Russula ballouii can be distinguished from other brownish-yellow russulas by its dry cap and stipe and by the presence of brownish-rusty colored blotches that expand and break up as the mushroom grows. The cap pellicle resists peeling. The species has no distinctive odor, but it tastes very acrid. Gills are white to pale cream and closely-spaced. Neither the gills nor the flesh stain or change color with handling. Spore-print is off-white to cream. A drop of KOH on the cap skin will turn brownish-red. This russula is more common in the south and to the west of the northeast.