Russian Recipe: Salad Olivier

Salad Olivier, known around the world as “Russian salad,” is loved in Russia so much, that no celebration could be imagined without it. It has become a true food symbol.

The salad is so easy to prepare, that even the least experienced person wouldn’t check it’s recipe in a cook book: dice boiled potatoes, carrots, eggs, pickles, sausage, add a can of green peas, chopped onion, dill, mix everything and dress with mayo. The “masterpiece” is ready to enjoy. Fast, cheap and so delicious!

However, this painfully familiar recipe has nothing to do with the one created in 1860s by French chef Lucien Olivier.

Olivier came to Russia at young age. A few years after he fulfilled his dream – he became a famous chef-cook, and opened a restaurant “Hermitage” in Moscow. His success was guaranteed: Russia was fascinated with everything French.

That’s why gorgeous interiors of the restaurant together with dainty French cuisine made “Hermitage” an elite facility, gathering the cream of Russian society: rich bourgeois and the intelligentsia. A family recipe of mayonnaise sauce, brought by Olivier from France became a zest of his cuisine.

However, popularity is not an everlasting thing. After a while, “Hermitage” started to lose its fame. Then Olivier created a new salad – a true masterpiece of culinary art.

The news of the magically delicious dish spread all over Moscow. People poured into “Hermitage” again. The salad was named after its creator. Although its components were recognized by gourmets, nobody could recreate the salad. It was all about the sauce. Olivier cherished the secret of the recipe as an apple of his eye. He was cooking it alone behind closed doors.

According to recollections of frequenters of “Hermitage” the original recipe of salad Olivier went like this:

“Fillet of two hazel-grouses, one veal tongue, a quarter pound of black pressed caviar, half a pound of fresh lettuce, 25 boiled crayfish, half a can of pickles, half a can of soy beans, 5 boiled eggs. For the sauce: mayonnaise, prepared on French vinegar with two eggs and one pound of Provence (olive) oil”.

Even though the main components of the dish couldn’t be hidden from sophisticated gourmets, the recipe of the sauce with it secret spices still remains an unsolved mystery. It was kept by the French cook till his death.

The salad outlived its creator. The recipe got into all kitchens of the top homes of Moscow, where cooks didn’t give up hope to perceive the secret of Olivier and come closer to the perfection of his salad.

World War I and the Revolution of 1917 stroke a crushing blow to the masterpiece. The country was depressed by sudden famine. Food was distributed according special to food cards.

Luxuries were out of question. Later on at the time of NEP (New Economic Policy) when the situation in the country got better, the salad was recalled. It’s recipe though was remade in compliance with Soviet actual of that time, and became a mix of boiled potatoes, onions, carrots, pickles, apples, boiled meat or even sausage, green peas, boiled eggs and factory-made olive mayo.

After surviving the horrors of World War II, Soviet people  changed their attitude to  salad Olivier. It became a symbol of restoration, prosperity and sufficiency. The salad was prepared only on holidays, because even such common for us products as green peas and mayonnaise were hard to get  back then.

With loss of hazel-grouses, caviar and other expensive ingredients, salad Olivier left fine cuisine for a folk one. This salad gave the lead to many other popular Soviet salads. Nevertheless, “the true Olivier” always appears in the most beautiful salad bowl, as it became an unbreakable national symbol of celebration.


1lb of bologna
1 can (15 oz) of sweet peas
3 middle size potatoes
4-5 middle size carrots
5-6 eggs
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of fresh dill
5-6 middle size cucumbers (pickled with salt not with vinegar, that is important)
Ground black pepper
Salt by taste
Mayonnaise by taste


1. Boil carrots and potatoes in advance and make sure they cool till room temperature when you start making the salad. Prepare hard-boiled eggs in advance; let them to cool down to room temperature as well. Wash green onions and dill.

2. Skin boiled potatoes and dice them into small cubes.

3. Skin boiled carrots and dice them into the cubes of the same size you diced potatoes into.

4. Put diced carrots and potatoes into big bowl.

5. Add peas into the bowl with the other contents.

6. Dice the boiled eggs into the same size pieces as carrots and potatoes.

7. Dice bologna, add to the bow.

8. Dice pickled cucumbers. It is important to take cucumbers pickled with salt not with vinegar.

9. Chop green onions and dill, add to the bowl.

10. Mix everything, season with ground black pepper and add a small pinch of salt. Add mayonnaise and mix everything again. Put salad to the bowl you want to serve it in.

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One Comment

  1. Nino Levin says:

    Я, честно говоря, так же как и мои близкие, люблю салат “Оливье” в его сегодняшнем виде. Может, потому что не пришлось попробовать по первой, уж слишком навороченной рецептуре. Да, получается, что рецепт соуса с его особыми специями так и остался неразгаданной тайной, которую французский повар унес с собой в могилу. Мы не можем попробовать соус на вкус, остается только верить воспоминаниям тех, кому удалось попробовать этот чудо-соус. А что, если продолжить тему “Блюда, соусы, напитки, рецепты, которых утеряны?’


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