This Russian beet potato salad recipe makes vinegret, a creamy pink potato and beetroot salad that is fragrant with dill and delightfully tangy, thanks to the gherkins and capers. Based on my Baboushka’s recipe, it was a staple at family meals and holiday feasts, Sunday lunches and summer picnics.
I’ve been making babouskha’s traditional Russian beet potato salad recipe for Vinegret (ВИНЕГРЕТ in Russian) for as long as I can remember. As it’s Russian Christmas today – and yesterday, when I shared my baboushka’s Russian pelmeni recipe, it was Russian Christmas Eve, when Russians traditionally enjoy a post-church feast with family – I put the Cambodian recipes on hold and have spent the last two days cooking the Russian food I learnt to make in the kitchens of my mother and baboushka as a child growing up in western Sydney.
There would rarely be a family meal at baba and papa’s Blacktown home without this Russian beet potato salad called vinagret (not vinaigrette!), and my mum made it every time we had a backyard barbecue. Despite the fact I can make it in my sleep, this beetroot and potato salad turns out a little differently each time and the main difference is the colour. I’ll explain why in my tips to making this Russian beet potato salad recipe below.
Over the next week I’ll be cooking and sharing more Russian family recipes and will add links to them here once they’re published. Look out for my recipes for Russian cabbage rolls, a classic garden salad, traditional borscht, Russian varenyki (potato filled dumplings), chicken kutleti (meat patties), piroshki (hand pies), an Olivier salad, and more.
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Russian Beet Potato Salad Recipe for Family Meals and Holiday Feasts
My Russian beet potato salad recipe makes vinegret, a classic pink potato and beetroot salad found in Russia, Ukraine, countries of the former Soviet Union, and in the Russian-Ukraine diaspora. Perfumed with fresh fragrant dill, and delightfully tangy courtesy of gherkins and capers, this creamy potato beet salad was a staple of my baboushka’s legendary Sunday lunches that turned into dinners, holiday feasts for Christmas and Easter, and my mum and dad’s weekend summer barbecues growing up in the Sydney in the Seventies.
Just to clarify that this Russian beet potato salad recipe does not make the Russian salad called ‘ensalada Rusa’ or ‘ensalada Ruse’, that’s made right around the world, from South America to Spain. We’ve ordered it everywhere from the best Buenos Aires’ parrillas to tapas bars in Barcelona and Madrid. Many online recipes, even those by writers of Russian heritage, confuse the two salads. Colour aside, even the ingredients vary.
The Russian salad known as ensalada Rusa is more like a traditional potato salad, with the addition of peas and carrots, and all the ingredients are diced. It’s based on the Olivier salad, created in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, the Belgian-born chef of one of Moscow’s most famous restaurants at the time, the Hermitage. However, the original Olivier salad did not contain beetroot and was definitely not pink.
I’ll tell you more about the Olivier salad and ensalada Rusa in another post. Now let me share a few quick tips to making my baboushka’s Russian beet potato salad recipe for vinegret.
Tips to Making this Russian Beet Potato Salad
This Russian beet potato salad recipe is so easy to make you don’t need many tips. The only tweak I have made from baboushka’s Russian beetroot and potato salad recipe is to add capers as I love the extra tang. For a more authentic Russian beet potato salad recipe you may wish to leave the capers out.
My baba always used fresh beetroots, often those grown by papa in their vegetable garden, however, I’ve noticed many contemporary Russian and Ukrainian beet potato salad recipes use canned beetroots, and in the comments at the end of recipes on food sites and blogs there are always questions as to whether it’s okay to use tinned beetroots in the salad instead.
While you can certainly use tinned beetroots if you can’t get hold of fresh beetroots, bear in mind that the colour will probably be a pale pink and not the deep dark ruby-pink in this photo. Fresh beetroots always result in a more vibrant colour than tinned beetroots.
There is a solution if you’re determined to have a deep pink potato and beetroot salad using tinned beetroots and that’s to add beetroot juice from the can, which I did when we photographed the pelmeni recipe (link above).
Take care not to add too much beetroot water, however, as it will turn your salad into pink mashed potato! Add a little just before serving, gently combine it, then serve immediately; don’t let it sit in the fridge or you’ll find it sitting in a pool of liquid.
Russian Beet Potato Salad (Vinegret) Recipe
- 250 g waxy potatoes
- 250 g beetroot
- 2 small gherkins finely chopped
- 25 g onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1 tbsp creamy mayonnaise
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh dill
- Boil the potatoes and beetroots in separate pots for 20-25 minutes until you can easily slide a fork into them, allow to cool, peel, and chop into cubes.
- In a bowl, gently combine the potatoes, beetroot, capers, finely chopped onions and gherkins, with a tablespoon of creamy mayonnaise. Take care not to combine it so much that it turns to mash.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and taste. Add more salt and pepper, or even mayonnaise, if you like.
- Transfer to a salad bowl and garnish with dill.
Do let us know if you tried my Russian beet potato salad recipe in the comments below, by email or on social media as I’d love to know how they turned out for you.