How Did Russian Dressing Get Its Name?

If you’ve ever ordered a salad at an old-school gymkhana or club, chances are it will be slathered with a vivid pink-hued dressing and on questioning, you’ll probably be told that it’s Russian. Russian Dressing is like one of those fading jewels from the weird and wonderful world of 1950s culinary trends that people wanted to explore…just not too much.

The dressing is made with a mayonnaise and ketchup base that’s cut with the acidity of pickles, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and lemon juice. For a kick of spice, paprika, onion or mustard powder can be added too. 

“But hang on, that doesn’t sound Russian at all.”

If that was the thought on your mind, you’d be absolutely right. In its modern form, Russian Dressing doesn’t have anything even remotely Russian about it, and that’s because the name, like the condiment itself, is a hand-me-down from history. 

It was first documented in 1914 and was called so because the original recipe also called for caviar. In an early version of Larousse Gastronomique, the recipe stated that the mayonnaise was to be tinted pink by poached coral and the crushed shell of a lobster. But James E. Colburn of Nashua, New Hampshire was decidedly not Russian and was in fact 100% American and so the condiment lives on in great strength in the United States today. 

In colour and components, it does mirror another famous dressing, Thousand Island. The key difference between the two is that the Russian dressing usually horseradish and other spicy elements which gives it a fiery kick, whereas Thousand Island dressing tends to be a bit sweeter and also sometimes calls for chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Though in most diners and restaurants the two are sometimes used interchangeably, Russian Dressing has a long and proud history of its own to be honoured and we think you could do that from the comfort of your own kitchen. Best as a dipping sauce or as a sandwich spread adding a jar of this to your fridge will ruin plain old mayonnaise for you forever. 


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup-style chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced white onion
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed


  • Place 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons ketchup-style chilli sauce, 1 tablespoon minced white onion, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. 
  • Taste and add more kosher salt or black pepper as needed.