Few dishes are as popular and recognizable in Russian cuisine as salad Olivier. Known in many parts around the world simply as Russian salad, Olivier can be found on many menus in Eastern and Southern Europe.

Made with simple ingredients that are available year round, it’s a staple on most Holiday tables — particularly during New Year’s celebration. But while many associate Olivier with a traditional Russian dish, you may be surprised to find out that the salad was originally created by a Belgian chef. And, that its original recipe was a well kept secret that bears little resemblance to the taste we know today.

Keep reading for a full recipe, including short video of modern-day salad Olivier, and a few special offers.

Why is it called Salad Olivier?

Salad Olivier, also known as Russian Salad in many parts of the world, was originally invented by a Belgian chef. In the 1860s, chef Lucien Olivier worked at the “Hermitage”, one of Moscow’s most popular and celebrated restaurants.

He wanted to create an exquisite dish that would impress the Hermitage regulars and become the restaurant’s signature dish. Olivier experimented with exotic meats and seafood before settling on his final recipe.

Hand written notes found among the chef’s recipe books mentioned grouse, veal tongue, caviar, crayfish tails, capers and smoked duck as some of the ingredients. Although the exact recipe of salad Olivier remained a closely guarded secret for years.

The original dressing was also vasty differ from what we know today. Mayonnaise based, the Olivier’s sauce included French wine vinegar, mustard and Provencal olive oil. Many chefs and food connoisseurs have tried to replicate the original dressing, but its exact recipe remains a secret.

How is the traditional Olivier different from the modern version?

Salad Olivier became uber popular in the late 1890s after a Russian magazine called “Our Food” published a stolen recipe. Thousands of homemakers attempted to replicate the taste of Olivier in their home kitchens.

Cheaper ingredients were used to substitute for the originals. Exotic poultry like grouse and smoked duck were replaced with more common chicken or sausage meats, crayfish was substituted for eggs, peas took the place of more expensive capers, and pickles were introduced when cucumbers were not available.

For those who had never visited the Hermitage or tasted the original, the homemade version was a novelty. But for the true gourmands, nothing could substitute the authentic flavors of the restaurant’s signature dish.

Nonetheless, the modern version of salad Olivier continued to grow in popularity. Today, most Olivier recipes contain boiled potatoes, dill pickles, peas, eggs, boiled chicken, beef or Russian sausage and dressed with mayonnaise.

Festive homemade versions are usually garnished with red caviar. It’s probably the only link the modern version of Olivier has to its traditional predecessor.

Want to make your own salad Olivier? See full recipe below.

  • 1 large potato

  • 1 large chicken breast (can be substituted for 8oz piece of Russian bologna)

  • 4-5 small dill pickles

  • 1 cup canned peas

  • 2 hard boiled eggs

  • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise (can also mix with sour cream)

  • 1 teaspoon of red caviar for garnish

  • salt & pepper to taste

  • squeeze of lemon

  • parsley or dill for garnish

Prep time:   15min  |   Cook time:   15 min  |   Servings:  4-6

  • Boil the eggs, chicken and potatoes and let cool before chopping.
  • Chop potatoes into small 1/8 inch cubes. Finely cut the chicken or bologna to roughly the same size.
  • Finely chop the egg and dill pickles.
  • Combine everything into a bowl. Add peas, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. Squeeze in a bit of lemon for a more tangy flavor (optional).
  • Stir well until all ingredients are incorporated. Chill in an airtight container.
  • Garnish with caviar and a few twigs of dill or parsley.

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