The real difference between French dressing and Russian dressing

Americans love a good salad dressing. Ranch dressing, with its savory mix of buttermilk, oil, herbs, and spices is, by far, the favorite salad dressing in America, with 141 million out of 330 million surveyed favoring the dressing that is regularly served on salads and as a dip (via Statista). In the same survey, 20 million respondents chose French dressing as their favorite (the orange kind, not Catalina), and 8 million opted for Russian dressing. Let's face it, no one is really serving a Reuben sandwich with ranch dressing.

Because of the similarity in their ingredients, Thousand Island dressing is sometimes swapped out for Russian dressing on a Reuben sandwich, but you probably wouldn't see French dressing switched out for Russian dressing on a Reuben. However, people still question the difference between French and Russian dressings. Why? Both dressings look pink and creamy, and they both have a similar texture, which means if you see the dressings on a sandwich or on a salad bar, you may not recognize the differences right away.

How to tell the difference between French dressing and Russian dressing

First things first. Despite the name, French dressing originated in America, where we have an affinity for creamy dressings (via Culinary Lore). Similarly, there are no links between Russia and Russian dressing (via New England Historical Society). As for telling the two dressings apart, they look similar from a distance, but taste-wise, Russian dressing is generally spicy, while French dressing is sweet.

Russian dressing combines mayonnaise, ketchup, spices, and horseradish, while French dressing typically contains mayo, ketchup, vinegar, sugar, onion, and garlic (via Thrive Cuisine). Breaking the recipes down further, French dressing can be made sweeter or tangier depending on the amount of vinegar or sugar added to the recipe, according to The Daring Gourmet. And, Russian dressing often contains pickle relish, one of the things that makes people compare it to Thousand Island so often (via Eater). So, depending on the salad or sandwich you're creating, base your dressing decision on whether you're craving sweet or spicy.