Here’s a recipe for another uber-typical Spanish tapa: ensaladilla rusa or vegan Russian salad. It’s a very easy Spanish potato salad that will most definitely find in any and all bars serving tapas in Barcelona.
However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a vegan version of ensaladilla rusa, as it usually contains tuna and always mayonnaise. Luckily, the tuna is not essential and the mayonnaise is easy to veganize so here’s my vegan version of Spanish potato salad.
This vegan ensaladilla rusa uses cheap, everyday ingredients which is, I imagine, why it has become such a popular tapa dish. Although surely not as popular in the bars as patatas bravas, ensaladilla rusa is so simple that anyone can make it at home and it’s possible to buy prepared versions in most supermarkets.
I looked over a lot of different recipes when preparing my vegan Spanish potato salad as there’s no one “master” recipe.
Potatoes are essential, of course, as well as carrots and peas. After that you’ve got some leeway. Olives, tuna, shrimp, hard-boiled egg, gherkins, roasted red peppers, capers and/or white asparagus have all appeared in various recipes. I’ve even seen recipes with corn, which to me seems a little strange, but feel free to add any combination of ingredients which takes your fancy.
Since this is such a popular dish in Spain, many other vegan Spanish bloggers have already produced their own vegan versions of ensaladilla rusa.
I noticed that while they all had their own variations in ingredients, they all used the same vegan mayonnaise recipe with plant milk, usually soy. Although I only drink soy milk and love it, the idea of using it to make a mayonnaise for a savory salad doesn’t appeal to me.
The flavour of soy milk is so distinctive that I imagine it would over-power the entire dish and this salad is all about the gently mingling of flavours. Furthermore, there are many people who avoid soy due to allergy so there’s a desperate need for more creativity here.
Aquafaba (chickpea water) has been my solution to all things mayonnaise-based since I first used it to make Spanish alioli.
It works great in this vegan ensaladilla rusa to give the exact same flavour as a homemade egg-based mayonnaise, and it was also great in this vegan Caesar salad I made recently.
Typically this Spanish potato salad is laden with mayonnaise, too much for my taste. I added about three quarters of the total mayonnaise that this recipe makes but you can feel free to add a little more if you like.
Wanna see how easy Ensaladilla Rusa is to make? Watch the video!
Serves 4 as a tapa
- 500 grams (1 pound) of potatoes
- 2 medium carrots
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) of peas, fresh or frozen
- 85 grams (3 oz) of green olives, sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- bread, for serving
- 3 tablespoons of aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup of oil (mild olive or sunflower or a mix of the two)
- Peel and cut both the potatoes and carrots into cubes of about 1.5 cm (half an inch). Boil them along with the peas in a large pot until tender - about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside to cool completely.
- While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the mayonnaise by adding all the ingredients except the oil into a tall measuring cup. Blitz with an immersion blender until the garlic is pureed. Slowly pour in the oil with the blender running the whole time. Taste and adjust the balance of salt, lemon and mustard to your liking.
- Once the vegetables are cooled, add the olives and as much or as little mayonnaise as you like. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. It's better to leave the salad to chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours for the flavours to mingle, but you can also serve it immediately. Serve with bread on the side.