Russian dressing

Russian dressing is a piquant American salad dressing consisting of mayonnaise, ketchup, and other ingredients.

Russian dressing
Cheeseburger topped with grilled onions and Russian dressing
TypeSalad dressing or condiment
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateNew Hampshire
Created byJames E. Colburn
Main ingredientsMayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, pimentos, chives, spices

Russian dressing is similar to Thousand Island. Some manufactured versions omit the mayonnaise and are clear rather than creamy, more similar to French or Catalina.[1]


Russian dressing is mentioned as early as 1900 in U.S. sources.[2] It is also documented in a 1910 catering book as an alternative to vinaigrette for dressing tomatoes or asparagus.[3] A 1913 cookbook has a recipe which is a vinaigrette with paprika and mustard.[4] A mayonnaise-based recipe is documented in 1914.[5] The condiment came to be called "Russian" since the original recipe included caviar, a staple of Russian cuisine.[6]

Local historians claim that the mayonnaise-based version was invented in Nashua, New Hampshire, by James E. Colburn in the 1910s.[7] A 1927 biographical article calls him "the originator and first producer of that delectable condiment known as Russian salad dressing".[8] Colburn had been selling "Colburn's Mayonnaise salad dressing" at his store since at least 1910.[9]

To have conferred upon the epicurean tastes of a great body of people a delicacy at once as refined as it is permanent in its popularity is not to have lived in vain; rather it is to have added to the joy of living. ... [Colburn] hit upon an assembly of ingredients, which he named Russian salad dressing, ... [and earned] wealth on which he was enabled to retire. ... As he rests on his laurels, he is conscious of having done his part well in conferring a blessing upon the people who have learned the art of eating well.

โ€”โ€‰Hobart Pillsbury, New Hampshire Resources ... [8]

By 1914, Colburn's company was manufacturing it,[10] and distributing it to retailers and hotels. He earned enough from its sale that he retired in 1924.[8]


Typically piquant, it is today characteristically made of a blend of mayonnaise and ketchup complemented with such additional ingredients as horseradish, pimentos, chives, mustard, and spices.[11][12][13]


Besides being used as a salad dressing, Russian dressing is also used as a spread for Reuben sandwiches.

Russian dressing has largely been supplanted by Thousand Island dressing, which is sweeter and less spicy than Russian.[8]

Other combinations of mayonnaise and ketchup, but without the spicy ingredients, are known as fry sauce or other names, and typically served with French fries or tostones.

In Australia, sauce made from mayonnaise and ketchup is called Cocktail Sauce and is used to dress prawns/shrimp in the appetiser known as Prawn Cocktail.

Tartar sauce has the piquant ingredients of Russian dressing, without the ketchup. It is typically served with fried fish.

Marie Rose sauce is similar to Russian dressing, but with different piquant ingredients. It is typically served with seafood.

A variant known as red Russian dressing is very much like Catalina or French dressing.[14]

In Germany, a similar salad dressing is called "American dressing".[15]


  1. Official website: "Wish-Bone Russian Dressing".
  2. Frederick, Maryland News March 24, 1900 5/3, quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition, March 2011 s.v.
  3. Charles Fellows, The Menu Maker, The Hotel Monthly Press, 1910, p. 114
  4. Margaret McHale, The C.W.C. Cook Book, Catholic Women's Club, 1913, p. 76
  5. Clearfield, Pennsylvania Progress, 7 May 1914, p. 10, as quoted in Barry Popik's blog entry of 28 November 2006
  6. Claiborne, Craig (7 August 1978). "De Gustibus The Rich History Of Russian Dressing". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  7. Shalhoup, Dean (22 July 2012). "City gave roots to numerous famous inventions". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  8. John Holl, "America was sweet on its spicy Russian dressing โ€” until Thousand Island, that is", Washington Post 22 December 2014
  9. "Local Mention", Nashua Telegraph, 6 May 1910, p. 10
  10. "Colburn popularized Mayonnaise". Nashua Telegraph. 30 July 1930. Retrieved 13 April 2018. "for over sixteen years"
  11. Stewart, Frances Elizabeth (1920). Lessons in Cookery. Vol. 2. New York, New York (USA): Rand McNally & Company. p. 123. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  12. George, Mrs. Alexander (24 April 1941). "Menus of the Day". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Lewiston, Idaho, USA. p. 3. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  13. Tim's Kitchen Tips -- Episode 1, archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2020-05-11
  14. Welzel, Karin. "Catalina dressing substitutes for Russian in recipe". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  15. Kochbuch, Marions. "American Dressing". Marions Kochbuch. Folkert Knieper. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
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