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The Brits around here may be a bit mystified by this post, but bear with us because it's a topic that comes up from time to time in emails and our Facebook groups. If you've travelled in the UK or watched a lot of British television, you may have encountered a mysterious substance called “salad cream”. It sounds a bit like something you'd massage into your lettuce, but for the uninitiated, its purpose isn't entirely clear.
What is Salad Cream?
So let's start with the basics. Do you put salad cream on salad? Well, you definitely CAN put it on salads, but market research in the UK suggests that only around 14% of people actually do. It used to be considerably more common, but these days, salad-eaters have a lot more options – many of them healthier and more palatable.
So what DO people use salad cream for? It's actually quite versatile. In terms of what you put it on, it's very similar to ranch dressing for many Americans (not at all similar in taste, but we'll get to that). Salad cream is frequently used on sandwiches, similar to how you might use mayonnaise or another sandwich spread.
It's also popular on foods like…
- Jacket potatoes
- Beans on toast
- Jersey Royal potatoes (similar to what you'd call yellow fingerling potatoes in the States, often served boiled and seasoned with skin on)
- Chips (or a chip butty)
- Breaded fish (or a fish sandwich)
- Over sliced fruit and veg – particularly avocado or tomato
- As a dip for virtually anything salty or savoury
It's used so often on other things that Heinz briefly considered a re-brand as “sandwich cream”, which irritated a lot of traditionalists.
It's also worth noting that while Heinz is the most popular salad cream producer, they're not the only one. Other popular alternatives include Chef Salad Cream, Crosse & Blackwell, and a variety of own brand formulas (aka generic/store-brand).
Though it's most popular in the UK, it's also pretty easy to find in Canada and Australia. In the US, it's mostly limited to specialty stores and the odd British section of larger supermarkets.
What Does Salad Cream Taste Like?
While many Brits use salad cream in ways similar to how ranch dressing is used in the States, the flavours are not at all similar.
The ingredients for salad cream are pretty simple:
Spirit Vinegar, Canola Oil, Water, Sugar, Mustard, Salt, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Colored With Riboflavin.
In terms of ingredients, it's fairly similar to mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, but the consistency is more like ranch dressing – and of course, it has a hint of mustard that gives it a bit of extra colour and flavour. It's also significantly less sweet than Miracle Whip. There really isn't a US equivalent I've ever encountered.
Where Can I Get Salad Cream in the US?
The easiest place to get salad cream in the US is on Amazon. They ship pretty much everywhere, and while it's more expensive than a bottle purchased in the store, most people won't be buying it often enough for it to be a huge deal.
If you have a British grocery store nearby, it's pretty likely they'll have salad cream. Most stock a pretty good selection of Heinz items, though salad cream isn't quite as common as Heinz beans.
Some tea shops and Cost Plus World Market stores also carry British grocery items.
Salad Cream on British TV
A lot of non-Brits have encountered salad cream via British television. We've caught mentions of it in quite a few popular shows, and for the unfamiliar, it's a great look at how salad cream is viewed. It's not a high-class food by any means, and you'll find a fair bit of snobbery (and reverse snobbery) around the humble condiment.
- Fawlty Towers – In Series 1, Episode 5, Basil argues with a young guest who's displeased with the chips. He then requests bread and salad cream, and Basil points him to the bread and mayonnaise – to which the kid replies, “I said ‘salad cream', stupid.” They proceed to have an argument where the mother asks why they don't carry proper salad cream, and he condescends, saying the chef only buys it for special occasions and “gourmet nights”. Watch it on BritBox HERE
- Last of the Summer Wine – In Series 22, Episode 9, there's a brief discussion where it's mentioned that no good comes from being promoted – “they start turning up their noses at salad cream and next thing, it's French dressing.”
- Still Game – In Series 3, Episode 1, Jack and Victor are on holiday in Toronto and they're served some very “American” sandwiches. Jack mentions that he's always wanted to say. “Give me a pastrami on rye and hold the, erm…hold the…that stuff that looks like salad cream.” (by which he meant mayonnaise) – Watch it on Netflix
- Call the Midwife – In Series 5, Episode 4, Trixie mentions making herself a face mask out of salad cream (we'll stick with GlamGlow). Watch it on Netflix
- Mount Pleasant – Salad cream scores a couple of mentions in Mount Pleasant, once in Series 1, Episode 8, then again in Series 2, Episode 2. That's not at all surprising, given that Mount Pleasant is a very working class show, and salad cream is a not exactly a gourmet condiment. In both cases, it's discussed as a sandwich ingredient – once in place of mayo in an egg-mayo (like egg salad sandwiches in the states), and another time, ham and salad cream sandwiches are mentioned. Watch it HERE on Acorn TV
Have You Tried Salad Cream?
Have you had the opportunity to try salad cream? Did you like it – and what's your favourite way to eat it? Let us know in the comments!
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