Romanian boeuf salad with chicken breast

"Maman, GATEAU!" - This is what my son said when he saw this salad. He was so excited to see it, so he quickly grabbed a small plate and a spoon. 

I put a little portion for him and watched him trying it for the first time. Such a disappointment on his face after the first bite... no sweet cake... this was a salad...

Decoration may trick your sight but not your taste buds. This is a salad, a very popular one in Romania. In my childhood, a New Year's Eve without boeuf salad was not a New Year celebration.

Almost all Romanian wives know how to do it, and everyone does its own version. But the boeuf salad should be on the table for the New Years's Eve!

The great part of making this salad is that it exists in a vegetarian version, in beef version, in a turkey version, in a chicken version and so on. If you are confused about the word BEOUF in the name, yes it is coming from French that means beef. But actually, it doesn't matter if you do it with chicken, turkey, beef or no meat at all, it is still called the beouf salad. 

It always includes boiled vegetables and pickles. There is no such thing as a beouf salad without pickles. The pickles are the most important ingredient that gives the specificity of this salad. The quantity of pickles should be substantial as it gives the taste. My mother was always including in this salad pickled cucumbers and pickled Romanian peppers. These peppers are specific to Romania and they are called "Gogosari". You can easily recognise them for their round shape. Unfortunately, here in Belgium, they do not exist, so I used just fresh red bell peppers instead.

Another interesting aspect is that the meat inside is there just to make it more nourishing but the taste is totally faded away by the vegetables.

The salad is also put together with mayonnaise. If there is one thing that I hate about the classic recipes for this salad, well that is the amount of mayonnaise that it is put inside. And yes, it is an important ingredient because it links together all the vegetables, it preserves it for some days in the fridge but this doesn't have to mean that I eat mayonnaise with vegetables ... I want to eat a salad with a minimum amount of mayonnaise. Therefore this is my version, not flooded in mayonnaise.

Well well, the New year is approaching, so here is the recipe for you to prepare it at home. This is a very big quantity to share with friends and family. For smaller size, just reduce the quantities.

Keep also in mind that the list of ingredient and the quantities are really flexible. Other ingredients often added are hard-boiled eggs, parsnip, olives, mushrooms.


  • 1kg chicken breast
  • 8-10 medium potatoes
  • 200g celery root
  • 2 big carrots
  • 1 big onion
  • 300g peas (in can or frozen are fine)
  • 850g pickled cucumbers (or even more)
  • 3 fresh red bell peppers or better the pickled Romanian pepper (a round version of peppers called  gogosari)
  • 500g mayonnaise


  1. Boil the chicken breast in a big pot.
  2. Remove them from the boiling water and let them drain and cool in a sieve.
  3. In the same water where the chicken was boiled, add the peeled potatoes, celery root, onion and carrots cut in big chunks or even not cut at all. 
  4. When boiled, do the same as for the chicken breast, let them drain and cool.
  5. If you have frozen peas, you can blanch them in the same boiling water. Fresh peppers should not be boiled or blanched.
    When you finish with the boiling, I give you a trick. Do not throw away this water as what you have there is an amazing soup. You can either preserve it in the fridge for a few days, freeze it or make a dumpling soup like this one.
  6. Now the big operation of chopping starts. Cut everything in cubes of 0.5-1cm and put them in a big bowl. 
  7. Add the mayonnaise over and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  8. Arrange the salad on a plate and decorate. Usually, this salad is finished with a layer of mayonnaise to hide completely the ingredients. And then is the decoration. Here is where the women in Romania really compete between themselves. You can really find pieces of art with the decoration of this salad.
Serve this salad cool. It is better at fridge temperature rather than room temperature. Never warm up this salad.
It can be served as a side dish or as a meal on its own.


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