Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad Recipe

The other night I found myself standing in front of a 6-foot by 4-foot display of summer squash. Standing, staring, thinking about what I might need for the week. An older gentleman came up beside me carrying a handful of lemon cucumbers. They were beautiful. The size of baseballs, pale with vibrant yellow marks. With a twinkle in his eye, he started telling me how much he'd enjoyed the cucumbers he'd purchased the previous week. Well, two lemon cucumbers came home with me that evening. I eventually made a simple tofu salad with them. I marinated the cucumbers and some chopped dill in lemon juice and olive oil, then tossed that mixture with tofu, pine nuts, and avocado. Not my idea at all - the inspiration came when I posted a note on Twitter: Two lemon cucumbers - seeking inspiration. Any ideas?

Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad Recipe

A bunch of you replied with really great ideas. @carstenknoch sent me this: lemon cucumbers, capers, dill, light vinegar & olive oil. Maybe avocado? Feta or tofu cubes. Toasted nuts of some kind.

Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad Recipe

I had everything but the capers, and went for it. It's a salad I suspect I'll make again and again. The cool cucumber works nicely with the lemony marinade, dill, and creamy avocado. The toastiness of the pine nuts worked as an important counter-balance. I served the salad over some leftover mung beans I had in the refrigerator, but as I mention in the head notes below, you might serve it on its own, or over any number of grains, greens, or noodles.

For those of you who have never encountered a lemon cucumber, you can see a picture of one up above. They don't taste like lemon, they taste richly of cucumber. Another thing you might notice is how fragrant they are when sliced. I look for lemon cucumbers with good skin - because I rarely peel them. And although they may seem to have seeds that are larger than conventional cucumber, I eat the seeds too.

Thanks to all of you who provided ideas. We'll have to do this again more often!

Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad Recipe

I served this over a platter of cooked mung beans (which I love), but I imagine it would be delicious over salad greens, brown rice or soba noodles as well. And if you can't find lemon cucumbers, you can substitute regular cucumbers, no problem.

2 lemon cucumbers, quartered then sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 handful of fresh dill (about 2/3 cup loosely packed)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 big pinches of salt
8 ounces nigari extra firm tofu
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 of a large, ripe avocado

Toss the cucumbers, dill, olive oil, lemon juice and salt together in a medium bowl. Let sit for at least 20 minutes tossing gently once or twice along the way.

In the meantime, cook the tofu. Cook the tofu and a pinch of salt in well-seasoned skillet (I've been trying to stay away from non-stick) over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy. Set aside.

Just before serving cut the avocado into cubes.

Spoon the cucumbers out of the lemon-olive oil mixture into a large salad bowl. Add half of the remaining dressing, the tofu, and half of the pine nuts. Gently toss. Taste. Add more dressing or salt if you like. Sprinkle the avocado across the top of the salad and gently toss once or twice to distribute it throughout the salad. Serve topped with the remaining pine nuts.

Serves 2 - 3.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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This looks delicious. I might try this using lentils...


That sounds really good even though I'm not a vegetarian. It will be a perfect dinner for hot day like tomorrow. :)

Kitchen M

I have never seen lemon cucumbers before, and I don't need anything else to add to my cucumber obsession. Now, of course, I will have to seek them out. At minimum, this salad begs to be made with regular ones at least. Great inspiration from Twitter!

Haley J.

I don't think they have lemon cucumbers here, but I definitely want to make something similar with regular cucumbers. Since soba is my obsession of the moment, I know what I'll be using for the base!


Ok, I see the lemon cucumbers, the tofu, the pine nuts and the avocado, but all that is in a bed of some kind of gran, what grain is that?

Aline Gaino

Ok, i know what's for dinner tomorrow, except I think I'll put it on brown or red rice. (That is if I can break my tofu curse and cook it without it sticking to the pan.)

This may be the first (and only) useful thing Twitter has every spawned. :D


All of these beautiful, unusual varieties are one of the loveliest pleasures of shopping at the market.

This salad looks perfect for a hot summery day with the cooling cucumber and avocado. I wish I'd planted some cucumbers in my garden now - they're definitely on my list for next year.


the salad looks fresh and yummy with multiple layers into it....i like having this kind of salads n make them often but i have never used tofu with it........have some homemade tofu lying in my fridge n going to try this salad.
lemon cucumbers are not very common here but i know they taste very fresh n crunchy, they are called 'phoot' in this part of the world, and are eaten in the ripe form too.

sangeeta khanna

looks great & very healthy as always!!
marinating the cucumber is a good idea
never seen a lemon cucumber though
not sure they grow in France?!


Perfect! Doing a cleanse this week (basically vegan diet plus no wheat, sugar, caffeine or alcohol--I am cheating only slightly with one coffee in the morning or I'm not sure I could stay awake in class). This fits right in and looks incredible. Thanks again, Heidi.
p.s. your book has become my staple birthday present for my (many) vegetarian friends this year. Always a hit!


Looks like a wonderful summer salad...sans the pinenuts. I'm suffering from a now week-long severe altering of my taste buds due to eating some pinenuts I purchased in the bulk section of a health food store. Beware the Chinese pinenut! Google "bitter taste pinenuts". Crazy, and incredibly annoying!


What a lovely summer recipe. This is a really nice combination of flavours and textures--a definite must-try.


Such a good summer recipe! I maintain anything with avocado can't be bad :) - love all the combos of flavor!

Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian)

This looks so good I want to cry, I can imagine eating it mixed with quinoa in a kind of bastardized tabbouleh/pasta salad way. I want to leave work and go make it right now!


Absolutely love your idea of serving this over soba noodles. It's perfectly fresh and clean food - gorgeous!

Christie @ Fig & Cherry

I had the same thing happen to me the other day - inspiration from twitter friends. I love it!


I'm definitely going to have to try this! I have a large block of feta cheese sitting in my fridge so I think I'm going to go the feta route rather than the tofu this time. Can't wait to try!

Sarah (Coffee Beans and Curry Leaves)

If you like lemon cucumber you should try the recipe from the following link.
Its a very traditional indian recipe.


This looks lovely, just perfect for summer. I'm curious, though - why are you trying to stay away from non-stick pans?


I am a chef who cooks for an early childhood development center and I often find inspiration here! Anyhow, I use tofu often-- the children love it. I always have to find ways to make things easier to cook in bulk. I have found that instead of trying to cook it on the stove top (which has a tendency to stick), that it is much easier to put it on sheet trays (line with parchment paper or a silpat) and bake for 20 minutes at 375. This looks yummy and I am sure I will make a variation of this for lunch soon!


Mm this looks delicious and light, so perfect for summer!


I love lemon cucumbers! My grandmother grew them for salads and pickling. For my part, I think they are the best tasting cucumbers around and wish I could find a purveyor. My balcony isn't exactly condusive to growing them.

Lovely salad Heidi!


~ Lemon cucumbers! Salad a light and tasty dish for a summer day . Cucumber are the best summer dish they come from the squash family. Perfect :Dish~

Thanks for sharing your recipe:)

Have a wonderful Tuesday~


Thank you for cooking up yet another inspiring and beautiful dish and for teaching people to be creative and make up their own recipes! I pass this website on to all my clients and they absolutely love it! Looks like I have everything but the lemon cucumbers ~ we don't have quite the selection of veggies here in Maine (yet) as you do in California! (It's only June!) Thanks again!


Gretchen Heilman

I'll hold on to this recipe for a month or two unitl I'm tripping over lemon cucumbers in the garden. They are about the easiest cucumber to grow in my experience. Quite prolific and do well even in cool climates like the Pacific NW.

tom | tall clover farm

I love the idea of mixing cucumbers and avocados. I have never seen lemon cucumbers before. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for them!


What a pleasant surprise. I just got some lemon cucumbers in my CSA basket this week!! I look forward to doing this. I usually just make cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches :)


Looks lovely, I shall put the recipe away for summer- it's winter now in NZ. We call them apple cucumbers here and they are really easy to grow, just remember to water them generously and you will be rewarded with a big crop


Oh . . . and totally random, but I have been meaning to comment on some of your old recipes that I recently tried but the comments were closed on them. In any event, we absolutely loved the deconstructed sushi bowl in your Super Natural Cooking cookbook and are huge fans of Nikki's Healthy Cookies.


I grow lemon cucumbers every year. I think they grow better than standard cucumbers and don't need sturdy supports for them to climb like regular cucumbers do.

Use them when they're young so the seeds are less developed for the nicest texture (the seeds are quite obtrusive if too old). HOWEVER, I have not bought lemon cucumber seeds to grow in my garden for many, many years since if you let one grow very mature, you can just let it dry over winter and harvest the seeds the following spring for planting. If you want to grow them yourself (even as a hanging basket), if you find some in the farmer's market that are very mature, buy one for its seeds and buy the rest young for eating fresh. Hint: the smaller they are, the younger they tend to be -- just like the bigger they are, the older and more course they will be (but the bigger ones are for seeds, and you'll only need one for a huge crop).

I agree with Heidi, the smell of lemon cucumbers is much stronger than ordinary cucumbers (and they don't smell like lemons) and I only grow lemon cucumbers now (again, if you don't have an outdoor garden, try a hanging basket)!


How do you keep your tofu from sticking on the pan if you use non-stick? Mine sticks on the non-stick. Thanks. I love your blog.


What a great combination. I doubt I have ever seen lemon cucumbers though...hmmm....maybe a variation on the theme?


Mmmm what a fun way to use Twitter!

Now Heidi, I'm wondering about your thoughts on tofu. Once a staple in my house, I've been reading about phytoestrogens and worrying that perhaps soy is best used in soy sauce and smaller quantities. What do you think?

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

What a refreshing salad! I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for lemon cucumbers.

Cookin' Canuck

I planted some lemon cucumbers in my garden. I hope they grow well! They are so lovely.

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

This dish looks great. I have never had lemon cucumber before- I'll have to keep an eye out. I love fresh crisp flavor of cucumber so I know I'll love this one. A perfect meal for a warm day.

lisa (dandysugar)

I like that recipe very much.


Oh... these are so cute! I'd never seem lemon cucumbers! Thank you for a wonderful summer recipe.


Just tried this super yummy, easy recipe w/regular cuc's and it turned out great!! My hubby ate two servings. A++ for fresh taste, ease of construction and taste. Thanks Heidi! We'll be making this salad again very, very soon.


It does not happen often when something v healthy is loved by you to death - at least it is so for me! But Tofu! Gawd - I love it so much and this salad will be in my to-do list this week. Thanks for the recipe :)


love love love the lemon cucumber! i planted some last year and they produced like crazy, yet i never grew tired of them. we included them in all types of salads and also made wonderful bread & butter pickles with them. i always preferred the smaller lemon cucumbers, they seemed to grow a thicker and unappealing skin as they increased in size.

denise (chez danisse)

The lemon cucumbers would be nice in a lemony avocado salsa - mmmm can taste it now!


Tried this today - lovely.

Substituted what I had on hand, pecans for pine nuts, regular cukes but fresh lemons. I lucked out and included some wonderful capers from Mr. Marcel Pain Vin Et Fromage in LA.

Great balance. Thanks for the recipe (you too, @carstenknoch).

Recipe sourcing via twitter is a fantastic idea!


I've never heard of lemon cucumbers before...it's kind of sad that they don't taste lemony though! This sounds really refreshing for summer though. Ahhh, isn't twitter great?!

nithya at hungrydesi

We always grow the lemon cucumbers here in Seattle. We tried the long green ones just once with sparse, bitter results. My favorite way to eat the lemons is out of hand with salt, but during the season (yet to come here) they are very prolific, so the recipe is appreciated! I have never seen a baseball-size one that didn't have a hard shell, so I might need to adjust the recipe to use more, smaller ones. Ours also have kind of spines on the outside. We scrub those off before eating.


Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Any way
I'll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!


What is the small green grain or bean in this salad? Wheatberry?!!! Look oh so yummy and healthy, nice, thanks!


What is the advantage of lemon cucumbers over the normal type? Is it worth it to search the whole city for them?


It's not worth searching a city for lemon cucumbers, but since it's always worth going to farmer's markets whenever possible, it's DEFINITELY worth buying them if you see them. To me, lemon cucumbers are just cucumbers that are more fun to eat :) A little tang, watery flavorful seeds and crispier "meat." Also fun, and perhaps more appropriate to pair with tofu, are macheche (spelling?), which are quite small cucumbers with edible spikes on the outside. I find them similar, though less tangy.

Can't wait to find some of either to try out this salad--doesn't seem worth it with regular cucumbers, at least until I get them out of my own garden!


I've been really into cucumbers lately. They're not growing up here yet, but the ones I buy from the produce stand have been going into salsas and salads. I've got four precious little cucumber plants on my deck--I'll be pulling up this recipe when I start picking them!

The Leftoverist

i live in VA. never heard of a lemon cucumber. where are they from?


I am so jealous - I haven't seen a lemon cucumber in ages, but I used to love them! Our standby is "grandpa salad": cukes, tomatoes, red onions, olive oil, and lots of kosher salt. Maybe lemon cucumbers and plum tomatoes?


made it last night! another great meal, heidi! it tasted fantastic over soba noodles and i added a touch of feta on top. thanks :)

Amanda B.

recently saw your cookbook in a store and want to pass on my compliments. It truly is gorgeous, I am sure you are so proud! You are incredibly talented and wish you all the success with the book. It is so well rounded and full of great information. Can't wait to read every page!

HS: Thanks so much Sara. And while I have you - I'm really loving your site - really beautifully done. Congrats.


I love cooking with fresh ingredients from the farmer's market and this looks delicious!


Long time reader, first time commenter...

Just lovely. I never heard of lemon cucumbers. I will definately look for them...


Lemon cucumbers might just be my new favourite vegetable... uh fruit. No... Vegetable.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

subsituted tofu for grilled salmon to please tofu hating (he thinks) husband. served over buckwheat soba. delicious.


I grew a couple of these lemon cucumbers last summer, but they weren't a terribly successful crop. Hopefully next time they'll be more productive. I love the look of the fried tofu and toasted pinenuts on top.

Arwen from Hoglet K

Here's another idea - I tried this recipe this week with plain cukes, but since it has a citrus theme going anyway I bet the lemon ones would be great. Scallop kabobs with cucumber and orange, basted with a honey-orange juice sauce. Really quick, really easy, really delicious:


See what you think?


This was absolutely beautiful on such a hot night- made it with a bit of Feta over brown rice and received several compliments. Thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes!


I made this tonight and really liked the texture of the mung beans in the dish. Added some pepper for a little kick - I agree that feta would also be a nice variation. Thanks, from Germany.


I finally made this today. Set out all ingredients and realized I was out of lemons, so I used fresh limes. It was still quite delicious, so I will make this throughout the summer. And yes, I used lentils.


I have been looking for something a little out of the norm and this sounds delightful. I cant wait to try it.


I don't think we have these in New Zealand - I've certainly never seen them. We have apple cucumbers which look like the same kind of shape but have a white skin. I like to mix cucumber with rockmelon (I think you call them cantaloupe), bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella, roasted hazelnuts, flat leaf parsley and lemon basil vinaigrette.

Sue Busch

Lemon cukes, what a cool veggie. I never used these before, but I like lemons, regular cukes and capers so it must be awesome.

Chef Fresco

here tofu can be somebody can subsituted for feta cheese but your version is fantastic for me, macrobiotic! thanks!


tofu can be replaced by feta, sorry ;-)


For those of you who have trouble with tofu sticking in the pan - try this: Cube it, toss it with a bit of oil of your choosing (I've used peanut or olive oil), season it and bake it on a foil covered pan in a 450 degree oven. Yes, I know it's summer, but it only takes 10-15 minutes, probably about the same time as you'd spend tending it on the stovetop.... If you have convection, use it, it gets nice and brown even faster!


Just wondering how this recipe isn't gluten free or if you forgot to tag it under GF. I always look at the GF recipes to see if theres any updates but saw this on facebook and didn't know how I missed it.

HS: You're right! I'll update the tag.


Here in Southern India, we make a traditional delicacy, Dosa Avakai aka Lemon cucumber pickle. Another traditional dish is a Dosakaya Pappu aka lentil stew using lemon cucumbers and red gram dal (tur dal). Here's the link to the Lemon Cucumber pickle:


thanx for these kind of delicious and low calorie salads, i tried n everyone at home liked it a lot.


For what it's worth, my grandmother used to make a cucumber salad with vinegar, sour cream, and green onion and dill. I am not sure of ratios, but I don't think it matters. :)


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