What is Salad Cream – & What Do You Do With It?

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?

Heinz Salad Cream

So let's start with the basics. Do you put salad cream on salad? Well, you certainly 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. Salad cream is frequently used on sandwiches, similar to how you might use mayonnaise or another sandwich spread – but that's just the beginning.

Despite the name, not many people put salad cream on salads anymore…

It's also used on foods like…

  • Jacket potatoes
  • Beans on toast
  • Pizza
  • 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)
  • As a dip for virtually anything salty or savoury
  • As a general purpose sandwich spread

It's worth noting that on posts like this, we always get a lot of nutters who come in and comment, “Well I personally haven't seen someone do —, so clearly this is all wrong.” For some reason, the Anglophile realm attracts a lot of pedants who love nothing more than to argue. As with anything, these are just ways that SOME people use salad cream. We're not saying all Brits put salad cream on their beans on toast – just that it IS a relatively common thing, and if you're looking for ways to use salad cream, that's something to consider.

Can you tell we get a lot of weird emails around here?

Salad cream is so often used 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 or international section of larger supermarkets. 

What Does Salad Cream Taste Like?

Some people like to add a bit of salad cream to a chip butty

The ingredients for salad cream are fairly 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 with 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 Outside the UK?

The easiest place to get salad cream in the US is on Amazon. They ship pretty much everywhere, and while it's usually more expensive than a bottle purchased in the store, most people won't be buying it often enough for the price difference to add up.

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, Digestives, or Branston Pickle.

Some tea shops also carry British grocery items, and we've had reports that many people have spotted salad cream at Cost Plus World Market stores.

Salad Cream on British TV

Still Game: “Hold the…erm…that stuff that looks like salad cream”

A lot of non-Brits have encountered salad cream mentions on their favourite British TV shows. These mentions offer a great look at how salad cream is viewed in different parts of the country and social classes. Depending on what you're watching, you see a fair amount of both snobbery and reverse snobbery about 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 that shows the sort of reverse snobbery often found in humble, working class communities. 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, Glaswegians Jack and Victor are on holiday in Toronto and they're served some very “American” sandwiches. Jack mentions that he's always wanted to tell someone, “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 known for being 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
Salad cream on beans and toast

 

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What is salad cream?

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