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Russian Salad is known by several names such as “Ensalada Rusa” or “Olivier Salad” or “Salad Olivieh”. This is a simple salad invented in the 18th century by Lucien Olivier and widely recreated throughout Eastern Europe. Over the course of the centuries, different regions of Eastern Europe have developed their own variations of this salad but few core ingredients are common to them all: potatoes, eggs, carrots, pickles, onions, peas, and a mayonnaise-based dressing.
Like this Polish Potato Salad with Pickles and Eggs, the Russian Potato Salad is super popular! Be sure to see the step-by-step tutorial below.
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Origin of the Russian Salad
Russian Salad (Ensalada Rusa) was originally invented by Lucien Olivier for a Moscow restaurant called Hermitage in 1860s. It became very popular in Russia and can now be found in any restaurant across the country. It’s traditionally served on any Holiday, gatherings, birthday parties etc… The local variations can be found in almost any Eastern European Country from Ukraine, Bulgaria to Poland and Hungary.
In Poland, this salad is called “Salatka Jarzynowa”(which translates to a vegetable salad). I learned how to make it in Elementary School. Once a month we would have a class where we needed to bring all the ingredients necessary to make a salad (already cooked) and then we’d chop it up and assemble it. We would bring knives to school to chop the ingredients. Nowadays this sounds crazy, but I guess this was a different era.
My point is ….I’ve been making this salad my entire life. In fact, this Russian salad was the first thing I ever learned how to make.
It is believed that the original Russian Potato Salad contained cubed meat (like ham) and was a complete meal. I’ve personally never had one with meat and I prefer it that way. However, feel free to add it to your ingredients list if you’re so inclined.
What Ingredients Are Needed to Make Russian Potato Salad
The list of Ingredients for this Russian Olivier Salad is very short and you may have already everything needed in your pantry:
- Ham (optional)
How to Make Russian Olivier (Olivieh) Salad
The preparation of the Russian Salad is very simple, however, it will require a few steps and some extra time, because vegetables and eggs need to be cooked and cooled off before the chopping.
Step 1: Place eggs in a pot of cold water. Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and let them fully cool off before peeling.
Step 2: Place whole, unpeeled potatoes, and carrots in a pot of water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to boil. Cook until vegetables are fork tender for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from water and let cool off fully before peeling.
Step 3: Peel and chop the pickles (peeling is optional; I feel like they taste better in this salad without tough skin).
Step 4: Chop the onions.
Step 5: Strain and rinse canned peas.
Step 6: Peel and chop into cubes eggs, potatoes, and carrots (if using, cube your ham too).
Step 7: Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix all together.
Step 8: In a small bowl combine mayonnaise with mustard and pepper. Add it into the salad ingredients and mix all together.
An important tip when making Russian Salad: Do not add salt to your mayonnaise mixture. Mayonnaise, as well as Dijon mustard, have a lot of salt in it. Dress your salad first, taste it and then add salt if needed. Remember, you can ALWAYS add salt but you cannot take it away!
What are the Possible Variations of the Russian Potato Salad
As mentioned above this popular Olivier Salad became a staple across Eastern Europe. In Ukraine and Bulgaria, you would almost always find some kind of meat in this salad (e.g. ham or bologna).
In Poland on the other hand, no one adds meat to “Salatka Jarzynowa”, but you could find that people add other root vegetables like parsnip or celery root or occasionally a chopped apple. I personally do not care for a taste of cooked parsnip or celery root so they were never part of my Olivier Salad and I also don’t like the fact that an apple can oxidize and get brown and the salad does not look that appetizing anymore.
However, I often add sweet, canned corn to my Olivier Salad. I just love how it tastes and it compliments this salad beautifully.
But you can experiment and add some other ingredients to your liking. In fact, if you share the tradition of making this amazing Russian salad, then let me know your thought on this variation. Enjoy!
Equipment Needed to Make Ensalada Rusa
- Large pot for boiling vegetables and medium pot for boiling eggs;
- Cutting Board; to chop vegetables and eggs on;
- Set of Knives; to chop vegetables and eggs with;
- Colander to strain and rinse peas;
- Large Glass Bowl to mix all Russian salad ingredients together;
- Small mixing bowl to mix dressing for Russian Salad;
- Large mixing spoon to combine all together.
Other popular Eastern European Dishes to Try:
- Rainbow Carrots Apple Slaw
- Apple Pancakes
- Potatoe Pancakes
- Stuffed Cabbage
- Hungarian Lecho
- Potato Cutlets
- Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Russian Salad (Ensalada Rusa or Olivier Salad)
- 3 Potatoes Yellow, medium size, boiled, chopped
- 3 Carrots Medium size, boiled, chopped
- 6 Eggs boiled, chopped
- 3 Pickles in Brine Medium size, peeled, chopped
- 1/2 Sweet Onion Large or one small, chopped
- 1 can Peas 15 oz., rinsed
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard or other preferred mustard
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Place eggs in a pot of cold water. Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and let them fully cool off before peeling.
- Place whole, unpeeled potatoes, and carrots in a pot of water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to boil. Cook until vegetables are fork tender for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from water and let cool off fully before peeling.
- Peel and chop the pickles (peeling is optional; I feel like they taste better in this salad without tough skin).
- Chop the onions.
- Strain and rinse canned peas.
- Peel and chop into cubes eggs, potatoes, and carrots (if using, cube your ham too).
- Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix all together.
- In a small bowl combine mayonnaise with mustard and pepper. Add it into the salad ingredients and mix all together.
- If you can't find pickles in brine in a grocery store (these are the kind that is pickled without vinegar); the good place to look for them would be a Jewish deli or farmer's market.
- Do not add salt to your mayonnaise mixture. Mayonnaise, as well as Dijon mustard, have a lot of salt in it. Dress your salad first, taste it and then add salt if needed. Remember, you can ALWAYS add salt but you cannot take it away!
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My great grandmother made a salad very similar to this, I never knew it was a “thing” and always thought it was something she threw together. She included ham in hers.
Yes Rae, it is a thing a super popular one across Eastern Europe 🙂
I love learning about new recipes from other cultures, and I haven’t had this one before. It sounds delicious, and great for all seasons.
It is great for all seasons. Thanks a lot Valentina 🙂
Hi is the onion raw in the salad? I use to eat this a lot when I lived in the canaries but don’t remember it having raw onion? Thank you
Yes, but feel free to skip it
I love all of the step by step pictures. I can’t wait to try this.
Thank you Sandi!
I love the history behind this salad… and all the photos of the individual components!
Thanks a lot Catherine 🙂
Now this is my kind of salad 😉 it was a hit with the whole family!
That’s awesome Tayler!
Looks so delicious! I’ll have to have seconds for sure!
This is a vegetable rich salad. I love the history behind it too. Will give both options a try. With ham and without.
Thanks you Chichi!
I’ve had it made with cubed roast chicken or turkey, roast pork and even bologna, depending on what was hanging around in the fridge, and they were all tasty in their different ways (the mustard in the dressing helps the meat flavor ‘fit in’, somehow), but the basic vegetarian version is absolutely delicious too! My mother’s version combined all the chopped vegetable ingredients in a covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight, but she didn’t add the dressing until the next day, an hour or so before serving. This salad was always featured in our big Christmas Eve dinner, and until I grew up enough to appreciate the taste of herring was sometimes the only thing I was willing to eat that evening! 🙃
Hey Marta, that’s too funny, as it took me a while to appreciate the taste of herring too. Now I love them and the salad is always on our table on Christmas Eve 🙂
my mother’s family is from the Ukrainian area and she make this salad in the summer. I just thought that she just added what she had in the kitchen.
I love it.
Haha, that’s funny because a lot of people thought this way. Meanwhile it is a real thing 🙂
KATHLEEN A WASLOV
Can I substitute fresh or frozen peas? I don’t like canned peas.
Of course. But you will need to cook it first.
That is a very authentic and well written recipe , just how I make and love it. The only difference I make is adding cooked frozen peas.
Cooking or steaming potatoes with their skin on and peeling them later gives the salad a much nicer flavour as well as more nutritional value..Thank you for writing such an interesting
” historical ” recipe , Ose
Hi Edyta. I am wondering if this can be made with all canned vegetables? Canned potatoes, carrots, and peas. I am looking for more recipes that are pantry friendly as I live in an area where the nearest grocery store is over 3 hours away.
Hey hey) We Russians actually never put fresh chopped onion there. It is very dominative ingredient, once you put it there, your salad became very very different. This would make salad too hot and unfriendly to your stomack. While idea of this salad is to give you an ingredients which are very comfortable to almost everybody. Fresh onion just isn’t. Cheers!
That’s funny because we Poles always add onions to the Russian salad :). I’d say it varies by the regions and even households. I always suggest to my readers to do out to their liking
The funny thing is that Lucien’s version wasn’t simple at all, but contained several kinds of expensive meats and seafood. It became a very different dish during the Soviet Union. I think chicken is tastiest; that’s the way I always make it.
Edyta I too grew up in the Eastern European block and had homesteading classes in elementary school. 😂 But we didn’t have to bring our own knife.
Anyway, I ate this salad so many times, because every single holiday had it on the table. Except maybe Easter. But birthdays baptisms weddings engagements and any celebration possible. I never had one made with ham or bologna or any other cold meat. The one I had always had chicken or beef. The way I make it now always has chicken. Basically I take all the veggies and the chicken breast after I make chicken soup and use them to make the salad. I rarely add eggs and I don’t add potatoes. I add a lot of pickles to mine and my polish better half complained a bit at first but now he loves it. I also use frozen peas, it’s just really quick and I like their fresh flavor in the salad. I do blanch them in some salted water and drain them afterwards. I ate this salad in Poland where it had ham in it and I also ate with sausage but I just couldn’t like it. It just tasted a bit strange. Especially with sausage. And it also had corn in it. I know that this is a dish that everyone makes and everyone has its own recipe for. I am making one tomorrow since today I am making chicken soup and so we will have salad for Christmas Eve. I honestly like to mix everything together and let the salad sit overnight. The flavor get a chance to develop and combine and it’s better in my opinion. I also use a good amount of mustard in mine and I don’t add any onion at all, fresh or otherwise. Actually I saw recipes that have raw onion and dill also. That I do when I make a fresh summer potato salad. That has onions and dill in it. So many salads in the Eastern European block! I believe that most came from necessity and from the concept of not wasting any food because as my mother used to say that’s a sin, and from the need to create something with whatever you could get your hands on. Christmas is coming and in our house is always celebrated with polish dishes and New Year’s Eve gets the Romanian dishes. So it’s time to make little “ears” with mushrooms and red beets broth, bigos and white beans, fish and pierogies. Truth is our family can’t get together this Christmas so it’s really just the two of us and the two kids we still have at home so I might reconsider making so much food. But I refuse to eliminate bigos. I am waiting an entire year to have this dish. It’s my favorite polish food ever. Maybe the Easter soup also! But that’s a few months away.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones.
Wow, it’s nice to know that pickles can be used in Russian salads. I want to start learning more about Russian cuisine recipes soon. I think that diversifying what I can whip up in my kitchen will help me stay motivated to continue with my current weight loss regimen.
My grandmother, who was from Germany, made this salad using rabbit or squirrel because my grandfather was a hunter. I remember liking it, although I haven’t eaten it since I was a child. I also loved the herring at Christmas time.
I am Russian, grew up in the Soviet Union, ate Russian salad often. This is the best recipe i was able to google. BTW, in response to one of the comments above, raw onions were a must in this salad, always. Maybe it differs depending on where in Russia you are from. I am from St Petersburg and also lived in Moscow. To make the onion less strong, we would cut the onion first, then put it in a colander and pour boiling water over it. You can also do it in a bowl, keep the cut onion in this water for a few minutes.
Personally, I add apples and fresh cucumbers to this salad.
Thanks for your feedback Maria
My favorite salad when traveling through Europe. I love it with canned tuna on top. So yum!!
Ted Karber Jr
This recipe sounds delicious. I’m eager to try it. I have one question. By pickles in brine, do you mean what we Americans call dill pickles? Any particular type or brand?
Lots of good suggestions from readers. I am making this salat tonight for the first time. Question: What is the herb shown in the picture? Parsley? Jurgen Giess, New Zealand