This creamy homemade Russian dressing recipe is effortless to prepare and is the perfect sauce for topping sandwiches, salads, or even dipping fries!
In classic American style, today we are looking at a Russian dressing, that has very little to do with Russia. Yeah, it is pretty much just like French fries aren't French, and Baked Alaska has nothing to do with getting our 49th state high. So what is the deal with this once popular dressing?
What is it?
Russian Dressing is actually an American creation first mentioned in the early 1900s. Most commonly this salad dressing is prepared with a base of mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, relish, and seasonings, however, many variations exist. It is quite similar to Thousand Island dressing, the popular southern Comeback Sauce, and even Big Mac Sauce.
The origin of the "Russian" name is largely lost to history. No one quite knows why it is called Russian dressing. Some speculate it is due to Russians' love of pickles, or even the color of the dressing. However, the most common explanation is the name was simply a marketing gimmick to make the original recipe sound exotic.
Are Russian Dressing and Thousand Island The Same?
Thousand island dressing is often credited with replacing Russian dressing in popularity and in use. Although both feature a mixture of mayo, ketchup, and relish, Thousand Island has a key distinction from Russian dressing in that it is sweeter and less spicy.
Typically, Thousand Island dressing is served on the classic Reuben sandwich and Russian salad dressing is paired with the rather similar hot pastrami sandwich with rye bread and Swiss cheese. However, the two can be used interchangeably as a sandwich spread, if desired.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Mayonnaise - Bonus points if you make your own mayo.
- Ketchup - Ketchup-style chili sauce (such as the Heinz brand) can be substituted to give the dressing a little more bite.
- Sweet pickle relish
- Red wine vinegar
- Prepared horseradish
- Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh lemon juice - Fresh squeezed lemons are best, but using bottled lemon juice from the grocery store is fine too.
- Paprika - Use sweet paprika for more of a spicy flavor, or smoked paprika to add a deep smoky twist.
- Hot sauce - Crushed red pepper flakes can also be added or substituted.
How to Make Russian Dressing
This easy homemade Russian dressing recipe is effortless to prepare. The ingredients simply need to be mixed together in a mixing bowl, with no cooking required.
The dressing can be used immediately, however, the flavor is always best when it is allowed to meld overnight in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Russian Dressing Variations
As stated above, Russian dressing recipes can vary considerably. This concoction ranges from a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing with relish and hot sauce to a sweet and tangy purple bottled dressing sold by Wishbone.
The above photo shows the difference between my recipe and the Wishbone brand Russian Dressing. Mayo is largely absent from their dressing, as is relish, and it takes on a noticeably darker color. This is achieved by adding beet juice to the recipe, which is easily detected in the sweeter flavor as well.
Feel free to customize the recipe to fit your tastes, additional horseradish, and hot sauce will give it more punch, as will substituting chili sauce for regular ketchup. Alternatively, adding more ketchup will lend it additional sweetness and a deeper color. Although I consider it a key ingredient, you can also omit relish from the recipe if desired.
Storing Leftover Dressing
Store any leftover homemade dressing in an airtight container, such as a sealed glass jar. This dressing needs to be kept refrigerated when not in use. For the best flavor, use within two weeks.
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Homemade Russian Dressing
- Medium bowl
- Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine.
- The sauce can be enjoyed immediately, however, the flavor is best when it melds overnight in the refrigerator. Store in a sealed container.
This recipe was originally published on July 23, 2019 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.