Spanish potato salad, also known as ensaladilla rusa or Russian salad, is a popular Spanish tapa or appetizer made with boiled potatoes, vegetables, tuna, and a mayonnaise-based dressing. The salad likely originated in Spain in the 19th century and was influenced by Russian cuisine, hence the name “Russian salad.” While recipes can vary, traditional Spanish potato salad is made with just a few key ingredients.
Ingredients in Spanish Potato Salad
The main ingredients that go into making authentic Spanish potato salad include:
- Potatoes – Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes are commonly used. They are boiled until just tender.
- Onion – Typically red onion, thinly sliced.
- Carrots – Grated or finely diced carrots add color and sweetness.
- Peas – Fresh or frozen green peas.
- Pimentos or roasted red peppers – Diced pimentos or jarred roasted red peppers provide flavor and color.
- Hard boiled eggs – Eggs are chopped and add protein.
- Tuna fish – High quality canned tuna is drained and flaked into the salad.
- Mayonnaise – A combination of mayonnaise and olive oil or vinegar forms the dressing base.
- Parsley – Fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped.
- Salt, pepper, garlic – Seasonings like salt, pepper, and garlic add flavor.
Steps to Make Spanish Potato Salad
Making authentic Spanish potato salad takes some easy steps:
- Boil the potatoes – Peel and dice the potatoes if desired. Boil them in salted water until they are just fork tender but not falling apart, about 10-15 minutes for cubed potatoes.
- Prepare the vegetables – While the potatoes boil, dice the onions, carrots, pimentos/peppers. Thaw frozen peas. Chop parsley and garlic.
- Make the dressing – In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, olive oil or vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic until smooth and creamy.
- Drain and cool potatoes – When cooked through, drain the hot potatoes and spread on a baking sheet to cool quickly. Let potatoes cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Add potatoes and vegetables – When cooled, dice the potatoes if needed and add them to the dressing along with the onions, carrots, peas, and pimientos/peppers.
- Add tuna and eggs – Gently fold in flaked tuna and chopped hard boiled eggs.
- Adjust seasoning – Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, adding more salt, pepper, vinegar, mayonnaise, or olives.
- Chill – Cover and refrigerate potato salad for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.
- Garnish – Garnish with chopped parsley just before serving.
Key Tips for Making Great Spanish Potato Salad
Here are some helpful tips for nailing the perfect Spanish potato salad recipe:
- Use firm, waxy potatoes like Yukon gold. They hold their shape when boiled.
- Don’t overcook the potatoes. You want them just fork tender with a little firmness left.
- Cool the potatoes quickly after boiling so they don’t get mushy.
- Use a ratio of about 3 parts mayonnaise to 1 part olive oil or vinegar for the dressing.
- Don’t overdress the salad. It should just lightly coat the potatoes and vegetables.
- Chill for at least 2 hours before serving so the flavors meld together.
- Add tuna and hard boiled eggs just before serving or they can discolor.
- Use high quality extra virgin olive oil and vinegar for best flavor.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley right before serving.
The ingredients in traditional Spanish potato salad are fairly straightforward. But you can make some simple substitutions if needed.
|Yukon gold potatoes||Russet potatoes or red potatoes|
|Pimentos||Roasted red peppers from a jar|
|Mayonnaise||Plain Greek yogurt|
|Tuna||Chopped hard boiled eggs or diced ham|
|Red onion||Yellow onion|
You can also add other cooked vegetables like corn, broccoli, or celery if desired. Capers, pickles, or olives can lend a briny flavor. And different herbs like dill, oregano or thyme can be used instead of parsley.
Serving and Storing Leftover Salad
Spanish potato salad is traditionally served cold or at room temperature as a side dish or tapa. Here are some serving tips:
- Serve potato salad mounded on a plate or in tapas portions in small glasses or cups.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and paprika or olive slices.
- Pair it with Serrano ham, smoked salmon or grilled shrimp.
- Serve as a topping on bread as an open faced sandwich.
- Spoon potato salad into endive leaves for an easy appetizer.
Leftover potato salad can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Here are some storage tips:
- Store in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent browning.
- If any liquid accumulates, drain it off.
- Potato salad may thicken up when chilled again. Loosen with a bit of mayonnaise or olive oil before serving if needed.
Common Additions and Variations
While the basic ingredients stay the same, there are some popular additions and variations of Spanish potato salad to try:
- Green olives or Kalamata olives – Salty briny olives provide moisture and flavor.
- Capers – Vinegar brined capers also lend brininess.
- Pickles – Diced cornichons or dill pickles add crunch.
- Hard boiled quail or chicken eggs – For an elegant presentation.
- Diced jamón Serrano – Dry cured Spanish ham lends salty, savory flavor.
- Paprika – Smoked Spanish paprika adds earthy flavor and bright color.
- Peppadew peppers – Pickled sweet Peppadew peppers add mild heat.
Is Spanish potato salad spicy?
No, traditional Spanish potato salad is not a spicy dish. It has a creamy, mildly tangy flavor from the mayonnaise and vinegar dressing. Some recipes may add a little bit of smoky paprika or mildly spicy Peppadew peppers, but the salad is not typically prepared spicy hot.
Can I use Greek yogurt instead of mayo?
Yes, you can substitute some or all of the mayonnaise with plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt will provide tanginess and moisture while lightening up the mayonnaise-based dressing. For a vegan option, plain vegan yogurt can also be used.
How long does Spanish potato salad last?
Properly stored in the refrigerator, leftover Spanish potato salad will last 3 to 5 days. Keep it in an airtight container and press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent oxidation. Drain off any liquid that accumulates.
Should Spanish potato salad be served hot or cold?
Spanish potato salad is traditionally served cold or at room temperature, never hot. The vegetables and potatoes are cooked, then chilled completely before mixing with the mayonnaise dressing. Serving the salad chilled allows the flavors to blend and brightens the taste.
What is the difference between Russian and Spanish potato salads?
Russian and Spanish potato salads are very similar with just a few differences. Russian salad often contains diced carrots while Spanish versinos usually don’t. Spanish potato salad also uses sliced red onion versus white onion in Russian salad. And Spanish recipes use pimentos or roasted red peppers while Russian salads omit them.
With its simple combination of tender potatoes, vegetables, tuna, and a creamy dressing, Spanish potato salad is a classic tapa recipe. While ingredients may vary, the basic preparation includes boiling potatoes, cooling and dicing them, mixing with onions, peppers, and tuna, and dressing it all with a tangy mayonnaise and olive oil blend. Allowing the salad to chill for several hours lets the flavors develop fully. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving this flavorful salad. Spanish potato salad can make the perfect accompaniment to a variety of Spanish style appetizers and meals.