Salat Olivye, aka Not-Overboiled Potato Salad

By Alisa Givental

Grandmothers argued over this recipe.

Summer is about putting meat on open flames and otherwise participating in this American activity called “barbecuing.” Here’s our All-American BBQ, Mash-Up Style. This recipe comes to you from Russian-American Mash-Up Alisa Givental, whose grandmothers have plenty to say about salat olivye, or Russian potato salad. This should go nicely with our glorious recipe for Korean galbi and not-sad soba salad.

So, Russian potato salad is called salat olivye. That is a reference neither to olives nor potatoes. It’s a very orderly salad of chopped potatoes and other fixings. There are many important details, though there is some dispute between my grandmothers over the inclusion of pickles and carrots.

I don’t know if the dispute is regional or memory related. One grandma is Moldovan and the other is a Moscovite. The Moscovite grandma started practically crying when I asked her for this recipe, saying, “I barely remember my name let alone the salat olivye recipe!” She proceeded to remember the recipe and call me back several times to give more detailed instructions. But she ultimately took the position that “carrots are not involved, though it would not be terrible to add them.” My Moldovan grandma said yes carrots, and you boil them, but do not over boil them, or the salat will turn into kasha. [Editor’s note: More on this later.]

One grandma advised semi-salted pickles. The other did not. Both grandmothers agree on this: DO NOT OVER BOIL THE POTATOES. Otherwise, as previously mentioned, the salat will turn into kasha. Russians like kasha, a sort of porridge, but it is not salat. I spoke to both of my grandmothers about the recipe, which is as follows. There were no measurements provided, so I’m guessing. [Editor’s note: Does no mother or grandmother in the world measure?]


Moldovan and Muscovite Salat Olivye Potato salad as Russian grandmothers intended. Kindof.

3 cups boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into perfect little cubes about a quarter of an inch

3 hard boiled eggs, cubed into the same size as the potatoes (they will crumble)

½ cup raw white onions, cubed

1 can peas, drained

1 cup mini pickles, cubed, maybe semi-salted, maybe not

1 cup of highly controversial boiled carrots, cubed

mayonnaise and salt to taste


Put the whole cubic/spherical pile of oddly chosen veggies in a large bowl and douse with mayonnaise and salt to desired creaminess and saltiness. Watch out for the pickles creating an over-salted sensation, cautions the grandma that did not advise semi-salted pickles.