Here's an easy recipe for ensalada rusa - or, as many call it, Russian salad or Olivier salad. This creamy potato salad is full of vegetables and tastes great. Follow along to learn more about this popular salad and its variations.
It sure seems like there's no end to all the variations you can find on the simple potato salad. We've already checked off the Turkish and Mediterranean versions (both mayo-free) and today, I'm going to share with you the recipe for this Russian potato salad, also known as olivier salad that you can find all around the world, from Asia to South America.
Table Of Contents:
All about this recipe
Growing up in Iran, my mom (and everyone else I knew) would make this potato salad with mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, pickles, hard boiled eggs and poached chicken called salad olivieh. It's always been a favorite and so easy to make.
Then I moved to Istanbul, Turkey and on my journey to find my favorite foods, I came across multiple occasions where a very similar potato salad, made with small, cubed potatoes instead of mashed, would be used to top sandwiches and kumpir (stuffed potatoes) or as part of a mezze spread. In Istanbul, they used to call it Amerikan salatası and I later learned that some call it Rus salatası as well.
Fast forward to a few years ago, on our trip to Spain, which involved endless tapas bar hops, we had the same potato salad, this time with tuna, known as, yes, you guessed it right, ensalada rusa. So it became my mission to do some research and see how the whole world knows about this salad, that I, as a kid, thought was an Iranian delicacy.
The origin and variations
This is a classic Russian recipe that originated in Moscow. It's named after its inventor, a Belgian chef named Lucien Olivier, of Hermitage restaurant - one of the city's top restaurants in the 1860s.
Russian potato salad is also popular in many other countries including Vietnam, Norway and Denmark. Each country has a variation of it using different ingredients. Though the recipe has been changed and modified many times through years, it's still popular in many countries. In France, it's known as olivier salad and in Iran it's called Salad olivieh and includes chicken whereas in Spain, it's called Ensalada Rusa and usually contains tuna.
As mentioned before, in Turkey, this potato salad is served with sandwiches and stuffed potatoes (kumpir), sometimes called Russian salad (Rus salatası) or American salad (Amerikan salatası). In Greece, you can find it in many restaurants with the name rossiki salata.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Potatoes: You can use russet potatoes, white potatoes or yukon gold potatoes for this recipe. Make sure the chopped pieces are almost the same size so they cook evenly.
- Carrots: One large carrot or two small ones would work for this recipe.
- Green peas: I usually use canned green peas but you can also use frozen peas and boil them for a few minutes to cook.
- Pickles: Dill pickles or cornichons work best for this recipe. Don't use any pickles that are even slightly sweetened.
- Mayonnaise: Regular mayonnaise work best for this recipe, but low fat or vegan would work, too.
- Yogurt: Traditionally Russian salad doesn't contain any yogurt, but I find the addition of yogurt lightens it up. If not using yogurt, you can add more mayonnaise.
How to make Ensalada Rusa Or Russian Salad
- Boil the potatoes and carrots: Chop the potatoes into cubes and chop the carrots to be slightly smaller than the potatoes. Add them to boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes. They should be fork tender and fully cooked, but not mushy. Drain the vegetables and let them cool completely.
- Mix the ingredients: mix the cooled potatoes and carrots with the green peas and chopped pickles in a large bowl.
- Finishing touches: Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
This potato salad is loved around the world from Russia to Turkey, Iran, France, Spain and even Colombia. Each country and family has their own version. Here are a few ingredients you can add to this recipe:
- Poached chicken, seared chopped hotdogs or chopped beef mortadella or salami.
- Chopped hard boiled eggs.
- Quality canned tuna.
- Corn, capers and olives.
- Cooked beets which would give the salad a bright pink color.
This potato salad can be served on its own or as a side dish. In Iran, olivier salad is served with bread as a sandwich. In Turkey, it's served as a mezze or used to top sandwiches or kumpir (Turkish stuffed potato).
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. If the potato salad looks a little dry, add a bit more mayonnaise or yogurt before serving and give it a good stir.
Frequently asked questions
Because of the mayonnaise and yogurt, this salad won't freeze well.
Yes, you can make it up to 2 days in advance.
More potato side dish recipes
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Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad - Olivier Salad)
- 2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced into small cubes
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced into small cubes
- 1 cup canned green peas
- ½ cup dill pickles diced
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the potatoes and carrots. Cook for about 15 minutes until they are fork tender and fully cooked, but not mushy. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
- Once the potatoes and carrots are cool completely, mix them with the green peas and dill pickles in a large bowl. Add in the mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. If the salad is too dry, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise or Greek yogurt before serving.
- You can add poached chicken, seared chopped hotdogs or beef mortadella or salami to this salad.
- The Spanish version of this salad, known as Ensalada Rusa contains canned tuna.
- Some versions call for white onions, apples or corn.