Salad Olivieh is the Persian version of chicken salad and potato salad, rolled into one amazing dish that is loved by most who try it. My early memories of enjoying this very popular Iranian food go back to my childhood. Those who remember “frooshgah Ferdosi” on Fersodi Avenue (the first large department store in Tehran), must also remember their famous Salad Olivieh sandwich. A small crusty but soft baguette roll was filled with the creamiest Salad Olivieh, and it tasted out of this world with a frosty bottle of Pepsi Cola. The meal was then completed with a “bastani ghifi,” soft serve vanilla ice cream cone!
Another very famous deli shop in Tehran “André,” sold their extraordinary Salad Olivieh in little takeout plastic tubs with loaves of crusty French baguette. What I’m trying to say is that, if you ask a number of Iranians to name their favorite Salad Olivieh place, don’t be surprised if all of them don’t mention the same restaurant or delicatessen; we each have our own favorites. Persians love this salad because most have grown up eating it at parties, around their kitchen table, at picnics and on road trips (usually made by their loving mama!).
Don’t get me started on the family members who make the best Salad Olivieh; my favorite was my uncle’s and I don’t know if it was because he was my favorite uncle or simply because his was the best. He also made his own mayonnaise, which was fantastic (I’m experimenting to recreate that recipe). Until you’ve tasted real homemade mayo, you don’t know how incredibly tasty it can be and how it can put any famous name brand to shame.
The ingredients used in most Olivieh recipes are basically the same, but the way you prepare them is what makes one salad better than the other. I could make the instructions very short and simple; something like this: Chop cooked chicken, potatoes, eggs & carrots, then mix them with chopped dill pickles and green peas and add enough mayonnaise until everything sticks together! However, after years of making this salad I really believe that a couple of extra steps in the preparation makes all the difference.
I cook skinless chicken drumsticks with fresh onions and seasoning in very little water. The chicken that is cooked with this method is moist, tender and so full of flavor. Then the rich broth is added to the diced cooked chicken when making the salad for even more flavor. I also toss the diced cooked potatoes in apple cider vinegar. The result is a healthier Salad Olivieh that is amazing and creamy without using a lot of mayonnaise.
Salad Olivieh can be served as a side dish, a main course, or a sandwich but it is always one of the the most popular dishes at any gathering, picnics, or road trips. I usually make it in large amounts a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This is a convenient time saver for the day of the party or picnic; it keeps very well in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Please follow the printable recipe for instructions & use the following illustrations as a guideline:
Cook the drumsticks in a pressure cooker or a regular pot with very little water, onion, salt & black pepper until the meat falls off the bone. Steam the potatoes until tender. Make the hard boiled eggs (please refer to the notes). After the carrots are steamed tender, turn the heat off and add the frozen sweet peas to the steamer and close the lid. A few minutes is all it takes to thaw the peas and this method preserves their vibrant green color.
At the end of cooking time the chicken is very tender and the meat falls off the bone, and there is only 1/2-3/4 cup broth in the pot. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Place the rich broth in the fridge until the rest of the ingredients are ready; it will become gelatinous and thickened. Remove all the bones from the chicken, peel the potatoes and hard boiled eggs.
Add diced chicken, diced carrots and sweet peas to a bowl. Use a spatula to mix in the thickened broth to coat all the ingredients. In another bowl mix diced potatoes with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and stir several times to coat the potatoes.
Mix the chicken mixture with potatoes. I make a shallow cut into the hard boiled eggs and separate the whites from yolks, chop the egg whites and crumble the whole egg yolks into big chunks to save every morsel and prevent the delicious yolks from getting too small to notice in the salad; feel free to chop them with the egg whites instead, if you like.
Use a knife or a food processor to small chop the dill pickles and add them to the bowl. Lastly, add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and freshly ground black pepper to the bowl and use a large spatula to mix the Salad Olivieh until all the ingredients are well combined and coated with the mayo. I normally don’t add any extra salt to this salad because of the initial salt that I add to the chicken and also the salt in dill pickles, but if you wish to add extra salt, please do so after you’ve already added and mixed the mayo, then add it in small amounts to taste.
So there you have it, for those who have never tried it, now you know what Salad Olivieh is all about! For all of you who have enjoyed this rich and flavorful salad all your life, I hope you will try my recipe and let me know what you think. I usually serve Salad Olivieh with my spicy dill pickles, slices of ripe tomatoes, Sabzi Khordan or romaine lettuce, olives, and of course French baguette and a frosty can/bottle of Pepsi Cola.. Cheers my friends!!
preparation time: About 1½ hours
- For the chicken:
- 8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
- 2 small onions, peeled and cut in half
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 ¾ cups cold water
- The salad ingredients:
- 6 large eggs, hard boiled
- 6 medium white potatoes, steamed with skin
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and steamed
- 1 cup frozen sweet peas
- 8-9 baby dill pickles, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups real mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Suggested bread and condiments:
- Pieces of crusty French baguette
- Sliced baby dill pickles
- Sliced tomatoes
- Romaine lettuce, or fresh parsley sprigs
- Cook the drumsticks (see the notes) with 1¾ cups cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper and onion halves until the meat falls off the bone and most of the water is cooked off. Discard the onion halves. There will be about ½- 3/4 cup very rich broth left in the pot. If there is too much broth, transfer the chicken to a plate and cook the broth over medium low heat and reduce it down to ¾ cup. Place the broth in the fridge until the rest of the ingredients are ready. The broth will become gelatinous and thickened.
- Meanwhile cook the rest of the ingredients: Steam the potatoes with skin until easily pierced through with a fork (about 30 minutes on medium heat). Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel the skin and medium dice the potatoes and add them to a bowl. Add ¼ cup cider vinegar to the bowl and stir to coat. Set aside.
- Peel the carrots and steam until very tender. Turn the heat off and add the frozen sweet peas to the pot and cover with the lid. It takes only a few minutes to thaw the frozen peas. Small dice the carrots when cool enough to handle. Set aside.
- Hard boil 6 eggs (see notes). Drain the hot water and fill the saucepan with cold water. Peel the eggs when cool enough to handle. Make a shallow cut on the egg white, leaving the egg yolks whole (I like to crumble the egg yolks at the end so they keep their shape and color better, but you may dice the whites and yolks at the same time if you prefer). Medium dice the egg whites and set them aside.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all the bones, dice it medium and add it to a large bowl. Add the diced carrots and thawed peas to the bowl. Add the thickened broth to the bowl and toss with a spatula or a large spoon several times.
- Add the diced potatoes, egg whites and crumbled egg yolks to the bowl.
- Use your knife or a food processor to roughly chop the baby dill pickles. Add them to the bowl.
- Add 1 ½ cups mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to the bowl and use a spatula or large spoon to mix all the ingredients very well.
- Add freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste.
- Serve the Salad Olivieh with toasted pieces of crusty French baguette, sliced spicy dill pickles and tomatoes, Kalamata olives, Romaine lettuce, or fresh parsley sprigs.
**If you’re using a regular stockpot, instead of a pressure cooker, cook the chicken with the same amount of water indicated in the recipe, over medium low until the meat falls off the bone, about 1 – 1 ½ hours.
**To make hard boiled eggs: Add 6 eggs to a small saucepan, add enough cold water to cover the eggs. Without covering the pan, bring the water to a boil over medium low heat to prevent cracking, then let it boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pan with the lid and let it sit for 30 minutes. Drain the hot water and fill the saucepan with cold water.