Olivier Salad

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This Olivier Salad is a delicious traditional Russian dish; a staple of the winter holidays season!

Hello, everyone! Throughout this year, I might have surprisingly asked “Where did this time go?” for a dozen times or so. Here we go. It’s the finish line. New Year will arrive shortly. And I have no doubts another year will pass by extremely fast, too. That’s the sad but inevitable part of everyone’s life, right?

However, let’s not think about sad things today. Besides, like you or not, we cannot fix this time issue anyways. Let’s focus on delicious things instead.

As you might remember, over the past two years, I have shared some traditional Russian recipes, and I thought it would be awesome to wrap my blogging year up with this Olivier Salad. Why? It’s been the staple in Russian cuisine for many decades. While nowadays it might not be as popular as in the 1980s, many families still make it at least once a year. In fact, it’s the staple of the New Year’s Eve celebration!

Probably, you never heard this name – Olivier Salad; however, you might have heard another name Russian Salad or Russian Potato Salad. That’s the same. Indeed, you might have even tried it before as it’s quite common in many European countries, Asia, and even Latin America.

The original version of this salad was invented in the 1860s by the Belgium chef Lucien Olivier who was the chef of one of the fanciest Moscow restaurants, the Hermitage, and it quickly became the restaurant’s signature dish.

The original recipe (And particularly the dressing) was a huge secret (Olivier always prepared the dressing in solitude), but it is known the salad contained grouse, veal, caviar, crayfish tails, capers, smoked duck, olive oil, and mustard. The ingredients might have been varied seasonally.

Later, one of Olivier’s sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov might have attempted to steal the recipe when he began to serve a similar salad under the name “Capital Salad”. However, people noted that the dressing was a lower quality than Olivier’s as it was “missing something”. In 1905, the Hermitage was closed, and Olivier’s family left Russia. Soon after, the salad started being referred to as “Olivier”.

Certainly, there were other attempts to recreate his signature salad, substituting cheaper ingredients for rare and expensive. In post-revolutionary Russia, the transformation completed. Grouse was replaced by chicken or sausage, crayfish by hard-boiled eggs, capers and olives by pickled cucumbers and green peas. For many years, a Soviet brand of bologna had been used as well. And the dressing? Mayonnaise! In fact, some fancy restaurants continued to experiment with ingredients in the mid of the 20th centre introducing lobster, truffles, tongue, anchovy. However, due to the outrageous deficiency, only cheap ingredients were available (And finding some of them wasn’t an easy task either!) for average people, a simplified version with bologna had been the most common for many years in the soviet kitchens.

That’s not a problem nowadays, and you can find the protein you like! I believe bologna isn’t the most popular ingredient these days, and most people prefer to use good quality ham. Chicken is a great option too. But you can use cooked beef, veal, and even your turkey leftovers!

What are the essential parts of the Olivier Salad?

  • Protein – ham, boiled chicken or beef, or for the authentic soviet version – bologna;
  • Cucumber pickles;
  • Hard-boiled eggs;
  • Boiled potatoes and carrots;
  • Green peas (canned, for the authentic Soviet version);
  • Mayonnaise

Undoubtfully, this is a versatile salad (Many people dislike cooked carrots, so feel free to omit it). The proportions are a matter of your choice (Can be easily adjusted, too!) Try the ratio: 1-1,5 cups of meat to 3 cups of vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and peas) to ½ cup of pickles, and 4-6 hard-boiled eggs, and then adjust to your taste. Personally, we love to take 2 cups of ham, 2 cups of potatoes, 1 cup of green peas, and just a little (or none) of carrots. Also, undoubtfully, this is not a healthy recipe. Sorry about that. But you can make mayo from scratch if you wish. And there’s something so good in the combination of proteins, fats, and starch. You don’t need to worry about layers. I used glass for the presentational purpose only – just combine everything in a large bowl, and you’re good to go!

Of course, this Olivier Salad is nothing to do with the original Olivier Salad. However, unfairly, this Soviet version is now associated with this sinfully unhealthy yet delicious salad. Would you give a try this Olivier Salad?

I am going to take it easy and take a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks, so I’d like to wish you an awesome New Year’s Eve celebration and all the best in the new year, and see you soon, in 2020!


11 thoughts on “Olivier Salad

  1. Marie says:

    I’d never heard of this salad but always learn something new from your blog. I love the story behind this and the salad itself looks super satisfying

  2. Liz says:

    I’ve never heard of this salad, but it sure looks amazing! I have a feeling it will be a big hit with my husband and sons, too. Have a great weekend, Ben!

  3. Marissa says:

    Happy Happy New Year, Ben! Olivier Salad is new to me, but it looks and sounds amazing. You often introduce me to new things and I love that.

  4. Neil says:

    Fascinating story about this Olivier Salad Ben! Plus it looks really easy to make, and even tastier to eat! I would enjoy this as a main or as a side salad to maybe a cold roast chicken or something like that. I hope you guys had an amazing Christmas time. And Happy New Year too!
    Neil recently posted…Chorizo Yellow Split Pea SoupMy Profile

  5. Laura says:

    I’ve never even heard of Olivier Salad, Ben! That was an interesting story, though! The way it transformed into something it never was and kept the same name is kind of astounding! But I think you’re right, this salad would be darn tasty! I do love the simple ingredients, too, because I’m not sure where I would get a grouse. ☺️?

  6. Jeff the Chef says:

    This salad is news to me – and very interesting news. I’ve had other Eastern European salads in this family, but nothing quite like this. I love the versatility you’ve presented in this recipe. Thank you. And a Happy New Year to you!

  7. Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen says:

    I’ve never heard of Olivier Salad but I’m fascinated with all the Russian recipes you share. It’s so fun to learn about other countries through their food! And, like David, I think your version sounds much better than a salad with veal and grouse :). Happy New Year, Ben!

  8. David @ Spiced says:

    I’m definitely not familiar with Olivier Salad, but I appreciated hearing the background about it. I must say that I think I like the modern version way better than the original one – even if it’s entirely different. Grouse, veal, caviar and crawfish tails just don’t belong together if you ask me! But this looks like a mighty fun (and festive) salad. Thanks for sharing, and Happy New Year my friend!
    David @ Spiced recently posted…Thai Peanut Carrot NoodlesMy Profile

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