloved local co-op.
If I can’t grow it myself – and if I may quote Liam Neeson again – “I will look for you, and I will find you, and I will purchase and eat your most delicious farm-fresh vegetables.” (I’m pretty sure that line was from one of the sequels.)
So don’t think of this as just a salad. Think of this salad as a training regimen for your vegetable prowess. Check out new varieties of cherry tomato (Black Pearls, anyone?). Test some techniques for achieving an elusively ripe avocado. Sharpen your knife skills on some razor thin red onion.
How to make this cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad
No matter the recipe, the first step toward perfection in a salad bowl is choosing vegetables at their optimal ripeness. All your veggies should be firm since they have to hold up to chopping, tossing, and eating. Enhance the flavor profile of bite-sized segments of tomato, cucumber, and avocado with fresh basil and macerated red onions in a honey-tinged vinaigrette. Even the most reluctant of veggie-enthusiasts will have a second helping!
- Macerate thinly sliced red onions in honey balsamic vinaigrette for about 10 minutes – this is my little trick for reducing their bite, while keeping all of the flavor.
- Halve the tomatoes, thinly slice the cucumber, and dice the avocado. Try to keep everything roughly the same size – bite-sized, or about 1″.
- Add the prepped produce, along with some roughly chopped or torn basil leaves, to the red onions.
- Give everything a good toss, then taste for seasoning – adjust with salt and/or pepper to your liking.
How to store leftovers
Leftovers will keep for about a day in a sealed container in the fridge. The acid in the dressing prevents the avocados from browning too much. But it’s best enjoyed fresh.
How to pick a ripe avocado
If you’re shopping for and making this recipe the same day, there are three tried and true tests for picking out a perfect avocado:
- Color: Find a deep green – almost forest, but not quite – and avoid anything skewing towards emerald (not ripe enough) or brown/black (overripe). If you see no flecks of green, it’s too far gone.
- Stem: Flick and pick! If there’s still a little nub of stem, it should pop right off. If not, the avocado still needs to ripen. Just make sure when it comes off the navel is still green. “If it’s brown, put it down.”
- Feel: Always the trickiest since I do not live in avocado country, and grocery store avocados tend to either be rock hard or have the consistency of pudding under the skin. You want your avocado firm and flexible, not easily mashable. Place your whole palm around the fruit and give it a tender squeeze. If you feel the skin give in ever so slightly to your hand, you’ve hit the sweet spot.
But here’s the thing, no matter how skilled we think we are at picking produce, avocados have a tendency to pull what I like to call the “sneaky banana,” and brown before you have a chance to do anything besides mash them. So, sometimes the better bet is to go green and go home.
Bright green avocados will usually ripen at home in 3-5 days if left to their own devices. The trick to speeding up that process is a good, old paper bag, and the aforementioned banana. After 1-2 days cooped up together it will be ready to avoca-go into your salad. (Sorry. Had to be done.)
Just remember, the three tests above still apply at home so you should still give your little guy a squeeze!
What to serve with tomato, cucumber, avocado salad
This versatile side dish boasts vivid flavors with a delicate structure, so while it can shine in any meal, go wild and pair it with something decadent:
- With a creamy, herb omelet and sausage at breakfast (yes, you should totally eat veggies for breakfast!)
- Next to a robust sandwich on crusty, whole-grain bread at lunch
- Alongside slightly-charred protein, hot off the grill, at dinner, like our Rosemary Steak or Balsamic Grilled Chicken Thighs.
Tips for making this recipe perfectly
- Use firm, but not overly soft avocados – save those for guacamole!
- Make it vegan – skip the honey in the dressing and substitute with agave nectar or sugar. The dressing needs just a hint of sweet to pull the flavors together.
- Don’t be afraid to veer off the path and try different varietals of cherry tomato in this recipe. If you prefer golden hues to red, go with what you love – just make sure they’re fresh!
More refreshing summer salad recipes
- White Bean Salad with Parsley and Tomatoes
- Tomato Salad with Bacon Dressing
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Crunchy Kale Salad
- Grilled Corn Salad with Peppers and Basil
Did you make this tomato, cucumber, and avocado salad? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below
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- Medium Mixing Bowl
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 english cucumber, halved and sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 avocados, diced
- ½ c loosely packed basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and honey in a mixing bowl. Add the onion and season with salt; toss to coat, and set aside to macerate for 10 minutes.
- Add the cucumber, tomato, avocado, and basil to the bowl and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and just with salt and/or cracked black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
- Storage: store leftovers for about a day in a sealed container in the fridge. The acid in the dressing prevents the avocados from browning too much, but it's best enjoyed fresh.
- Make it vegan: substitute agave nectar or honey.