Panamanian Potato Salad (Ensalada de Papas) Recipe

Ensalada de Papas (Potato Salad) in Panama is a beautiful pink color because they throw in a beet. Don't let this discourage you from trying it. The beet adds more color than flavor. This is a very common party food. Often served as a side to Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) for birthday dinners.

This little Latina has finish Arroz con Pollo and Ensalada de Papas. Photo from Cooking in Panama

The women generally get together the morning of the party and cook the food together. The boiling is done in a deep metal pot over a cook fire.

Panamanian Pink Potato Salad (Ensalada de Papas)

4 potatoes
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 onion
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
1 beet
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start by boiling the potatoes in a large pot. When they are close to half cooked add the beet and carrot. Then add the egg to the pot for the last 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop and dice the celery, parsley, onion, and garlic.
  3. Drain the potato pot. You should now have tender potatoes, a tender beet, carrot and a hard boiled egg.
  4. Peel, dice the beet and carrot. Chop the egg. It is a little counter intuitive to us Americans, to boil and then do the chopping and peeling. However, that is the custom in Panama.
  5. Mix the egg, celery, parsley, onion, garlic, mayonnaise and mustard in a deep bowl.
  6. Then add everything else and mix just enough to coat the vegetables with the mayonnaise.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Pink potato salad can be served warm or cold. Generally there aren't refrigerators in the country side of Panama so it is served warm. This recipe should serve 4-5 people.

I am working on writing up how to cook some of the classic Panamanian dishes. Food is very much a part of culture. If you want your own little slice of Panama try some of the recipes here Recipes from Panama.


  1. When I went to Costa Rica, to visited my grandmother who has lived there for 46 years! she cooked a recipe called "ensalada de papa", oh my gad what delicious, I think that the recipe is the same as the post!!!

  2. Every house I went to in Boqueron, Chiriqui has a fridge. What part of the country are you talking about? I even saw a fridge in San Blas.

    1. We lived in Panama for two years (20047-2009) with the Peace Corps. We lived up in el monte were there was no electricity, cellphone signal or paved roads. Peace Corps sends it volunteers to communities that as for help and have a population living below a designated poverty level. So yeah, our experience was probably not the same as yours! If you want to see a tour of our house and a little of how we lived check out this post: http://foyupdate.blogspot.com/2008/01/day-247-volunteer-service-our-house.html

  3. Every house I went to in Boqueron, Chiriqui has a fridge. What part of the country are you talking about? In my family we make this all the time but have never had garlic in it, we also use more than 1 egg, & we will use either slice green olive or capers and no mustard (that is only for "american" style potato salad. Each family has their own ensalada de papas recipe.

    1. We lived above Chepo, about four hours by Chiva up into the hills.

    2. Most volunteers live with native populations or communities that qualify for Canasta Basica de Alimentos so my idea of normal Panama is probably a bit skewed. If you are in the more populated/castillano parts of Panama there is probably electricity and even cell signal -sweet sweet cell signal. Remind me to tell you about the three hour hike we could do to the top of the Continental divide and maybe if the clouds parted send a text message.