vinegret recipe history culture origin

Vinegret, a salad of chopped beets, potatos, peas, and carrots, is also often present on the holiday tables.

Vinegret: The Salad is in the Chopping

Published: August 5, 2018

While most Westerners know vinaigrette as an oily dressing, often of the raspberry or balsamic variety, in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet bloc, the word has a very different meaning. In these countries, “винегрет” (vinegret) is itself a salad, composed traditionally of boiled, diced beets, potatoes, and carrots mixed with diced pickles, onions, and sour cabbage, all dressed in one of several oil-based toppings. While there is some variation, both regional and personal, in the ingredients used to make vinegret, the preparation of the salad is largely uniform and rarely contains less than the ingredients listed above.

Why It’s Called “Vinegret”

(Почему он носит такое название?)

The name “vinegret” actually comes from the Western conception of the word (vinaigrette), as in the past the salad was customarily topped with a vinaigrette made from mustard. The name for the salad has survived through the centuries, even though now the mustard vinaigrette has been replaced by plainer dressings such as mayonnaise, olive oil, or sunflower oil.

vinegret recipe history culture origin
Винегрет суши – combining two things that are dearly beloved in Russia.

The name vinegret is not the only thing that may have come from the West, either. It is widely accepted that the dish itself originated either in Germany or in the lands of one of Russia’s Scandinavian neighbors. The latter theory is especially intriguing, as a very common pairing of food is that of vinegret with herring, which is a staple of Scandinavian cuisine. In an English cookbook dating from 1845, there is a recipe for a Swedish herring salad, which calls for Norwegian herring to be mixed with many of the ingredients in vinegret – beets, pickles, potatoes – and the mixture to then be topped with a dressing of oil, vinegar, egg yolk, and sour cream.

How and When to Eat Vinegret

(Как правильно есть винегрет?)

There is really no right or wrong way to eat vinegret. As mentioned above, there is some regional variation as to what ingredients might be added to the basic recipe. For example, in Lithuania and the Baltic States, beans are a staple in винегрет. Other popular additions include mushrooms and a generous amount of dill used as garnish. The oil used for dressing varies as well, although this is often due to personal preference and the inheritance of family recipes. Some even throw a bit of fish directly into vinegret, although it is much more common to have it as a side dish to accompany the salad.

In gourmet versions of the salad, you may also find apples, squid, beef, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, sausage and more. The sauce can also be finessed with hot mustard, vinegar, sugar, pepper, or other spices. These ingredients are typically not considered traditional elements of the salad as known by most Russians, however.

Vinegret can be eaten at any time of the year, being safe for even during Orthodox fasts due to the fact that it can be made with purely oil and vegetable content. It is, however, often referred to in Russia as a “зимний салат” (winter salad), a category which also includes another popular Russian dish with a French name, Olivier. The category refers to salads that can be made with only vegetables that keep well (such as potatoes, carrots, and beets) and those that have been preserved (such the many pickled products that are often featured in Russian cooking and Russian meals).

vinegret recipe history culture origin
Ингредиенты “зимнего салата” винегрет

Vinegret is a dish often seen at holidays (it is especially popular for New Year’s celebrations) or upon the arrival of important guests, as the time-consuming dicing and chopping of all the ingredients involved is not conducive to most everyday cooking schedules. Furthermore, it is a dish that spoils easily once all the ingredients are combined, even when refrigerated, so it is best served to a group that one knows will go through the entire batch fairly quickly.

How to Prepare Vinegret

(Как правильно приготовить?)

Vinegret is not a technically complicated dish to prepare; most of the work comes in dicing the vegetables into small, uniform pieces. There are also several shortcuts that one can use (and that many modern-day Russians do use) to make the preparation of vinegret even easier. For example, instead of traditional sour, pickled cabbage, which was, in the past, a homemade product that needed time to ferment, many now use mass-produced sauerkraut. Some also use canned, rather than fresh, beets, which cuts out several steps in the preparation process – namely the boiling, peeling, and cutting of the beets.

vinegret recipe history culture origin
Вот такой необычный винегрет-кубик Рубика! Russian salads are often created from chopped vegetables – with many cooks insisting that the vegetables be evenly chopped in equal sizes. This image was created by the Nicer Dicer corporation – to show how evenly their product can chop the ingrediants.

Many Russians will insist that the process be carried out in that order as well: boiling, peeling, and then cutting. The reasons for this are varied. Some say this improves the flavor, some argue that peeling a cooked vegetable is more efficient, as it is then easier to remove only the skin with very little of the pulp. Still others argue that it is primarily to allow all the cooked ingredients to be boiled at once in the same pot without the beets dying the entire mess a deep red. Whatever the reason, the process is nearly always carried out in this way.

Note as well that keeping the beets from coloring the dish when it is mixed together is one of the main challenges of producing a proper, appetizing винегрет. This can be easily done, however, by simply adding the oil to the beets first before mixing the beets with the rest of the ingredients.

As vinegret is often a festive dish, many do most of the preparation a day in advance, and then combine the ingredients with the oil dressing right before the salad will be served. This is also the best, and frankly only, good way to preserve vinegret if one knows that it will not all be eaten right away; take out an amount of the prepared vegetable components that will definitely be eaten and then combine only that bit with the dressing.

Vinegret Recipe

(Давай Приготовим!)

Винегрет Vinegret
Ингредиенты
  • картофель – 2-3 шт
  • свёкла – 1 шт
  • морковь – 1-2 шт
  • капуста квашеная – 100-150 г
  • лук репчатый – 1 шт
  • соленые или маринованные огурцы – 2-3 средних шт
  • растительное масло
  • зеленый лук – по желанию
  • соль

Приготовление

  1. Картофель, свёклу, морковь хорошо вымыть. Овощи сложить в кастрюлю, залить водой, довести до кипения и отварить до готовности. (По желанию, овощи можно завернуть в фольгу и запечь в духовке, при температуре ~180°C до готовности. В фольгу нужно заворачивать каждый овощ отдельно.)
  2. Отварные овощи очистить от кожуры и нарезать небольшими кубиками. Репчатый лук очистить и мелко порезать. Огурцы порезать кубиками. Квашеную капусту немного отжать от рассола. К свёкле добавить немного растительного масла и перемешать – тогда свёкла не окрасит остальные овощи.
  3. Соединить вместе: картофель, морковь, лук, огурцы, капусту, заправить маслом и аккуратно перемешать. Добавить свёклу, посолить по вкусу и всё вместе еще раз перемешать. При подаче можно посыпать зелёным луком.
  4. В винегрет можно добавить зелёный горошек, отварную или консервированную фасоль, или другие добавки по желанию.
Ingredients
  • 2-3 potatoes
  • 1 beet
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 100-150g pickled cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 medium pickles
  • vegetable oil
  • green onions, if desired
  • salt

Preparation

  1. Wash the potatoes, beets, and carrots well. Place the vegetables in a pot and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil and cook the vegetables until fork-tender. (If you wish, you may wrap the vegetables in foil and cook them in the oven at a temperature of about 180°C until done. You must wrap each vegetable in foil separately.)
  2. Peel and cut the cooked vegetables into tiny cubes. Peel the onion and cut it finely. Cut the pickles into cubes. Wring a little of the brine out of the pickled cabbage. To the beet add a little vegetable oil and mix – in this way, the beet will not color the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Mix together the potatoes, carrots, onion, cucumbers/pickles, and cabbage, dress with oil and mix well. Add the beet and salt the mixture to taste and once again mix everything. Before serving one may sprinkle green onions over the mixture.
  4. One may add canned green peas, cooked or canned beans, or other extras to винегрет as you like.
Винегрет с грибами Vinegret with Pickled Mushrooms
Ингредиенты
  • грибы солёные или маринованные – 240 г
  • морковь варёная – 90 г
  • свёкла варёная – 150 г
  • картофель варёный – 200 г
  • огурцы солёные – 120 г
  • горошек зелёный – 50 г
  • лук репчатый – 90 г
  • зелень – для оформления
  • масло растительное – 100 г
  • уксус 3%-й – 100 г
  • сахар – 1 ч. ложка
  • соль
  • перец

Приготовление

  1. Смешайте ингредиенты соуса, хорошо взбейте. Вареные овощи нарежьте кубиками. Свёклу сразу заправьте частью соуса и выдержите 10 минут, не смешивая с остальными овощами, чтобы избежать их окрашивания.
  2. Огурцы, лук и грибы нарежьте кубиками, оставьте часть грибов для оформления.
  3. Нарезанные овощи, грибы, зелёный горошек соедините с соусом, перемешайте и выложите горкой в салатник. Оформите грибами и зеленью.
Ingredients
  • Pickled or marinated mushrooms – 240 g
  • Cooked carrots – 90 g
  • Cooked beets – 150 g
  • Cooked potatoes – 200g
  • Pickles – 120 g
  • Green peas (canned) – 50 g
  • Onion – 90 g
  • Parsley – for presentation
  • Vegetable oil – 100 g
  • 3% acid vinegar – 100 g
  • Sugar – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation

  1. Mix the ingredients of the dressing; whip well. Cut the cooked vegetables into small cubes. Stir some of the dressing into the chopped beets and let stand for 10 minutes, not mixing them with the remaining vegetables in order to avoid coloring them.
  2. Cut the pickles, onion and mushrooms into small cubes, keep a portion of the mushrooms for garnish.
  3. Bring the cut vegetables, mushroom, and peas together with the dressing, mix them up and ladle the mixture into a serving dish. Garnish with the mushrooms and parsley.
Винегрет с яблоками Vinegret with apples
Ингредиенты
  • картофель варёный – 160 г
  • морковь варёная – 60 г
  • капуста квашеная – 80 г
  • огурцы солёные – 80 г
  • яблоки – 80 г
  • свёкла варёная – 120 г
  • масло растительное – 60 г
  • зелень петрушки – 2 г
  • соль по вкусу

Приготовление

  1. Картофель и морковь нарежьте кубиками, соедините с мелко нашинкованной капустой, очищенными и нарезанными кубиками огурцами и яблоками.
  2. Свёклу очистите, нарежьте кубиками, заправьте маслом, посолите и соедините с остальными ингредиентами.
  3. При подаче оформите салат зеленью.
Ingredients
  • Cooked potatoes – 160 g
  • Cooked carrots – 60 g
  • Fermented cabbage – 80 g
  • Pickles – 80 g
  • Apples – 80 g
  • Cooked beets – 120 g
  • Vegetable oil – 60 g
  • Parsley – 2 g
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

  1. Cut the potatoes and carrots into small cubes, and join them with the finely chopped cabbage, and the cleaned and cubed pickles and carrots.
  2. Clean the beets, cut them into cubes, top with the vegetable oil, salt them and join them with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Before serving garnish the salad with parsley.

Our Favorite Vinegret Videos

An interesting video from a cooking show geared towards men, trying to make the preparation “simple and tasty, but nonetheless, beautiful.” Note that it also emphasizes the pairing of vinegret and herring, and brings back the mustard from the dressing for which the salad is now named.

 

A video from Едим Дома! (We’re Eating In!), an NTV cooking show, highlighting the making of vinegret with beans. The host is Yulia Vysotskaya – a former actress who is now essentially the Russian Martha Stewart.

 

A nicely-orchestrated video showcasing modern shortcuts for making tasty but quick vinegret for the holidays.

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About the author

Jordan Bryant

Jordan Bryant graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Slavic Languages & Literatures. She  previously spent two summers studying abroad in St. Petersburg and one in Prauge. She participated in SRAS’s Home and Abroad Program in Vladivostok, Russia.

View all posts by: Jordan Bryant