Israeli Salad Recipe with Za’atar Dressing

Israeli salad in a white bowl

Israeli Salad (aka Arabic Salad) with Za’atar Dressing is a fresh tomato and cucumber salad with a refreshing crunch and a complicated history. This healthy chopped vegetable salad is traditionally served with every meal of the day and makes the perfect summer side dish.

chopped Israeli salad with za'atar dressing

Israeli Salad with za’atar dressing

It’s refreshing, healthy, gorgeous, low calorie, easy to make, and versatile ~ what more could you possible ask from a salad? In Israel they’ll eat it for every meal of the day, and you’ll get lots of use out of it for summer meals and barbecues, etc. It brightens up just about any plate of food.

Israeli salad in a bowl with spoons

Israeli salad ~ the controversy

Food and culture are intimately connected, and this simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley has become the center of a heated debate. Different cultures make and enjoy this refreshing salad, and so naming/claiming it can be tricky and a point of contention.

Tomato cucumber salad has been made for centuries in Palestine and other parts of the Middle East from the fresh produce of the region.

Jewish immigrants adapted the salad (which is simply called chopped salad in Israel) when they settled in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan in the late 19th century.

Some feel that the original Palestinian salad has since been unfairly appropriated by Israel as a national dish, along with other classic Arab dishes like hummus, falafel, and tabbouleh.

You could think of this as an example of natural culinary evolution, or cultural appropriation. We can’t settle the issue here, but it’s something to think about as you chop your veggies for this wonderful dish.

For a Persian version of this salad check my Shirazi Salad.

making an Israeli salad

where my chopped salad breaks with tradition

Everybody does their tomato and cucumber salad a little differently, whether it’s adding or subtracting a spice, changing up the herbs, or using different veggies…

  • My salad is rather chunky, whereas most Israeli salads are very finely minced. I prefer this texture, and I feel like it doesn’t get as watery, and lasts longer. In this form the salad makes a nice side dish.
  • I use multicolored bell peppers for a colorful effect whereas a classic salad would be red and green.
  • Full sized tomatoes are traditional, but I love cherries because they’re available all year long, aren’t as watery, and are firm and sweet.
  • Feta cheese is not traditional but makes my salad a little heartier.
  • Chopped radishes add a spicy kick and extra crunch.
  • Mint is a common ingredient that I’ve omitted simply because I didn’t have any. I highly recommend it.
ingredients for Israeli salad

ingredients for my Israeli salad

  • TOMATOES ~ any great ripe tomato is perfect, but off season, cherry tomatoes are ideal.
  • CUCUMBER ~ English or Persian cukes are best, they have less seeds, thinner skins, and are less watery.
  • RED ONION ~you can substitute green onions.
  • BELL PEPPERS ~ go for the rainbow here!
  • RADISHES ~ big crunch factor and a nice sharp bite. Jicama might be a good substitute.
  • FETA CHEESE ~ look for imported sheep’s milk feta, it’s creamy and mild.
  • PARSLEY ~ use curly or flat leaf, but make sure it’s fresh, not dried.
  • OLIVE OIL ~ extra virgin for flavor.
  • LEMON JUICE ~ fresh squeezed.
  • ZA’ATAR ~ a wild thyme-like herb, but also can be a spice blend of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried oregano, and sumac.
ingredients for Israeli salad in a white bowl

how to make this salad ahead

Salads of all kinds are usually best enjoyed the day they’re made, but if you need to make this ahead, I would leave out the tomatoes, which don’t do well in the refrigerator, and add them before serving. Don’t dress the salad ahead of time, add it just before serving.

to make this salad vegan

Leave out the cheese, the salad will still be wonderful.

to make without za’atar

Substitute dried oregano, dried thyme, or a combination of both. You might also use some citrusy sumac to spice your salad.

chopped Israeli salad in small jars

more Mediterranean salads

A colorful Israeli salad in a white bowl
5 from 8 votes

Israeli Salad

Course Salad
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Diet Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 8 servings
Calories 132kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • alligator chopper (optional)


  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups diced bell peppers, assorted colors
  • 1 cup diced radishes
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup cubed feta cheese


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp za'atar (substitute dried oregano, thyme, or both.)
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


  • Add all the veggies and parsley to a large bowl. Note: try to cut the ingredients in small, even pieces. I use my Alligator Chopper to do it quickly.
    chopped veggies in a white bowl
  • Toss with enough dressing to moisten the salad. Season with salt and pepper. Note: I will sometimes leave the feta cheese out and add it after tossing, to prevent it from being broken up.
    tossing an Israeli salad 2
  • Gently add the feta and give one gentle toss.
    chopped Israeli salad, tossed
  • Taste and add more dressing, or seasonings, as you like. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator until needed. Note: tomatoes do not fare well in the refrigerator, so if you are making the salad ahead, consider adding them right before serving.
    A colorful Israeli salad in a white bowl


Calories: 132kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 221mg | Potassium: 209mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1374IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Sandra Hernanzez
    July 27, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Nice recipe, but if you’re getting into Woke politics for the Middle East, maybe you should study it a little first.

    There have always been Jews in the area of Israel / Judea / Samaria.

    Arabs moved into the area, which was called the “Palestine Mandate” under the rule of the British Empire after WWI.

    You can ruin the taste of a nice recipe with Woke politics.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 27, 2022 at 9:43 am

      I did study this issue Sandra, but as you and I both know, it’s complicated. I try to add context to my International recipes as best I can.

    • Reply
      July 28, 2022 at 10:16 am

      Wow, how nasty. How about just move along if you don’t agree?

  • Reply
    November 8, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    5 stars
    Just made a monster bowl of this salad. It brought me so much joy. Thank you for this.

  • Reply
    Tally Hansen
    September 21, 2021 at 11:24 am

    Do you use the Za’atar blend (with sesame seeds) or the herb itself?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      September 21, 2021 at 11:52 am

      I generally use the blend, because it’s what I can find.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    5 stars
    Delicious salad! I would absolutely eat this for breakfast or any other meal. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    5 stars
    This recipe is so good! Made it twice now and everyone loves it. Keeps well as leftovers. I added Israeli (Pearl) couscous to it too…..yummy!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      Love the idea of adding couscous, I’ll do that next time 🙂

  • Reply
    Dina kattan
    April 2, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    It is a Palestinian salad…..Should not be called israeli salad….

  • Reply
    March 26, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    5 stars
    I think you are fantastic & several of your recipes are in my constant rotation. But,please stop with the “cultural appropriaton” line. (and I’m a Liberal). Jews have been in this region for milennia.

    • Reply
      Helen Maree
      March 26, 2021 at 4:10 pm

      I love your recipes and cook with them often. I appreciate that you are respectful of the origins and make note of other cultures. Here in Australia the delightful small Middle Eastern cucumbers are referred to as Lebanese – probably because they were initially found as t Lebanese produce shops. Please keep up your fantastic work.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2021 at 6:10 am

    5 stars
    You would see this salad in the deli yrs ago, I grew up with it, ty for bringing back great memories

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