American

Russian Dressing

December 12, 2021
0 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
Author Notes

Russian dressing is one of those spreads that sounds gross until you eat it. Mayonnaise and ketchup together? With Worcestershire and a bit of smoky-sweet heat? Oh yes. Dating back to at least the early 1900s, many credit James E. Colburn, a grocer in New Hampshire, with Russian dressing’s creation. At the time, the dressing was still mayonnaise-based but seasoned with caviar (hence the name; though others say it’s because the dressing contained pickles; another theory is it was invented to top a Russian-inspired salad). The original got its coral hue thanks to puréed lobster shell—you don't see much of that these days. Still, Colburn’s condiment was apparently so popular he was able to retire off the money he made selling Russian dressing. Eventually, ketchup or chile sauce found its way into the spread, which made it quite similar to another dressing: Thousand Island (which was first documented around the same time as Russian in New York state).

Some say that at this point, the difference between Thousand Island and Russian dressings is that Russian sometimes doesn’t contain pickles, or that it does contain Worcestershire, and that Thousand Island is typically bound with hard-boiled eggs and always contains pickles and sometimes olives, too. What’s safe to say about both today is that they're just as often used as something other than salad dressing. Russian dressing in particular is typically spread on sandwiches like Reubens or New Jersey sloppy joes. This Russian dressing recipe is the closest to what I’ve seemed to find on sandwiches ordered in northern New Jersey, but you don’t have to make it the same way. If you prefer more or less of any ingredient to make it saltier (more Worcestershire), sweeter (more ketchup), or spicier (more hot sauce), play around with the ratios until it tastes right to you. —Rebecca Firkser

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Serves About 1¾ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons pickle relish (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Cholula or Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk well to combine. Season with salt to taste, then adjust with more Worcestershire, ketchup, or hot sauce to taste.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Janice Clarke-Reiter
    Janice Clarke-Reiter
  • EmilyC
    EmilyC
  • Rebecca Firkser
    Rebecca Firkser
Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.

3 Reviews

Janice C. January 12, 2022
Haha! I guess I'm not well-schooled in dressings! Had no idea the mayo and ketchup concoction I make to eat with fries is called Russian dressing! I even add pickle relish to the mix when I eat battered fish. I make my own mayo and relish, so my Russian dressing is a bit gourmet, but it's similar to your recipe. Thanks for sharing!
 
EmilyC December 17, 2021
A recipe I didn't know I needed until *now* (the absolute best kind)! : ) I've always loved Russian dressing but never thought to make it myself, for whatever reason! And I have a serious love for Reubens. Thinking of making this dressing for a big Reuben'ish kale salad with your dressing, thin slices of corned beef, Swiss cheese, and maybe some rye croutons. Thanks for the inspiration, Rebecca!
 
Author Comment
Rebecca F. December 17, 2021
thank you Emily!! Also this salad idea?! You're a genius. I think I need to make it for dinner.