Russian (Latin American) potato salad: Ensalada rusa
Ensalada rusa, which translates as Russian salad, is a classic potato salad served throughout Latin America, made with potatoes, carrots, peas, apples, celery, onion, and mayonnaise. The exact ingredients vary from one region to another and each family has their own version of this dish.
For the longest time I had no idea why it had that name, especially since this potato salad (or some variation of it) is served as a side dish for so many different Latin meals. Then one day when I living in Austin I met some Russians and at one of their parties they served this salad, then it hit me that the salad probably really had a Russian connection.Jump to Recipe
Some other things that I found out that day was that the popular songs played at the end of street parties in Ecuador (Casachok and Moscow) were also very Russian and were also danced at the same party. Just when you think that there is no connection between Ecuador and Russia, then you find out there is a food + music connection.
I like to add a little bit of lime juice, onions and garlic just to spice it up a little bit without turning it into a completely different version. I also prefer to use homemade mayonnaise; just because it is tastier, but regular store bought mayo is fine.
This potato and vegetable salad is great for picnics and is an excellent side dish for any meat/poultry/seafood dish (especially grilled dishes). There are so many variations of this classic potato salad, some even without the potatoes, but this one – at least for me – is the main one: potatoes, peas, carrots, apples, celery and mayonnaise.
Some people don’t include the apples, but I love the crunch and sweetness that they add to the salad (it’s a very typical addition in my hometown of Loja). Other vegetables that are sometimes used to make this salad include green beans, corn, and beets. Some variations of Russian salad also add shredded cooked chicken, pieces of ham, hard-boiled egg (inside or as a garnish), pickles.
I especially love making this salad during spring and summer because it is a great way to use all that fresh produce, but I also make this salad using frozen veggies when I’m in a hurry or during the winter.
Russian (Latin American) potato salad: Ensalada rusa
- 3 ½ lbs russet potatoes about 4 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
- 1 lb carrots about 6-7 medium size carrots, peeled, boiled and diced
- 8 oz peas/corn about 1 cup, boiled for less than 3 minutes
- 6 celery stalks finely diced, about 1 cup
- 1- 2 apples peeled and diced
- 1 cup diced white onion about ½ onion
- Lime juice from 1-2 limes
- 1 small garlic clove crushed
- 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
- 1 tbs finely chopped cilantro parsley or dill- optional
- Salt to taste
- Mix all of the ingredients together, chill until ready to serve.
Here are a couple of other versions that you might enjoy:
Shrimp potato salad
Broccoli and corn potato salad
How come it is so popular in Latin America? Historically there were no Russian migrants or Latin America-Russia relations. I know about big German community in Brazil, but never heard about Russians.. Btw I am Ukrainian.
There was some Russian/Soviet influence in Latin America (hello Cuba) and there were socialist sympathizers in Ecuador – I know people who’s parents named them based on this influence (Boris, Samara, Stalin, Lenin) – even the current president of Ecuador’s first name is Lenin.
However, the Russian salad is also very popular in Spain, so I’m guessing it was introduced on a wider scale to Latin America by the Spanish.
Actually, there was a massive wave of Russian immigration to Argentina in the late 1890s to approximately 1910…my family included. Everything from this salad, to borsht, to holidetz..to how they drank their tea was reminiscent from the “old country.” Kind regards.
I am from Russia, and this is one of my favorite salads! Cilantro and lime juice are definitely a Latin spin on the traditional version; I am curious to try!
Also, I suggest adding a smokey type of meat (cubed), like salami (Hungarian works well) or ham. WE also use either just the sour cream or 50/50 sour cream and mayo, and finish it with dill.
I’m from Panama and when I was an adolescent, I used to make this salad for our home, the way my grandmother taught it to me. I prefer it at room temperature till this day, not cold! I never knew it’s proper name other than “ensalada de papas”. In Panama we have two versions, as Elsa says, we too have a version with and without beets (giving it that lovely pink colour) and always hard boiled eggs. We don’t include apples, or coriander and the acid we use is vinegar but I will definetly try your version!
It is called Russian Salad in parts of Europe too…. Especially in Spain, from which the influence on South America is more direct..
I love Potato Salad because it can be a meal in itself. There are so many versions of it that it is hard to favor one over the other. I LOVE adding fresh, chopped Tarragon to all my Potato Salads. It gives it a little bite and a fantastic flavor profile. Crispy Bacon, Chopped Hard Boiled Eggs, Celery and both Yellow/White Onion and Green Onions as a topping to finish it off. I also add a tsp. of Sugar to the dressing because I have found it better to make the dressing separate from the Potatoes and Vegetables then mixing it all together. I also like using equal proportions of Mayonnaise and Sour Cream to flavor it. The White Vinegar I add immediately to the Potatoes once I have drained them and put them in a bowl so it absorbs quickly and easily. Thank You for sharing these fantastic recipes with us all!
I love this salad. I was born and raised in Bolivia. I’ve lived in Utah, US and also in Japan. In the US, this salad is referred to as potato salad and it can be served with cream of shrimp (yummy !) From when I was in the US, I remember very well the taste of apples, celery, peas, carrots, and also smashed sweet potatoes (to add a Thanks Giving Day’s sweet treat)
In Bolivia, Russian Salad is very common as part of many fine, very fine dishes.
At home, whether you have all ingredients or not, it’s variations, It’s simplicity makes you try this salad as often as you want specially if you like to eat healthy.
Thanks to all for sharing comments.