Russian Dressing: A New England Favorite

Russian dressing’s most popular origin story has it being invented in New England rather than in Russia. James E. Colburn is said to have been Russian dressing’s inventor. Colburn was a grocer from Nashua, New Hampshire. The claim is that he invented it in 1924.

While Colburn would go on to make a fortune selling his Russian dressing to hotels and other dining establishments, there is some evidence that it predated him.

Russian dressing is mentioned in 1910 as a vinaigrette alternative. It shows up in multiple cookbooks after that with some recipes using mustard and others using mayonnaise.

Early mentions of Russian dressing include one from the Gridiron Club’s 1911 menu. Russian dressing was considered a creamy vinaigrette. Vinaigrettes had made their way to Russia in the 19th century and Russian dressing may have been an example of how French cooking styles influenced Russian cuisine.

One of the first Russian dressing recipes consisted of mayonnaise colored pink to which salt and caviar were added. The pink color was said to come from pulverized lobster shells. Other recipes contained mayonnaise and horseradish along with caviar and grated onion. The caviar is supposedly the reason for the dressing’s name. Some question whether caviar was actually in the original version and suggest that ground pickles are a more likely ingredient.

Today, Russian dressing has largely been replaced by Thousand Island dressing.

Russian dressing flavor profile

In addition to the traditional mayonnaise-based version, some Russian dressing recipes omit the mayonnaise but require celery seed and other spices like paprika. The spices are combined with lemon juice and ketchup for an intense savory dressing with sweet and acidic background notes. Some of these recipes also call for horseradish for a little added heat.

Health benefits of Russian salad dressing

Like most salad dressings, Russian salad dressing does not have a reputation for being nutritious. While most of the ingredients are not particularly healthy, Russian salad dressing does have a few benefits because of nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Russian salad dressing is a reasonable source of important nutrients like vitamins A, C and E. It is an excellent source of vitamin K. It has small amounts of several B vitamins as well.
  • Minerals: You won’t get much of any beneficial mineral from Russian dressing; however, you will get small quantities of several. The nutritionally important minerals in Russian dressing include calcium, iron and magnesium.

Consuming Russian said dressing regularly may help to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • Obesity: Russian dressing contains a moderate number of calories with a 1-ounce serving having fewer than 100 calories. It is especially beneficial for weight loss if you use the kind without mayonnaise.
  • Inflammatory diseases: Because of its high levels of antioxidants from vitamins C and E, Russian dressing helps to fight the free radicals that cause inflammation.

Health concerns

Traditional recipes for Russian dressing include a significant amount of sugar, which means that the dressing can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you fail to consume it in moderation. Also, it is a high-sodium dressing, so it may contribute to high blood pressure.

Common uses

The traditional uses for Russian dressing include as a spread in the classic Reuben sandwich. Russian dressing is also used on green salads. It is sometimes preferred for salads with pungent ingredients because of how flavorful it is.