This Spanish potato salad recipe makes ensaladilla Rusa or ensalada Rusa, one of the most popular Spanish tapas bar dishes. Ensalada means salad in Spanish and it’s an appetiser size called raciones, while ensaladilla means little salad and is a smaller tapas snack size. In Spain, this creamy potato salad is typically served with crunchy mini breadsticks called picos.
I don’t know what I was thinking, excluding this Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa or ensalada Rusa from our series on the most popular Spanish tapas bar snack recipes, which we published last month. It’s one of the best potato salad recipes.
If you’re a lover of Spanish tapas or any food from Spain, that tapas recipe series includes recipes for albondigas, croquetas, gambas al ajillo, chorizo al vino tinto, and calamari a la plancha, and those recipes all make delicious dishes for you to prepare at home to create your own Spanish tapas bar feast.
And, yes, I know, a spread of Spanish tapas eaten all together isn’t really what the tapas bar experience is all about, where you leisurely graze on plates over the course of an evening (or afternoon) of sipping and snacking with friends.
But if you can’t get to Spain this summer to do just that, the next best thing to making a beeline for your nearest Spanish neighbourhood is preparing a tapas feast at home.
For authenticity, stand at the breakfast bar or kitchen island and juggle a small plate and glass of vino or vermouth in one hand as you guide a toasted baguette slice topped with potato salad to your mouth with the other.
Now before I tell you more about this Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve enjoyed our recipes or other content on the site, please consider supporting Grantourismo. You could buy us a coffee and we’ll use that donation to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing or you could contribute to our epic original Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon.
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Spanish Potato Salad Recipe for the Popular Spanish Tapas Bar Dish, Ensaladilla Rusa
Our Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa or ensalada Rusa makes one of the most popular Spanish tapas dishes, alongside, say, a tortilla or croquetas. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
If you’re not familiar with Spanish tapas, a tapa is a small snack served at Spanish tapas bars in Spain and abroad. Tapa is singular and tapas is plural. Traditionally a tapa was a complimentary plate of nibbles intended to soak up the booze.
Bar staff would serve them to customers after they’d ordered their second or third drink, and if they continued to order drinks, the plates would keep coming, automatically delivered to your spot at the bar or barrel with each order.
But over the years tapas evolved from simple bites of, say, olives and anchovies on skewers into more elaborate snacks that were so delicious that they drew drinkers to the bars for the fantastic free food rather than drinks, especially in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian.
When people started eating more than they were drinking was when tapas bar owners started to charge for those little plates and it became customary to order tapas from a blackboard menu or help yourself from platters on the counter.
The finger food on those platters was typically held together by toothpicks and you had to keep your toothpicks, so the staff could calculate your bill at the end, which became the norm at pincho or pintxo bars in San Sebastian and Barcelona. But more on the Basque style pintxos or pinchos in another upcoming post.
So, if ensalada means salad in Spanish and ensaladilla means little salad, what does Rusa mean? It means Russian, because originally it was a Russian potato salad, and if regular readers thought it looked familiar, it’s because it’s similar (although different) to the Russian potato salad also known as the Olivier salad, and you can read more about that and find the recipe in that link.
Ensalada Rusa isn’t only found in Spain. In fact, you’ll spot ensalada rusa on menus across the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America, from Lisbon to Buenos Aires, and on blackboards in Spanish tapas bars right around the world. It was one of the dishes we regularly ordered at our favourite Spanish tapas bars and restaurants in the Spanish Quarter in Sydney when we first fell in love with tapas in the mid-late 1980s.
If you’ve eaten ensalada Rusa at tapas bars before, you would have noticed that there isn’t a standard Spanish potato salad. There definitely is not a codified recipe for this one. You would probably have noticed everything from creamy white potato salads made with potato, onion, egg, and mayonnaise (which is a very classic Australian potato salad actually) to more colourful potato salads made with potatoes, carrots, peas, and beans.
My Spanish potato salad recipe falls into that latter category and I’ve based it on an ensaladilla Rusa by Mallorca-based chef Marc Fosh, who we met at his restaurant in Palma many years ago. We were there on guidebook assignments and renting an apartment in the old town. Terence was photographing a Mallorca guidebook for one guidebook publisher and I was updating a Mallorca guide for another.
The British born chef had been living in Spain for many years when we met him and his Spanish potato salad recipe was based on an ensaladilla Rusa he became smitten with when he’d been living in San Sebastian. So perhaps it’s a Basque style potato salad recipe, although ensaladilla Rusa is made all over Spain with infinite variations in towns let alone regions.
Just a few tips to making this Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa.
Tips to Making this Spanish Potato Salad Recipe for Ensaladilla Rusa
Just a few quick tips to making this Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa as it’s super easy and comes together quickly, especially if you’ve made plenty of potato salads before.
I’ve made just a few small tweaks to Marc’s recipe. In his original recipe, the chef boils the potatoes, carrots, peas, and beans. I’m not a fan of super-soft olive-coloured peas and beans, so if you aren’t either, you could do as I’ve done and just blanche the beans and peas so they’re still bright green and firm.
The chef includes green olives in his Spanish potato salad recipe but I prefer a bit more tang, crunch and acidity. In Russian potato salads, we usually include finely chopped raw onions and gherkins, so in my ensaladilla Rusa recipe I’ve included a teaspoon of pickled onions (see my recipe for pink pickled shallots ), which I’ve chopped finely, and tiny capers in brine. If you can only find the larger capers, best to chop them in thirds.
The chef uses a lot of creamy mayonnaise in his recipe, so I reduced that a little, despite being a mayonnaise lover. Mayonnaise runs through my veins! You do what tastes right to you. You could use homemade mayonnaise or shop-bought. We love Hellmann’s creamy mayonnaise and the Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and both work for this salad.
Lastly, there’s no seasoning in Marc Fosh’ ensaladilla Rusa recipe, but for me salt and pepper are essential. I like a fair bit of salt, but if you don’t, start with less, combine, taste, and add more if needed.
No more tips for our Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa as it’s super easy to make. Let us know what you think. Enjoy!
Spanish Potato Salad Recipe for Ensaladilla Rusa
- 200 g potatoes
- 100 g carrots peeled and diced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs peeled and chopped
- 50 g peas
- 50 g green beans chopped
- 60 g canned tuna
- 5 green olives de-stoned and finely chopped
- 1 tsp small capers in brine
- 1 tsp pickled onions finely diced
- 70 ml creamy mayonnaise
- 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
- 1 tsp white pepper or to taste
- In a pot of cold water over high heat, boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked, drain, then set aside to cool.
- In a separate pot of water over high heat, boil the diced carrots until just cooked, drain, and place in a salad bowl.
- While the potatoes and carrots are boiling, hard-boil an egg, then transfer it to a bowl of cold water.
- To blanch the peas and green beans, bring a small pot of water to the boil and once it’s rapidly boiling, drop the peas and beans into the pot for 1 ½ minutes until just cooked. Use a fine mesh strainer or colander to quickly drain them, then transfer them to a bowl of iced water.
- Peel and dice the potatoes and add those to the bowl; drain the peas and beans, dry them, and add those; drain the tuna and toss that in also, as well as the chopped olives, briny capers and pickled onions.
- Peel and chop the egg, and fold that in with the mayonnaise, add salt and white pepper, and gently combine everything. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, then serve immediately or refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Spanish potato salad recipe for ensaladilla Rusa, as we’d love to know how it turned out for you.
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