This fresh tomato and cucumber salad is a twist on the classic Jerusalem chopped salad, also known as Israeli salad. Tomatoes and cucumbers are taken to the next level with flavorful Kalamata olives and creamy avocados. Then they're tossed with fresh parsley, chives, mint and a lemon vinaigrette. It's a wonderful refreshing side dish for a summer meal!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Essential summer salad. Jerusalem salad is especially great to make in the summer when tomatoes and cucumbers are in season and at their peak of freshness and flavor. Plus it requires no cooking, another bonus during the heat of the summer.
- Updated twist. Adding olives, avocado, sumac, and mint are a fun update on a classic dish.
- Fresh and flavorful. Three types of fresh herbs gives this summer salad a bright and herbaceous flavor that is the perfect side dish to pair with savory dishes like Pargiot Chicken, Crispy Chicken Schnitzel, Za’atar Chicken, and Arayes (meat stuffed pitas).
- Fast and easy. This delicious salad takes 15 minutes to prepare and is easy to put together right before serving dinner or lunch.
What is a Jerusalem salad?
Jerusalem salad, or Israeli salad, is a simple salad of diced tomatoes and cucumbers with a lemon and olive oil dressing. It's also referred to as salat katzutz, which means chopped salad in Hebrew.
It's a popular side dish frequently served in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Jerusalem salad is cool and refreshing, perfect for hot summer days.
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In this Jerusalem salad recipe, I put my own spin on the dish to give it a fun update. Think of it as the California version of a traditional Israeli salad.
I chose to make this with cherry tomatoes instead of full size tomatoes because they have a longer growing season and are available many months of the year.
No California salad would be complete without avocado which makes a nice texture contrast to the vegetables. The sumac and lemon add some California sunshine too. Olives, another California crop, add an earthiness to the dish. I put chives in the dish for a more delicate allium flavor than the sharp taste of raw onion.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
See the recipe card below for a complete ingredient list and measurements.Jump to Recipe
- Tomatoes - In my version of Jerusalem salad, I use cherry tomatoes, but you can substitute for larger fresh tomatoes if you have them. Any sweet ripe tomatoes will work!
- Cucumbers - Persian cucumbers work the best since they have a thin skin with less seeds and are mild and crisp. Because they are less watery than other cucumbers, they won't water down the salad. Substitute for 2 large English cucumbers with seeds removed. Don’t use a standard or pickling cucumber which can be waxy, more bitter, and too watery.
- Fresh herbs - Chives, parsley, and mint give this salad a fresh and bright flavor. I like using chives for a lighter onion flavor in place of the traditional red onions in this salad. Several different fresh herbs work well here: choose between parsley, mint, and cilantro, or a combination. Don’t use dried herbs.
- Avocados - Not an ingredient in the traditional Israeli salad, but a fun Californian twist. Add a creamy element to the crisp salad.
- Pitted Kalamata olives - These dark brown olives add a briney pop of flavor.
- Fresh lemon juice - If you don’t have lemon juice, substitute with 2 tablespoons of white or red wine vinegar.
- Sumac - Adds a lemony flavor to the salad and makes a pretty garnish. You can substitute for za’atar which is a different but equally tasty flavor option. If you don't have sumac or za'atar, you can leave them out, and the salad will still be delicious. But if you want to explore Israeli or Middle Eastern cuisine, then I recommend having them both in your spice drawer.
How to make an Israeli salad
See the recipe card below for complete directions.Jump to Recipe
Chop all the vegetables into small pieces, except for the avocado.
Add tomato, cucumber, chives, parsley, mint and olives into a large mixing bowl and toss.
Add dressing ingredients to a jar, and shake well. Pour over the salad.
Add the diced avocado right before serving, and carefully mix together.
Israeli cuisine expert Jana Gur gives the following tips for a fresh cucumber and tomato salad in her cookbook The Book of New Israeli Food.
- Use fresh, ripe vegetables.
- Serve at room temperature for the best flavor.
- If vegetables are stored in the refrigerator, take them out a half hour before you make the dish.
- Use a very sharp knife so the vegetables aren’t crushed while chopping.
- Serve immediately for the best texture.
While the main ingredients of tomato and cucumber should stay the same, there are endless variations to make different versions of this salad.
- Add diced red bell pepper.
- Top with crumbled feta.
- Chickpeas or barley add protein and heft to the salad.
- Substitute sumac for za’atar for an herby flavor profile.
- Instead of chives, add scallions or thinly sliced raw red onion.
- Toss this salad with leafy greens to make a larger salad.
- Change out the lemon vinaigrette for a tahini dressing like Lemon Herb Green Tahini Sauce.
Israeli salad is best served fresh, some elements can be made ahead of time to serve the next day.
Up to one day in advance, chop the veggies and place them in separate containers with a piece of paper towel to absorb moisture. The dressing can be prepared a day in advance as well. Store everything covered in the fridge overnight. Don’t cut the avocado until just before serving.
Storage and Reheating
How to store: Store leftover Jerusalem salad in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Drain liquid before eating. This salad is best served fresh, but will keep for 1-2 days in the refrigerator once mixed.
What to serve with Jerusalem salad
These delicious chicken dishes are perfect for serving with this Israeli salad.
More salad recipes
Frequently Asked Questions
The best cucumbers for making a tomato and cucumber salad, like this Jerusalem salad, are Persian cucumbers. They are small and crisp with a mild flavor and have a thin skin with minimal seeds. Since they are not watery like regular cucumbers, they won’t make the salad watery.
While you can make some elements of a tomato cucumber salad ahead of time, it is best served fresh. Prep the vegetables a day in advance and store in separate containers with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. You can also prepare the dressing one day in advance. Don’t cut the avocado until right before serving.
Jerusalem Salad (Tomato Cucumber Salad)
- Large serving bowl
- 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes quartered (4 cups whole tomatoes)
- 6 small Persian cucumbers or 2 large English cucumbers, seeds removed; about 3 cups once chopped
- ¼ cup chopped chives
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup kalamata olives halved
- 2 medium ripe avocados cut into ½ inch cubes right before serving
- Chop all the vegetables as directed in the Ingredients section above.
- Cucumbers: If using Persian cucumbers: cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then cut each half into two pieces, slicing from top to bottom. Cut each cucumber strip (there should be 4 strips now) into 1⁄2” cubes. Repeat with remaining cucumbers. If using English cucumbers: cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seedy center of the cucumber. Then, cut each half of the cucumber into three strips from top to bottom. Cut each strip into 1⁄2” cubes.
- In a large bowl, mix together the tomato, cucumber, chives, parsley, mint, and olives.
- In a medium bowl or covered glass jar, add the dressing ingredients. Whisk to combine for 1 minute, or cover jar and shake well.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
- Add the avocado right before serving and carefully mix together.
- Sprinkle extra sumac as garnish.
- Choose the freshest veggies that are perfectly ripe. If buying vegetables 2-3 days in advance, choose slightly under ripe veggies so they have time to ripen by the day of the meal.
- Take veggies out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before making the salad so they have time to come to room temperature to yield a more flavorful salad.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the vegetables so they stay intact and don’t crush.
- Optimally, Jerusalem salad should be served immediately after making or within about 30 minutes.
- Substitute sumac for za’atar for an herby flavor profile.
- If you don’t have lemon juice, substitute with 2 tablespoons of white or red wine vinegar.
- Make ahead instructions: Up to one day in advance, chop the veggies and place them in separate containers with a piece of paper towel to absorb moisture. The dressing can be prepared a day in advance as well. Store everything covered in the fridge overnight. Don’t cut the avocado until just before serving.
- How to store: Store leftover Jerusalem salad in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Drain liquid before eating. This salad is best served fresh, but leftovers will keep for 1-2 days in the refrigerator once mixed.