The beauty of this Turkish Shepherd Salad (çoban salatası) lies in its celebration of fresh produce and simple yet incredible seasonings. Serve it as a side or make it a meal by topping it with grilled steak and serving with pita.
Why This Recipe Works
The base of the salad is made with very familiar ingredients—cucumber, tomatoes, shallots, and a combination of fresh herbs. The Middle Eastern spices are what make this summer salad stand out from all others.
Sumac and Urfa pepper (you can also use Aleppo pepper) add such a unique flavor to this salad while not stealing the show. The combination of all the ingredients are well-balance, it’s as if each ingredient is a supporting player of one another.
Ingredients in Turkish Salad
This allium adds the perfect oniony/garlicky flavor to the salad. To lessen its potency we soak the slices in cold water while preparing the other components of the salad. This short stint in water washes away its sharpness without altering the flavor. To soften the flavor even more, stir in a splash of vinegar and a dash of salt. Feel free to use thinly sliced red onion instead of shallot. You’ll need about ¾ cup.
Both lemon zest and lemon juice are used in the vinaigrette. We recommend seasoning to taste at the end with additional lemon zest.
We prefer to use vine-ripe tomatoes, or large, round tomatoes as opposed to Roma tomatoes. In our opinion, they’re juicier and far more flavorful.
Thin-skinned English cucumbers are the way to go here. If you can’t find an English cucumber, opt for 5 small Persian cucumbers. At last resort you can use a regular cucumber, just be sure to peel the cucumber and scrape out its seeds.
Anaheim pepper is traditional in Turkish Shepherd’s Salad. If it proves to be hard to find you can use a green bell pepper in its place.
This Turkish salad uses a mixture of fresh herbs. Fresh parsley, mint and dill are all used here. If you’re worried about buying a bunch of fresh herbs, don’t be, we’ve got tons of recipes that will help you use them up.
Sumac has a gorgeous red hue and a tangy, almost citrusy flavor. It’s delicious sprinkled over salads, soups and savory toasts. You can find sumac in most Middle Eastern grocery stores, though it’s becoming easier to find in major grocery stores. You can also buy sumac online.
Also called Urfa Biber, Urfa pepper is a Turkish pepper that has been sun dried and ground into a spice. It has a pleasant spice, is mildly sweet and ever so slightly smoky. Urfa pepper can be hard to find—look for it at your local Middle Eastern market or find it online.
Chunks of feta add a salty creaminess to the salad. Use block feta sold in brine instead of pre-crumbled—if you’ve got leftover feta use it in my Cheese Biscuits! You can leave the feta out if you need this to be vegan or dairy-free, but we find it really makes the salad.
How to Serve Turkish Shepherd’s Salad
We like to serve this salad with whole-wheat naan, but pita is also delicious. Black olives are a delicious pairing as is bibb lettuce—we like to spoon it into the leaves and enjoy it like a lettuce wrap.
Test Kitchen Tips
- We don’t recommend making this too far in advance. No more than a few hours. If you do make it ahead of time, hold off on salting the salad until right before serving as the salt will draw out moisture from the tomatoes and cucumbers.
- If you love a spicy salad, use two Anaheim peppers instead of one.
Simple Turkish Shepherd’s Salad with Herbs
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
- 1 large English cucumber, diced (¾ pound)
- 1 Anaheim or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 1 ½ teaspoons sumac
- 1 teaspoon Urfa pepper
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Whole-wheat naan or pita
- Bibb lettuce
- Add shallot to a medium bowl; cover with cold water and set aside while prepping remaining ingredients.
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Add tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, parsley, mint, dill, sumac, and Urfa pepper. Drain shallots and add to bowl; toss to combine.
- Add feta and gently toss to combine; season with salt and lemon juice to taste.