This version of Olivier salad (ensalada rusa) combines traditional elements of Russian potato salad with red onions, cilantro and lime. Despite its origins in Moscow, this style of potato salad has become a classic side dish in Spanish and Portuguese speaking cultures.
I’ve always referred to this dish as Dominican potato salad. The first time I had it was served with rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules) and pernil (roast pork shoulder). Some Portuguese-speaking cultures call this dish salada russa and it’s typically served on Christmas Eve or to celebrate the New Year.
🥔 What is Olivier salad?
- Olivier salad is a famous version of potato salad that combines finely diced potatoes, carrots and boiled eggs with other vegetables and sometimes meat. It’s tossed in a creamy mayo-based dressing.
- It was invented Lucien Olivier who initially developed the dish for Le Hermitage restaurant in Moscow. Traditional Russian versions of the salad commonly include pickles, cubed meat and peas.
- It’s been adapted around the world because of its popularity. Many cultures have their own versions which feature regional ingredients. It’s particularly popular in Spain and Latin America.
❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe
- This recipe is an adaptation of ensalada rusa (Russian potato salad). It combines elements of the original Russian-style salad with Spanish and Latin American ingredients.
- It’s adaptable and so easy – follow the recipe exactly as it’s written, or just use it as a guide! Some people prefer to eyeball the quantities rather than measure and add the mayo a little at a time, until they’re satisfied with the texture.
- Substitute friendly – expanding on the bullet above, you can tailor this dish to make it your own. Refer to the ‘substitutions’ heading below if you’d like some suggestions for add-ins.
📋 Ingredient notes
- Olivier salad always starts with a base of potatoes, eggs and mayo and in most cases, carrots. Waxy potatoes, like yukon golds are best for this dish because they’ll retain their shape better when you mix the salad.
- What makes this version particularly special is the addition of pickled red onions, apples, cilantro and a tiny bit of lime juice.
- Sugar and vinegar are used to pickle the onions but aren’t actually added to the salad itself. It’s also important to call out that the pickled onions are drained before they’re added to the salad.
A full list of ingredients with measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Recipe substitutions and additions
Just about every culture has some version of the Olivier salad. Here are some other ways that you can prepare this dish:
- If you’ve never tried the pink version of this dish, you’re missing out! The bright color comes from adding chopped beets with a little bit of beet juice (if you’re using canned). This style is not only popular in Russia, but in the Dominican Republic as well.
- For traditional Russian or Ukranian-style Olivier salad, experiment with other add-ins like pickles, cubed ham, chicken, parsley or dill.
- Some people like to add a touch of sour cream in addition to mayo, for a lighter texture. You can also use miracle whip.
🔪 Step by step instructions
Step 1: Place the potatoes, eggs and 1 tablespoon of salt in a pan and fill with water. Bring the pan to a boil and let the potatoes and eggs cook for 7-10 minutes, or until tender.
Step 2: Place the carrots in a separate small pan and cover them with 2-3 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and let the carrots cook for 3-5 minutes, or until fork tender.
Note: I like to boil the carrots separately because they are cut small and cook faster. You can cut this extra step by boiling everything in the same pan if you’d like.
Step 3: Drain the carrots, potatoes and eggs. Place the eggs in an ice bath, and let the potatoes and carrots cool fully in the refrigerator. While everything cools, place the red onions in a small bowl, add the sugar and pour in the vinegar.
Step 4: Once everything has cooled fully, peel and chop the eggs, dice the apples and drain the onions. Place the potatoes, eggs, carrots, eggs, apples and onions in a large bowl, then add the mayo and toss.
Note: Use a large bowl for this step. As you can see, I had to change mixing bowls because the first one was too small.
Step 5: Stir in the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.
Step 6: Transfer the potato salad to a serving dish and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
Note: Olivier salad, much like most versions of American potato salad is normally served chilled, although some people like to toss and serve it right away.
💭 Tips and tricks
- For this recipe, the vegetables are cooked more on the al dente side. Some people prefer a soft or even mashed texture which can be achieved by boiling the carrots and potatoes a few minutes longer.
- I find it easier to pre-dice the carrots and potatoes before boiling them but you can boil them first and cut them up after if that’s what you prefer.
- Chill the potatoes and carrots in the refrigerator before assembling the salad to prevent the mayo from becoming runny. The salad can be chilled or served right away.
🍽 Serving suggestions
Ensalada Rusa is a great side dish to serve during the holidays and at large gatherings. It’s best served with:
- Roasted pork shoulder (aka pernil)
- Pigeon peas and rice (arroz con gandules)
- A side of sweet plantains or fried green plantains
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. It’s important not to let potato salad sit at room temperature for an extended period of time.
Some people say you can freeze it and others say you should not. I prefer not to freeze it as I find that freezing changes the texture.
Russians refer to this dish simply as ‘olivye’. It gets it’s name from the person who invented it, Olivier Lucien.
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Olivier Salad – Russian Potato Salad (Ensalada Rusa)
- ½ cup red onion diced small
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3 pounds yukon gold potatoes
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup carrots peeled and diced
- 1 granny smith apple peeled and diced
- 1 cup mayonnaise plus more if desired
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Place the potatoes, eggs and 1 tablespoon of salt in a pan and fill with water. Bring the pan to a boil and let the potatoes and eggs cook for 7-10 minutes, or until tender.
- Place the carrots in a separate small pan and cover them with 2-3 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and let the carrots cook for 3-5 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Drain the carrots, potatoes and eggs. Place the eggs in an ice bath, and let the potatoes and carrots cool fully in the refrigerator. While everything cools, place the red onions in a small bowl, add the sugar and pour in the vinegar.
- Once everything has cooled fully, peel and chop the eggs, dice the apples and drain the onions. Place the potatoes, eggs, carrots, eggs, apples and onions in a large bowl, then add the mayo and toss.
- Stir in the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the potato salad to a serving dish and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve it.
- Yukon gold potatoes work best for this dish because they are waxy and hold their shape. For a softer texture, boil them a few minutes longer.
- You can pre-dice the carrots and potatoes or boil them whole and cut them up after.
- Chill the potatoes and carrots in the refrigerator before assembling the salad to prevent the mayo from becoming runny.
- For bright pink potato salad, replace the apples with canned beets. Mix a few teaspoons of the liquid from the can into the salad.