Ukrainian Beet Salad with Sour Cream and Dill is going to be my vibrant stand in for potato salad this summer. I toss sweet earthy beets with a creamy dressing and lots of fresh dill for a knockout salad with Eastern European flair.
This vivid pink beet salad will pop on the potluck table!
It’s no secret that I love summer salad season, I think it’s a time when even people who don’t go in for salads the rest of the year start to crave them. And not only green leafy salads, either. Sometimes the most enticing summer salads are super creamy and almost decadent! If you haven’t had beets in a while, this is a must make.
Easy beet salad is a nice change from potato salad or macaroni salad, and who can argue with that gorgeous color?
It’s a treasured Eastern European recipe but if you don’t happen to have any Russians or Ukrainians in your social circle, you might not have heard of it. The salad celebrates a veg that is under appreciated here in the US. Beets (aka beetroot) have a silky texture and a lovely sweet flavor, plus they’re super healthy. A common variation is a beet and potato salad, so if you’re not quite ready to embrace beets on their own, try that, you’ll still get the rich pink color.
I’m doing my part to get the word out about beets: I’ve made lots of beets salads, that’s probably my favorite way to use them, but I’ve also made beet kettle chips (which are irresistible) beet latkes, and even beet popsicles!!
How to cook beets for salad ~ 2 easy ways
Cooking beets is really simple, and can be done up to several days in advance of using them. In a pinch you can use ready-cooked beets, but I prefer to do it myself for best flavor.
- For this salad my preferred method is to peel the beets with a vegetable peeler, then cut into bite sized pieces, and boil until tender (salt the water well!) Depending on your beets, this might take 15 minutes or more.
- You can also roast your beets whole in a 400F oven. (Be sure to line your pan with foil.) The beets are done when you can pierce them easily with the tip of a sharp knife, the time will vary depending on the size of your beets. Let them cool enough to handle, then peel off the skins and dice.
Make this beet salad ahead
Feel free to make it the day before, it will keep perfectly, and become even more gorgeously saturated overnight. I like to scatter extra fresh dill on the salad just before serving because the colors are so pretty.
What to serve with beet salad
The vivid pink color of this salad makes it a great choice for Valentine’s Day, Easter, or any time you’re wanting a splash of color on the menu.
- Serve this salad just like you would a potato salad, with burgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, or chicken off the grill.
- Serve with deli sandwiches of all kinds.
- Serve with any sort of summer fish dish, especially salmon.
- This salad works great as part of a meatless buffet, and would be beautiful with corn on the cob and falafel, for instance.
My salad as written is very simple, the natural sweetness of the beets is offset by the tang of the sour cream and the fresh herby dill. The green onions add a little bite. There are lots of ways you can build on this base to create your own unique recipe…
Variations on Russian beet salad
- Use other types of beets such as golden or pink chioggia.
- Add chopped potatoes for a traditional Ukranian beet potato salad or salade Russe.
- Add summer corn kernels, or garden peas, lightly steamed.
- Red onion or shallots can replace the scallions.
- Add garlic or garlic powder, but go easy on it.
- Chopped celery adds a nice crunch.
- Add hard cooked eggs, chopped, sliced, or wedges.
- Chopped walnuts or dill pickles are traditionally Russian.
Variations on the sour cream dressing
- Substitute yogurt for the sour cream and/or mayo for a lower calorie salad
- Add creamed horseradish ~ add to taste, it’s powerful.
- Add prepared mustard.
- Sweeten with a little sugar.
- Add a little lemon juice or vinegar for a touch of acidity.
- Dress with a classic vinaigrette of oil and vinegar.
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Russian Beet Salad
- 5 cups chopped peeled raw beets, chopped in 1/2 inch chunks
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1/2 tsp onion powder (if you use onion salt, limit any extra salt)
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill fronds
- 4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- Put the beets in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the beets are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Drain the beets and chill until cold. Note: if you want to cool your beets more quickly, rinse them in cold water first, or even submerge them in an ice bath.
- Blend together the mayonnaise, sour cream, onion powder and celery seed until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the beets are cold, toss them in the dressing, making sure to get them evenly coated. The white dressing will turn a lovely shade of pink.
- When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dill and green onions. Top with more pepper, if you like.
- For a creamier dressing, increase the sour cream and mayo to 2/3 cup each.
- Double the recipe to feed a crowd.