What Is Russian Dressing?

It’s always a little scandalizing to discover that a certain food isn’t really from the area it seems to claim as its origin. For example, I’ll always remember learning that fortune cookies were first served in San Francisco, thousands of miles from China. Likewise, the French dip sandwich has no connection to the European country, and was in fact invented in Los Angeles. Neither Swiss Miss or Swiss rolls have anything to do with Switzerland. And Russian dressing is not from Russia. The sweet, eggy, tomatoey condiment that goes great on French fries or burgers is an American concoction.

So, Russian dressing isn’t Russian. That’s all well and good. But what is Russian dressing? What’s it made from? Let’s find out!

What is Russian dressing?

Russian dressing is a creamy, tangy condiment/salad dressing. It was invented in New Hampshire in the early 1900s. In its earlier forms, it may have called for caviar as one of the ingredients, leading many to speculate that this is where the “Russian” name came from. Others think it may have come from Russian associations with pickles, which can also be an ingredient in the dressing. 

What is in Russian dressing?

Russian dressing ingredients can vary quite a bit depending on the recipe. In its most basic form, it contains ketchup, mayonnaise, and horseradish. However,there are significantly more complicated recipes available for a more complex taste. The Kitchn has a tasty-looking one that calls for mayo, ketchup-style chili sauce, onion, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, mustard, and pepper. 

What does Russian dressing taste like?

As you may have guessed from the ingredient list, it has a ketchupy, mayonnaise-y, horseradish-y taste. In all seriousness, it’s pleasantly creamy with light tomato overtones and a slight kick from the horseradish. Of course, different recipes will yield different flavors. Keep in mind that some Russian dressing contains hot sauce and additional spicy ingredients.

Is Russian dressing the same as Thousand Island dressing?

Ask anyone who’s performed a blind taste test can tell you, Russian and Thousand Island dressings may look similar and share some key qualities, but they are noticeably distinct. 

What’s the difference between Russian dressing and Thousand Island dressing?

Ultimately, the difference comes down to horseradish. Russian dressing contains it, and Thousand Island does not. Also, Thousand Island often has chopped, hard boiled eggs in it and Russian dressing does not.

That being said, the line between Russian and Thousand Island is a little blurry, especially since Thousand Island is much more popular these days. The Washington Post has an interesting article all about the relationship between these two dressings, which notes that they may sometimes be used interchangeably. But there are some brands that still make both, such as Ken’s Foods. You’ll likely find Russian dressing to be more spicy and less sweet than typical Thousand Island dressing. 

Now that you know everything there is to know about Russian dressing, maybe you’ll swap out the Thousand Island next time you’re enjoying a Reuben or burger. Let us know how it goes! 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *