Discovering Ensaladilla Rusa

I will be completely honest. The first time I tried Ensaladilla Rusa was on my first night with my new host family in Sevilla, and I didn’t really like it. I didn’t even really like it the second time I tried it. I was skeptical of the combination (tuna fish, potatoes and boiled egg). To this day I can hear my host brothers and cousins shouting “No, por la gracia, no!” every time it was put on the table. Apparently, it was their worst nightmare, that ensaladilla rusa.

I’m not making a very good case for this dish yet, am I? Allow me to continue.

I find it funny what time and experience will do for a person. The beauty of living in a new culture was learning to live as other people do and adapting my ways to fit their lifestyle. Though it took me a while, I found something I truly love and now actually have cravings for! After all, we Americans love our potato salad, our tuna fish salad and our egg salad! The Spaniards were just helping us out when they decided to combine them into one rich bowl that is satisfying, easy to make and that tastes exactly like summer. Mmm, que bueno.

Before I post the recipe for this dish, I am curious to know about your experiences trying new dishes. Have you made anything that you were afraid of that turned out to be a huge success? Has it impacted the way you cook now? Does it make you want to keep trying new things? I find so much inspiration in your stories, so please feel free to share!

Ensaladilla Rusa (Adapted from a recipe by my host dad, Armando)

5-6 medium potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs (recipe here)
1 1/2 cups light mayonnaise
2 roasted red peppers, diced
1 6 oz can tuna, drained well
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Wash the potatoes well and prick each several times with a fork. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on high heat and then add them to pot (do not remove skins!) Boil until cooked, but not too soft. While the potatoes are cooking, boil the eggs until hard. Let cool by running under cold water.

When the potatoes are done, drain the water from the pot.  Run the potatoes under cold water, until they are cool enough to hold in your hand. Peel and cut the cooked potatoes into small cubes. Store in refrigerator for a few minutes.

Chop the roasted red peppers and add to a bowl with mayonnaise. Break up the tuna and add to the bowl. Peel one of the eggs, chop and fold into the mixture. Gently add the garlic powder and lemon juice and stir.

Remove the potatoes from the fridge. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Peel and slice the remaining hard-boiled egg and use as a garnish. Additionally, you may decorate with slices of red pepper, olives and tomatoes, and serve on a bed of lettuce.


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7 responses to “Discovering Ensaladilla Rusa

  1. So, is it a Spanish dish or a Russian dish?

    • Emily

      Good question, and something I probably should have addressed in my post. The origins of the salad are unclear, though it was said to be invented by Lucien Olivier (a Frenchman, go figure) at his restaurant in Moscow. From what I’ve always been told, the salad is referred to as an Olivier salad and features capers and various cold meats, with the main component being the mayonnaise dressing and served over a bed of lettuce. Though it is called a “Russian Salad”, it is a typical Spanish dish as they have adapted it to fit their culture (adding olives and tomatoes, etc). It is usually beautifully decorated and still served over a bed of lettuce. It’s a widespread, well-loved dish over there but the origins were never made entirely clear to me (and, strangely, for a dish so popular I didn’t taste it until after I had been living there for five months).

      I hope that helps a bit, but I’m also curious as to what other people have learned were the origins of this dish. Anyone else know something different?

  2. Fran

    Muy bien explicado Em! La ensaladilla se ha adaptado a cada lugar y se ha hecho “tipico” de cada sitio (Portugal, Argentina, España…). Así, en algunos sitios se sirve sin mayonesa, sin pimientos, sin aceitunas… pero lo importante es la base de patata.
    and I have to say I love this dish!!

  3. Emily

    For those who need a translation, Fran said:

    “La ensaladilla se ha adaptado a cada lugar y se ha hecho “tipico” de cada sitio (Portugal, Argentina, España…). Así, en algunos sitios se sirve sin mayonesa, sin pimientos, sin aceitunas… pero lo importante es la base de patata.”

    “The Ensaladilla Rusa has been adapted by every place and made “typical” of that region (Portugal, Argentina, España…). However, in some places it is made without mayonnaise, pepper or tuna fish….the important part is the potato base.”

    Much thanks to Fran (a real Spaniard!) for the additional info!

  4. I love the story behind this one Em! And this looks like a fun recipe to experiment with…yum!

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