Russian dressing was invented in the United States in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
During the Cold War, many US restaurants referred to the dressing as "Sweet Tomato Dressing" to show their preference to capitalism over communism.
Some claim that the dressing's name originated in the fact that the condiment in those days typically included caviar, a food associated with Russia.
Russian dressing recipe variations
Selective recipe notes below have been taken from Barry Popik's blog
7 May 1914, Clearfield (PA) Progress, pg. 10:
Russian Salad Dressing.
To make salad dressing in the Russian style take four tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise; add half a pimento, chopped rather finely. To this add half a dozen sprigs of chives, chopped fine, and stir. Take two tablespoonfuls of chili sauce and a dash of tarragon vinegar. Add to this mixture one tablespoonful of whipped cream. Whip again thoroughly and serve. This will be enough for four people.
14 June 1917, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 14:
6 August 1917, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 8:
Mix together 4 tablespoons of chili sauce, 4 tablespoons of salad oil, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and dry mustard, then add gradually 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Serve on lettuce leaves.
12 May 1918, Indianapolis (IN) Star, pg. 23?, col. 6:
The so called Russian dressing which has been popular in recent years is made in various ways. A simple Russian dressing is made by adding four tablespoonfuls of chili sauce to the one cupful of mayonnaise and mixing well. A more elaborate Russian dressing is made as follows: Three-fourths cupful of thick mayonnaise, six tablespoonfuls of chili sauce, two chopped pimentos, one tablespoonful of chopped chives, one teaspoonful of chopped chow-chow, three teaspoonfuls of tarragon vinegar, one-four cupful of thick cream.
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