Russian Salad / Ruska Salata
A traditional Serbian dish, with an unusually non-traditional name – Russian Salad / Ruska Salata. Known originally as Olivier salad, and influenced by Russian cuisine – this salad has evolved over decades, becoming a huge part of the Serbian festive table. Made with a mix of vegetables, some type of meat (usually chicken, salami or ham), then covered in mayo, this salad is made differently according to family tradition. For me, making Russian Salad means that a special occasion is around the corner. Whether it is a Slava (Saint Holiday), New Years, Božić (Christmas) or Easter, this salad is bound to make an appearance.
Origin of the Russian Salad / Ruska Salata
The original version of this salad is said to have been created by Lucien Olivier in 1860. Lucien was the chef of the famous French restaurant in Moscow called L’Hermitage. This is where his recipe gained incredible popularity. Originally, the name of the recipe was simply the Olivier salad, and it was made during the years of famine. Depending on the season, the Olivier salad could contain grouse, veal tongue, caviar, crayfish tails, capers and smoked duck. The recipe for the sauce is said to have been a secret – even if it is assumed that it was surely a kind of mayonnaise. Some sources say that Olivier kept his recipe a secret even though the ingredients were visible on the plate. So we do not know his exact method but we certainly have an idea.
Over time the salad went through transition, gaining popularity in many countries, eventually becoming simply – Russian Salad, made in the way we know it to be today. Depending on where you are from, or where you travel to, the name of this salad also varies. From the Russian Salad, to the Oliver Salad or the French Salad, this salad has evolved differently in different countries.
Variations of the Russian Salad / Ruska Salata
The recipe that I am sharing with you is in no way like the original. I should note that there is not one but dozens of versions of the Russian salad. The major difference lies in the fact that some versions use ham while others use boiled or roasted chicken. You can also leave out boiled eggs, as the mayonnaise contains eggs. Some of our distant relatives completely skip the eggs. Instead, the salad can be loaded with boiled peas (our old neighbour always made her Russian Salad with peas). Others may use some sort of frozen vegetable mix (with peas, carrots and potatoes).
The recipe that I am sharing is how we have made it in our family for years. Traditionally, the salad is served with roasted meat and roasted vegetables. However I also love to eat it with homemade bread (weird I know). It’s just that good!
It is also super common to find Russian Salad / Ruska Salata ready made in supermarkets. I have tried a few of these around Belgrade and trust me – homemade is the real deal! The quality of the mayonnaise that some supermarkets use in their versions is rather poor. So, if you want to try a great version of this salad, homemade is the way to go.
The ingredients for this Russian Salad include diced potatoes, carrots, pickles, eggs and ham to which mayonnaise is incorporated. The carrots, potatoes and eggs need to boiled. However be careful not to over-boil the potatoes and carrots as you risk them becoming too mushy (not great for chopping). While the vegetables and eggs cook, slice the pickles and ham into small, fine pieces. Toss them into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Allow the cooked vegetables and eggs to cool at room temperature prior to chopping. When you are ready, chop all of the remaining ingredients, add to the large mixing bowl and mix. When you add the mayonnaise, I recommend adding 200g at first, mix it in and then add more as you need. You will find that you do not always use a full jar of the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and mix until everything is well combined. You may want to taste and add more salt or pepper if you feel the need to.
Refrigerate the salad preferably overnight, or for at least for 2-3 hours prior to serving. This salad may seem complicated, but all you need to do is boil, chop and combine.
Looking for more?
If you are looking for more ideas, try one of the recipes below:
This Russian Salad / Ruska Salata was a big part of my childhood. I still make this salad every year for those special occasions, including our family Slava (Saint Day), New Years and Christmas. So, if you are looking to get in touch with some Serbian recipes, this one is a great place to start! I hope that you enjoy it! Be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! If you have any questions, you can find me over on Instagram or tag me with your photo. You can also find me over on TikTok.
|200g ham, chopped|
|400 g mayonaise|
|salt & pepper|