Russian dressing is a salad dressing that is usually red or pink and used on salads as well as on sandwiches. The color of the dressing is attributed to the fact that tomatoes — or a tomato product such as tomato paste, tomato sauce, or ketchup — are used as a key ingredient. Despite its name, Russian dressing is actually an American invention. Culinary history indicates that it was invented in the United States either in the early 20th century or the late 19th century. The reason for the dressing's name may have to do with the fact that original recipes called for caviar, which is one of the foods that is most strongly associated with Russia, especially by Americans.
One of the most common uses for Russian dressing is as a condiment for Reuben sandwiches, which are hot sandwiches made with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and rye bread. Depending on the sandwich chef's style of cooking and personal preference of the diner, the Russian dressing may be spread on the inside of the rye bread slices or used as a sort of dipping sauce. In some cases, Reuben sandwiches are served with Thousand Island dressing instead of Russian dressing. As the dressing is used for a number of purposes and is widely enjoyed as a part of American cuisine, there are a number of companies that sell a bottled version.
In addition to being used on Reuben sandwiches, Russian dressing is also used on green salads and spinach salads. It is quite common for the dressing to accompany salads that include hard-boiled eggs. The boldness of the flavors in the dressing are often enjoyed along with such ingredients that have milder flavors. It is common for Russian dressing to be made with paprika, celery seed, onion, lemon juice, and other spices in addition to ketchup, oil and vinegar. As such, it has a very rich, sometimes spicy flavor. In fact, sometimes it is made with horseradish.
Russian dressing has a number of similarities to Thousand Island dressing. The two dressings are sometimes used interchangeably, as in the example above with Reuben sandwiches. Russian dressing is also sometimes associated with fry sauce, which is a sauce that is used specifically as a condiment to go along with French fries. Much like Russian dressing, fry sauce uses ketchup as a main ingredient. The other key ingredient in fry sauce is mayonnaise which give it a pink or light red color that is similar in appearance to Russian salad dressing.