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Thousand Island v Russian dressing??

Do you have a preference? Do you make your own... recipe? Any MAJOR differences in ingredients?

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  1. I always think of Thousand Island Dressing as Ketchup, mayo and chopped pickle (or relish). Russian Dressing takes the same base of mayo, ketchup and pickles and includes nonpareil capers, minced onion, parsley, worcestershire, horseradish and sometimes chopped hardboiled egg.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sumodo

      Other way around, in my experience.

      My own version of Russian is the ketchup-like chili sauce (Heinz), mayo, prepared horseradish, sweetened. It serves to dress a salad or as the sauce for shrimp cocktail.

      1. re: Sumodo

        I see where this is coming from and from the looks of ingredients I know hubster would select 1000 Island

      2. The original version of Russian dressing (created in the USA) had caviar as one of its ingredients, hence the name. These days the two versions are virtually the same except for pickles.

        1. Proportions will obviously vary to your taste. I never knew as a kid what was in each but Russian always looked yellower and TI was pinker, so this was how I reverse engineered them to my taste. I know they taste right when they hit the right color.

          My quick TI is Seafood Cocktail Sauce (which is already just basically Chili Sauce with Horseradish and maybe the Worcestershire), mixed with Tartar Sauce. I often have both bottled in the fridge, especially around the holidays or after a party. I also usually add some minced red onion. It's my standard burger sauce.

          Apparently I have it backwards as well, because if I want to make Russian out of it, I add some Mustard. Not authentic but works for me on a Reuben.

          Never occurred to me to use either on a salad.

          1 Reply
          1. re: acgold7

            Both are closely related (in my experience anyway) to Crab Louie dressing. I have a couple different recipes for that. Both have chili sauce. One has heavy cream!

          2. Here's a link to a 1926 recipe for Russian Dressing from an old newspaper:

            And a 1925 recipe for Thousand Island Dressing:

            2 Replies
            1. re: Antilope

              Interesting (I love looking thru old newspapers in general). They both independently use "chili sauce.". Wonder what that meant in the 20s?

              1. Jeez Louise. I thought this issue was put to rest in several earlier threads.

                There's a lot of misinformation online on the subject, the really interesting sources are in print, pre-1950. I have many of them, below are some upshots. (Wikipedia is rather annoying on "Russian dressing" if you know more about the subject.)

                "Chili Sauce," rudeboy, meant the same thing in the 1920s that it has meant ever since, in the US condiment industry. A tomato-based sauce with vegetable bits usually incl. sweet peppers. (Hot-spice sense of "chili sauce" is a formerly niche condiment, with a much shorter history in the US mainstream.)

                Although the name was around longer, "Thousand Island" dressing in its MODERN form became popular, mainstream, _after_ WW2 as a dilute version of Russian dressing. I have plenty of example recipes. Essentially a Russian dressing recipe with more mayonnaise, and in some cases, unsweetened whipped cream (as if to suppress any remaining flavor). A typical T. I. dressing today is visibly lighter in color than a traditional Russian dressing - and is mass-produced, whereas most people and cooks I know who have any use for Russian dressing make it from scratch, it's easy enough! More below.

                US "Russian dressing" precursors (late 1800s or so) added sharp flavorings, like horseradish, to mayonnaise and used this as a condiment with "Russian" salads or seafood. In modern decades, the standard recipe was mayonnaise, CHILI SAUCE (classic meaning, and still in US supermarkets from firms like Heinz), and cook's choice of Little Savory Bits, such as chopped chives, chopped green olives, etc.

                In recent decades I've made a quick decent Russian dressing -- for Reuben sandwiches etc. -- from mayo and "shrimp cocktail sauce" (yet another US tomato-based condiment, flavored with horseradish this time), roughly 1:1, plus aforementioned Little Savory Bits, often chives.

                Tip: If a restaurant advertises "Reuben sandwiches" but doesn't know the difference between Russian and Thousand Island dressing, it's a good sign that the restaurant also doesn't understand Reuben sandwiches. This seems to be a strong unwritten consensus among serious Reuben fans who also have experience making same.

                PS: This "mayonnaise and ketchup" bullsh*t only appeared in recent years, and usually in online sources. I have literally NEVER seen a traditional cookbook Russian-dressing recipe with ketchup. The standard is traditional "chili sauce," still readily available.

                ETA: Comparison of some actual cookbook recipes posted downthread.

                3 Replies
                1. re: eatzalot

                  I posted my comments about an old Thousand Island/ Russian Dressing thread about the same time you were posting a few minutes ago, eatzalot. I guess the oldie topics will keep recycling, to the delight or frustration of those of us who have been around these boards for a long time. But if we all enjoy sharing about food or restaurants or eating in general, then its fun to go back and add one more story or piece of information for someone new (or rehash it for its own sake- why not?) Thanks for your post!!

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    If the differences between Thousand Island and Russian dressing matters much on your corned beef or pastrami, you are not getting a good sandwich.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      NOT my experience at all, Veggo -- either making them or ordering them.

                      In fact, I've noticed that if you cannot taste an assertive sauce, the restaurant is likely to be one of those that does not realize the difference between Russian dressing and Thousand Island. Traditionally made, the one is much more flavorful than the other. More detail in what I'm about to post.

                  2. An old thread was started in 2010, but folks have added to it as recently as February, 2014, "Russian vs. Thousand Island dressing [moved from Home Cooking]" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/680372 You might find some of it interesting. But you know how Chowhounds can dig in their heels about certain ingredients being authentic and others being entirely forbidden- the debate is all there.
                    A recipe I have used for Russian Dressing comes from a 1950s cookbook called The Supermarket Cookbook- simple:
                    1/2 Cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup chili sauce, 1 Tablespoon chopped green pepper 1Tablespoon of chopped onion or chives. Done!
                    (I hope you don't insist it had to have sour cream and caviar
                    )Russian Dressing was a common dressing in the 1950s, then kind of disappeared, so I like the idea of pulling a simple recipe from a cookbook from back-in-the-day. "Ken's" has the only bottled Russian dressing in the supermarket that I know of. Its a lot easier to find in the stores than it used to be.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Florida Hound

                      By earlier threads, I'd had in mind threads where specific uses came up -- Reuben sandwiches, shrimp or crab Louis.

                      The two dressing names were used almost interchangeably in pre-WW2 recipes, but diverged later, the TI product becoming both more commercial and more dilute, as I mentioned.

                      Russian dressing never really disappeared, it just dropped off the radars of younger consumers. I've encountered it steadily on restaurant menus (in Reuben sandwiches, for instance) to the present day.

                      And it is so simple to make -- and adjust to your taste -- that I argue against buying any ready-made version.

                      (Those side matters in the 2010 thread about caviar, yugurt, etc are just distractions: the principal history of these dressings is well illustrated by the 1920s newspaper recipes linked upthread and the mainstream post-WW2 US cookbooks. None of which, to speak of, concern themselves with yogurt, sour cream, or other exotic ingredients. It is not really an issue of "debate," but rather how well-read people are about this subject as it is manifested in cookbooks.)

                      1. re: Florida Hound

                        Thanks for your post too!

                        Here's a quick survey of some mainstream midcentury US sources (this is directly from the books, not the internet). Hereinafter, LSBs = Little Savory Bits (variously: minced celery, onion, pimiento, green pepper, green olives, chives, etc., or a combination). Chili Sauce in its classic US meaning I cited above (tomato-based condiment, SWEET pepper bits), found in most supermarkets.

                        United States Regional Cook Book (1947, reprinted 1953) and Joy of Cooking (1964) have typical postwar Thousand-Island recipes: Mayo and Chili Sauce, 3:1 or 4:1 ratio; chopped or sieved hard-cooked egg; LSBs. Fannie Farmer (1965) has an unusual TI recipe (no mayo; oil, citrus juices, flavorings, LSBs).

                        For Russian dressing, FF and RCB specify 1:1 mayo and chili sauce, plus LSBs. The FF suggests draining excess liquid from the chili sauce (good idea!); RCB's virtually identical recipe is labeled Crab Louis sauce, not Russian. JOC uses less chili sauce, but adds substantial fresh grated horseradish, Worcestershire, and (the only example from that era I recall offhand to do so) caviar.

                        Upshot as I summarized earlier: Essential difference is the higher mayo ratio in Thousand Island (3:1 or 4:1), vs. 1:1, or with other strongly-flavored ingredients added, in a Russian dressing.

                        Thousand Island in post-WW2 US tradition is a mayo-diluted, or milder, version of Russian dressing. Try using both on otherwise-identical Reuben sandwiches and see if you don't notice the difference!

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          Very interesting information, Eatztalot. I wish more Jewish delis, which are unfortunately on the decline, had more heart in the game, as you do.

                      2. Ketchup is sweet but commercial chili sauce is ketchup and LOTS of sugar. Bad for me (diabetic) and bad in general. I begin with mayo (+yogurt) and add appropriate bits: Worcester, chopped gherkins, chopped capers, a tiny bit of grated horseradish, Sriracha and ginger juice, and enough ketchup to make the flavor and color right. It needs an hour's rest to come together.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: krsmav

                          Chili sauce, ketchup, and "shrimp cocktail" sauce are all slight variations on a theme, with the same base and different flavoring additions.

                          All these products, especially ketchup, have gotten sweeter over my lifetime (and as long as the public prefers buying sweet, they will probably continue to). For most of its history, until around 50 years ago, "ketchups" were preserves made from various starting materials - tomato was just one of several -- usually at home, and never sweet.

                          Bottom line: If refined sugars are a concern, avoid all three condiments; use a little tomato from puree or paste (get it in the tubes like toothpaste, for using small amounts) to taste.

                          You can check the nutrition labels, as I routinely do; in my experience, US "chili sauces" have been no sweeter than ketchups.

                          And again, horseradish IS a good and traditional component in Russian dressings, I like its effect. That's why I generally use "shrimp cocktail" sauce, containing horseradish, instead of "chili sauce." And plenty of those LSBs mentioned earlier. (Ginger juice sounds interesting!)