Shuba salad is a classic Russian dish featuring beautiful layers of pickled herring and root vegetables. It’s traditionally a national New Year’s dish, but let’s be honest, it’s delicious anytime of the year!
Shuba salad needs to be prepared at least 6 hours ahead of time. Why? This impressive salad needs time to set in the refrigerator before you serve it. But, trust me, it’s well worth it.
Like many classics, shuba is made a variety of different ways according to what chef you ask. But, that’s what makes it fun, right? Some people like to layer the beets last to create a reddish-purple “fur coat”, while others like to layer mayonnaise last for a “white coat”.
What is Shuba Salad?
Simply put, shuba salad, or “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” is a layered salad of pickled herring fillets, finely chopped onion, beets, carrots, potatoes and dressing. In Russian, “shuba” means “fur coat,” and more specifically references the big coats Russians have to wear during the harsh winter months. But, when it comes to the salad, the “fur coat” reference is all in the aesthetic. When you layer your boiled and grated beets on top of this salad, it looks similar to the texture of a fur coat, hence the name! It’s a fun, delicious and classic dish that has graced Russian tables for decades.
But, who came up with the idea for this signature salad? Legend has it that restaurateur Anastas Bogomilov created the dish to fill the bellies of his customers in 1918. His patrons were notorious for drinking too much and causing a ruckus. To alleviate the tension, it’s rumored he created the ultra-filling shuba salad. I mean, food can solve everything right?
Tips For Making Shuba Salad
This salad might seem a bit daunting to make if you didn’t grow up in an Eastern European household. But, don’t worry! Below, I will list all of my tips and tricks for making the perfect shuba salad.
Get the Layers Right
The biggest tip I can hammer into you is to get the layering order right. It goes: potatoes, onions, herring, carrots, mayonnaise, beets and then another thin layer of mayonnaise to top it all off. Why am I such a stickler when it comes to layering? Well, putting the heaviest layer of potatoes at the bottom helps keep the salad sturdy, but there is also something delicious about the way the herring soaks into the spuds. Trust me, it makes all the difference in the flavor!
Note: Sometimes chefs add a layer of chopped hard boiled eggs to shuba salad. If this sounds tasty to you, add this layer on top of your carrots.
Replace Herring In Shuba for Smoked Salmon
Okay, I’ll be realistic here. Some of you may just simply loathe herring and that’s okay! We can still be friends and you don’t have to go without shuba. If you can’t do herring, replace it with smoked salmon. This variation is equally delicious. Sometimes I even make it this way when the craving hits!
Give Shuba Enough Time to Set
Like I said above, shuba needs to set in the fridge before you serve it. This helps all the layers get together, while ensuring each layer stands out. It also makes it easier for you when it comes time to delicately remove the salad from the mold.
Other Beet Salads
Eastern Europeans love their beets — my family included! Here are some of my other favorite beet salad recipes:
- Beet Garlic Salad: This creamy, garlicky salad can also be served as a spread!
- Beet Carrot and Cabbage Salad: This salad has a wonderful crunch to it from the cabbage.
- Beet Quinoa Salad: For all the health nuts out there, this salad is filling enough to stand alone as a meal!
- Vinaigrette Salad: This traditional salad is packed with root vegetables and tossed with a sunflower oil-based dressing.
- Quick Pickled Beets: In 24-hours, you can have your very own, homemade pickled beets!
Store shuba in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can carefully lift it into a container with a spatula to keep its shape. When it comes to freezing shuba for later use, this salad is simply too delicate to freeze. Reserve it for occasions when you can eat it fresh!
- 3 small potatoes
- 1 lb Herring (see image below for reference)
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 3 medium beets
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- Boil beets for 45 minutes in a small pot. In a separate pot, boil potatoes and carrots for 25 minutes. Remove all ingredients from the boiling water and let them cool off.
Another way to cook ingredients is by baking them in the oven. Wrap beets, carrots and potatoes in foil and bake them at 400 °F for 30- 45 minutes. Carrots and potatoes cook sooner, check using a fork to confirm they are cooked thoroughly.
- Clean beets, potatoes, and carrots. Grate each separately on a cheese grater. Slice herring and onion into small pieces. Using a combination of a large plate and a mold (or a deep tray), begin by first placing potatoes on the bottom.
- Add onions and herring on top of potatoes.
- Follow by carrots, mayonnaise, and beets.
- Lastly, add a layer of mayonnaise. If you are using a mold, remove it right before serving. Refrigerate the salad for at least 6 hours before serving.