Cucumber salad, whether dressed simply with vinegar or made creamy with the addition of mayonnaise or yogurt, can easily become watery. This occurs when the crisp vegetable releases its water content after it has a chance to sit. To prevent this from happening, remove as much liquid as possible from the cucumbers prior to dressing. The amount of liquid in the salad can also be minimized by reducing the water content of other ingredients.
About the Seeds
Choose Your Cucumbers
All parts of a cucumber are naturally full of water. However, the seeds contain the most liquid. The watery flesh surrounding each seed can quickly turn your cucumber salad into a flavorless, runny mess. Choose seedless cucumbers, such as Lebanese cucumbers, or cucumbers with smaller seeds, such as English cucumbers, if possible.
Remove the Seeds
If you cannot find seedless cucumbers, or if you want a dry-as-possible English cucumber salad, remove the seeds from seeded cucumbers and from English cucumbers. Lebanese cucumber seeds are too small to be successfully removed, as taking them out will leave you with almost no vegetable left.
To remove the seeds in a seeded cucumber, simply scoop out the seeds with a spoon. For English cucumbers, try scraping the seeds out with a spoon. If this does not work, carefully cut a V-shape where the seeds are located, and pull out the center portion containing the seeds. Scoop or brush out the remaining seeds with a spoon or the point of a knife.
Salting the Cucumbers
Even seedless or de-seeded cucumbers still contain a lot of liquid. To remove the water from the cucumber without greatly affecting the taste or texture, sprinkle salt on the cut pieces of cucumber. The salt encourages the cucumber to leach out excess liquid, reducing the risk that you'll end up with a watery salad.
To salt and drain your cucumbers:
- Slice the cucumbers and place them in a colander, tossing with 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt.
- Coat all the pieces evenly.
- Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Press gently on the sliced cucumber, draining any excess liquid.
- Run cold water over the cucumber to remove excess salt and let sit for 10 more minutes.
After draining, the cucumber will contain significantly less liquid. To remove excess surface liquid from rinsing the salt or continued leaching, pat the slices dry with a paper towel prior to dressing and seasoning the cucumber for the salad.
Place the cucumber slices in one layer on a sheet of paper towels, and blot dry, pressing gently with a second piece of paper towel. Repeat until all of the excess surface liquid has been absorbed.
The other ingredients in a cucumber salad can also cause the salad to turn watery. Salt and drain onions and other vegetables prior to adding them to the salad, if you are using them.
For yogurt-based cucumber salads, choose a thicker yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, to minimize the amount of liquid in your salad. If there is some whey -- watery fluid -- in the yogurt, pour it out before you use it.
If you do not have access to Greek yogurt, drain your regular yogurt to remove excess fluid. Let the yogurt sit overnight in a cheesecloth or coffee filter-lined colander to drain. After 24 hours, the volume will have decreased by 30 to 50 percent, so drain more yogurt than called for in your recipe.