Ensaladilla rusa or potato salad Spanish style is a true staple at any tapas bar or taberna, all over Spain and especially in the warmer areas of the South and Mediterranean coast.
This tapa’s name means literally little Russian salad and although it seems to derive from the famous Olivier salad, truly born in Russia, the way it ended up being one of the most beloved recipes of Spanish traditional cuisine is quite unknown.
Because like any potato salad, ensaladilla rusa is eaten cold, it’s a staple at picnics as well as family celebrations, as it can be prepared in advanced and kept in the fridge. Quite an advantage in the warm Spanish summers.
Mine is a very simple version of this salad, with just a few ingredients, so as we usually stress, the quality of the ingredients, namely the potatoes, is key. Also good shrimp and fine canned tuna are in order.
- 2 pounds waxy potatoes
- ½ cup pitted green olives
- 150g canned tuna, drained
- 1 cup (250g) shelled shrimp
- ¼ cup (150g) fresh peas, boiled (optional)
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- Wash the potatoes. Place them in a pot, cover with cold water, heat on high and bring to a boil. Boil them for 20-30 minutes or till fork-tender. Drain the water, cover and set aside.
- Shell the peas and boil them in water for 10-15 minutes, till tender. Cool them in cold water and set aside.
- Do the same with the shrimp; lower them into the water as soon as it comes to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat as soon as the water boils again. Cover with a lid and keep them for 5 minutes; they will cook in the remanent heat. Then drain and set aside, well covered so that the shrimp don't go dry.
- Boil the eggs in plenty of water for 10 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl with cold water and let cool. Peel and set aside.
- Peel and dice the potatoes in a large salad bowl. Then cut the olives in half and add them as well.
- Drain the oil from the tuna and crumble the chunks on a plate with a fork. Add the tuna to the bowl.
- Add the cold shrimp and the hard-boiled eggs, finely diced.
- Finally add the mayonnaise and mix well. Cover and keep in the fridge until the time of serving.
Tips for perfect ensaladilla rusa:
- This simple version of ensaladilla rusa can be made into a more colorful dish by adding some diced boiled carrots, some peas as instructed in the recipe (although I couldn’t find fresh peas, so I preferred to skip them), canned red peppers and capers, for example.
- Often starchy potatoes are recommended when the dish calls for boiling them, but in this case I prefer to use waxy potatoes that won’t fall apart when you toss the salad.
- In Spain the mayonnaise sauce was traditionally made at home and I still concoct my own as I believe the flavor simply is much better than the store-bought stuff. We aren’t providing a mayonnaise recipe, as it’s a delicate food to handle if you’re not used to it.
- The shrimp are always best whole and fresh, but as they can be expensive the frozen, shelled, stuff can be used as well. In fact it’s what we used here.
Ensaladilla rusa or Spanish potato salad is simply perfect for a summer tapas evening or a brunch. Serve it along a chilled sangria and enjoy!