This unique tomato and onion salad, otherwise known as shakarob, includes fresh heirloom tomatoes, white onion, fresh dill, and a simple dressing. Traditionally, you could serve it with plov, such as my Instant Pot Beef Plov or my chicken variation, Instant Pot Chicken and Rice. However, it would work just as well as a side dish with some grilled meat or alongside a hearty stew.
About Tomato Onion Salad (Shakarob)
It seems that most cultures have their own version of tomato salad. The Italians toss ripe tomatoes with toasted bread in a Panzanella salad and will layer sliced tomatoes with slices of buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves as Caprese salad. This particular tomato salad is an Uzbek version from Central Asia including spicy onions and fresh dill.
What truly sets it apart from other tomato salads, though, is the fact that the dressing includes unrefined sunflower oil. This oil has a unique taste that is slightly bitter and reminiscent of sunflower seeds themselves. The oil is also a beautiful light yellow colour. If you can't find unrefined sunflower oil where you live, you can use olive oil instead.
How to Make Tomato Onion Salad
As with many salads, this one is quite simple and takes a total time of 7 minutes. To start, you thinly slice the onion before soaking it in cold water for a total of 5 minutes. My tap water isn't very cold so I add an ice cube to the bowl. This step is beneficial if you don't love the pungent flavour of raw onions. Soaking the onion in water briefly also helps crisp the slices up a little.
Next, you slice your tomatoes into wedges before adding them to a serving bowl. I recommend heirloom tomatoes because they are the most flavorful and come in many different varieties and colours. Imagine a mixture of red, purple, and yellow in this salad.
Heirloom tomatoes are also much easier to find in grocery stores and farmer's markets than previously. Of course, if you can't locate heirloom varieties, you can use whatever tomato is sweet, ripe, and full-flavoured to complete this tomato onion salad. The results won't be any less delicious!
Next, simply chop the dill and add to the tomatoes. Dill is such a wonderful herb that people frequently use in Eastern European cooking. However, if you don't love the taste of dill, you can add other herbs instead. Fresh cilantro, fresh basil, parsley, or scallions will all work particularly well. You could even add a combination if you like.
Before adding the thinly sliced onions to the salad, you should drain them and pat them dry. This is so that you don't make your salad soggy. Then, the salad recipe gets finished with enough oil to coat the vegetables along with some salt and pepper to taste. From here, the salad is ready to serve and is best eaten fresh. If you store it in the fridge, the tomatoes won't be as appealing to eat.
How to Choose the Best Tomatoes for Tomato Salad
The best tomatoes are fresh and in-season, ripened on the vine. You should look for ones that have a bright colour as that is indicative that they are ripe. They should feel heavy when you hold them, indicating that they are quite juicy and have a strong tomato-like smell. The stronger the smell, the more flavour your finished salad will have.
If you purchase imported tomatoes, they likely won't have the flavour you are looking for as farmers probably harvested green. Instead, choose ones that you know grew close to home, or at the very least, in an indoor greenhouse environment near where you live. That way, you will be able to ensure that your chosen tomatoes became fully ripe before being sent to the store or market.
About Unrefined Sunflower Oil
Many people may not be used to cooking with unrefined sunflower oil. The main difference between the unrefined version and the refined version is how they are prepared. Refined sunflower oil is filtered and alkalized to reduce its smell and create a cleaner taste. This process ensures that it won't burn as easily when cooking either.
Meanwhile, you should only use unrefined sunflower oil for cold dishes like this tomato onion salad recipe. It can easily burn and be unappealing in taste if used in cooked recipes. This oil is also more nutritious than refined with vitamins E and K in the mix.
Another difference is that unrefined sunflower oil doesn't have as long a shelf life as refined sunflower oil. For that reason, you should ensure you store it in a cool dark environment and use it up within a few months.
Any Slavic or Russian food will carry unrefined sunflower oil. If you don't have one in your area, you can also easily source virgin sunflower oil online from Amazon.
Of course, if you would prefer to use extra virgin olive oil in this tomato salad recipe, you can definitely do that. It is another healthy oil that adds a wonderful taste to tomato-based salad recipes.
Other Salad Recipes You'll Love:
Tomato Onion Salad
- 2 medium heirloom tomatoes if large, use just 1 tomato
- ¼ white onion
- 2-3 springs fresh dill other herbs cilantro, parsley, basil, or scallions can be substituted
- oil preferable unrefined sunflower oil; olive oil can be substituted
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the onion into thin slices. Soak the slices for 5 minutes in a bowl of cold water. Add an ice cube if your tap water doesn't get very cold. This removes most of the pungency.
- In the meantime slice the tomatoes into wedges - about ¼ inch thick - and add them to a small salad bowl. Chop the dill (or other herb) and add as well.
- Now drain the onion slices and pat dry with a kitchen or paper towel. Add to the remaining ingredients.
- To finish off the Tomato Onion Salad, drizzle a little oil to lightly coat the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Gently toss everything to combine and serve right away. This is the traditional salad served with Plov called Shakarob.
My wife is from Uzbekistan and we make this salad often. The way we make it is authentic and a little different than what you have here. One missing ingredient is cucumber. Add cucumber, thinly sliced, to this salad. Some add thinly sliced hot pepper, similar to the tiny Thai peppers, but this is optional. There is no need to add any oil. Just salt and pepper. Mix well and that's it. This is the traditional accompaniment to plov.
Jennifer @ Leelalicious
Thanks for your comments, Mark! Cucumber and hot pepper would be delicious! 🙂
What a beautiful video! The recipe is both delicious and simple. I'll include Shakarob in my plov preparing routine from now on.
Regina | Leelalicious
Oh yes, please do! I am so glad to hear you are enjoying this simple recipe and the video. It's so easy to make and just wonderfully complements the flavors and textures in plov. Enjoy!