Thousand Island Dressing: Salad Dressing Of The Early 20th Century Elite

In most stories of its invention, Thousand Island dressing gets its name from the Thousand Islands region on the St. Lawrence River. The region is an archipelago straddling the border between Canada and the United States.

Supposedly, the dressing was invented by a local fishing guide’s wife named Sophia LaLonde around the turn of the 20th century. She served it to her husband and other fishermen and to an actress named May Irwin who her husband took on fishing trips. The recipe was requested by Irwin who passed it on to other people eventually making it famous. George Boldt was one of the people that May Irwin is said to have shared the recipe. George Boldt was the billionaire owner of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Another version of the story attributes the Thousand Island dressing recipe to the aforementioned George Boldt who was a summer resident of the Thousand Islands region.

According to this version of the Thousand Island dressing origin story, Boldt made it while at Boldt Castle. Boldt Castle is the mansion that George Boldt built for his wife. He supposedly improvised the recipe and had the dressing placed on the Waldorf Astoria’s menu.

The legend states that he came up with it while on a yacht trip with his wife. They had no dressing available, so he used the ingredients that were on hand. Yet another origin story states that the dressing was invented by Boldt’s chef.

Some speculate that two of the stories might be true and that both Sophia LeLone and Boldt’s chef came up with the dressing simultaneously. Salads were trendy at the time due to the new ability to ship perishable produce in refrigerated train cars. Mayonnaise, ketchup and Russian dressing were discoveries for the average American, so the coincidence is not as far-fetched as it may seem.

By the close of the 1800s, Thousand Island dressing was well-established among the wealthy visitors to the Thousand Islands region. These visitors would take it back to New York with them.

Thousand Island dressing flavor profile

The ingredients in Thousand Island dressing include mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickle relish. Many versions also contain Worcestershire sauce and a hard-boiled egg. The result is a tangy and sweet dressing with a hint of umami and a creamy mouthfeel.

Thousand Island dressing health benefits

Thousand Island dressing contains no nutritionally significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Its only benefit is to make salads with healthy ingredients taste better for people who don’t like vegetables.

Health concerns

Because of its ingredients, Thousand Island dressing has several serious health drawbacks. The traditional version consists largely of mayonnaise, which has a high saturated fat content. While the amounts of each ingredient can vary from brand to brand, most versions have a lot of sugar per serving. High levels of saturated fat in the diet are associated with increased heart disease risk while high sugar consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes.

While it is possible to make a slightly healthier version of Thousand Island dressing at home, a homemade version will still contain some of the problem ingredients, so it won’t be all that good for you.

Common uses

While Thousand Island dressing began as a condiment for the elite, it has become commonplace in recent years. Along with being a popular topping for salads, it is an essential ingredient in Reuben sandwiches and hamburgers.