I see this viral image, supposedly of a local paper in Wisconsin’s ranch dressing rankings, posted to meme accounts on Instagram, making the rounds every so often. While most people probably see this and think, “Ha, ranking ranch dressings, that’s hilarious,” we here at Uproxx Life see the same thing and think, “You know, that’s actually a pretty good idea for a post.”
Come on, tell me you aren’t a little curious. You can laugh at the idea and still be genuinely interested in the results. I was. (For the proper attribution record, I can’t find the original tweet the Instagram post seems to be screen-capping, but the article in question does exist, on page B3 of the June 26th, 2019 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal).
Ranch seems to live in that perfect middle ground, between kitsch and earnestness. On the one hand, my generation was largely raised to believe that ordering ranch with your salad was somehow trashy (I want to say there was even a famous comedian who had a bit about this, Jeff Foxworthy, maybe? I can’t find it now). On the other, we still seem put it on everything, from veggie platters to pizza. I tend to think “American food culture” is pretty gross in most ways, from the processed “cheese” that bears our name to our artificially orange-colored cheddar to monoculture in general. And even I like ranch dressing. How weird even is it, really?
Anyway, it makes a certain amount of sense that we’d be crazy for ranch dressing, given that ranch dressing came of age right alongside us Gen Y-ers*, older millennials, and Gen X-ers. The ranch dressing origin story most often told is that Steve Henson came up with the dressing in the 1950s, when he bought the Hidden Valley Ranch in California’s San Marcos Pass near Santa Barbara. The Henson family started selling the spice packets for make-at-home ranch dressing in the 60s and sold to Clorox in the 70s. A competing claim comes from Todds Foods in Arizona, who say David Bears invented ranch in 1980 “expressly for the Bobby McGee’s restaurant chain, to be used as a dipping sauce for their… deep-friend zucchini.”
Finally, Robb Walsh writes in Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook that “Although Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was shortened to ranch dressing in popular parlance, the same stuff was one called buttermilk dressing and has long been a western favorite, perhaps with its origin in cowboy cooking.”
Whatever the case, ranch has been the most popular dressing in America since 1992. It became a Doritos flavor in about 1986. By 1999, the San Francisco Examiner noted, in an article asking how ranch had become such a staple, that ranch accounted for 30% of all salad dressing sold.
Whatever the case, I would argue that ranch dressing is one of the few truly great, specifically-American food innovations to come out of the USA, that, unlike hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos, and apple pie, didn’t have roots somewhere else. Ranch, in my opinion, is up there with the Tater Tot and the Buffalo Wing.
Now that we’re all feeling sufficiently historically grounded, for the purposes of this ranking, I gathered every variety of “ranch dressing” I could find from my local supermarkets, Whole Foods, and Traders Joe. While my wife swears that the original, mix-it-yourself variety of Hidden Valley Ranch is the clear winner, I’ll be honest, I’ve never mixed ranch myself in my life, and I do cooking experiments for a living. Short of a very special occasion that somehow involves ranch dressing… I ain’t doin’ that shit. Not enough upside.
So I left the dry mix out, and instead I grabbed every shelf-stable bottle and the handful of additional dressings I could find in the refrigerated section. Could I have found more? Probably. Could I have tasted more than 24 of these bad boys in a single sitting? Less likely. Originally I’d planned to sample them all on a carrot stick, or neutral-ish vessel, but, as tends to be the case with these, throwing other textures, flavors, and smells in there mostly just confuses the issue.
I tasted these plain, right on a spoon. It wasn’t that gross. I swear.
- Organicville Non-Dairy Ranch
- Wishbone Ranch
- Chosen Foods Ranch
- Ken’s Steakhouse Ranch
- Bob’s Famous Ranch Country
- Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch Yogurt Dressing And Dip
- 365 Organic Ranch Dressing
- Noble Made By The New Primal Classic Ranch Dressing
- Plant Perfect Ranch Vegan Dressing
- Kraft Classic Ranch
- Drew’s Organic Creamy Ranch
- Trader Joe’s Organic Ranch
- Newman’s Own Ranch
- Drew’s Organics Vegan Ranch
- Hidden Valley Plant-Powered Ranch
- Walden Farms Ranch
- 365 Organic Light Ranch
- Olive Garden Parmesan Ranch
- Litehouse Homestyle Ranch
- Hidden Valley Ranch
- Tessamae’s Pantry Classic Ranch
- Marie’s Creamy Ranch
- Full Circle Market Organic Ranch
- Yo Mama’s American Ranch
24. Noble Made By The New Primal Classic Ranch Dressing (Sample 8)
Price: $6.99 at Whole Foods.
This one looks truly revolting. The color is off-white and it has an oily/pasty texture that looks like tahini before you stir it. It doesn’t pool, it’s all piled up like a thick past. I honestly don’t want anything to do with this one, I’m tasting it strictly for science and posterity.
Digging the spoon it, the texture is somehow gelatinous on top of being thick. On the nose, I get a mishmash of muddled herbs that I can’t identify. Dill, probably? Sure, yeah, I get dill and white pepper.
On the palate… Jesus Christ, this tastes as bad as it looks. It tastes like chalky, non-dairy cheese spiked with vinegar and fake eggs. Awful.
All of those names in the title should’ve been a giveaway (I felt like throwing a [sic] at the end just so you knew it wasn’t a run-on sentence). It’s Noble, but it’s made by the new Primal, whatever that is. And though it’s new and primal it’s also “classic.” PICK A LANE, DRESSING.
I don’t even really understand what the angle is here. It’s dairy-free but not vegan (has egg whites), and says it’s Whole 30 Approved, Keto Certified, and Gluten Free. I guess it’s for paleo and/or keto people. The copy on the bottle reads like a master class in obnoxious marketing:
For too long we bought into the partisan nature of condimenting. We figured any notion to unite the Ranch and the Ranch-Nots was pure hubris. But then we wondered: could a better version validate the users and liberate the abstainers? Surely a healthy ranch with a slow pour and spot-on tang could bring everyone to the wing platter or crudité board. And smacking mouths can’t bicker.
Jesus, why are paleo-diet people so fucking annoying? I tasted this completely blind but now that I’m seeing the bottle I’m glad it sucks. And if you think I’m biased, look up at that sample board. Second row, second from left — tell me that doesn’t look revolting.
23. Walden Farms Ranch (Sample 16)
Price: $3.84 at WalMart
This one is Thicc with a capital T, it kind of stands up in a pile more than it pools. It’s white with lots of pepper and herbs. Digging the spoon in, it seems to have a yogurt quality to it. It smells sort of like vegetable oil and a little vinegar. On the palate… wow, I don’t like that at all. It’s somehow thick and doesn’t coat, and it tastes… I don’t know, like a lot of weird fake foods. Yuck.
I generally assumed a lot of the weird, “artificial” flavors in some of these came from the oils they used, but looking at the ingredients list on this one, I think it was the combination of thickeners they used to avoid oil, plus all the fake sugar stuff. Mmm, corn fiber and erythritol. It’s also dairy-free.
22. Yo Mama’s American Ranch (Sample 24)
Price: $6.98 direct from the website.
This one is thick, gloopy, and chunky, and also it’s orange-ish in color. It looks more like Thousand Island than ranch. When I scoop it it looks all aerated and custardy, somehow thick but not dense or solid. On the nose, this one just smells fake, like hydrogenated oils. On the palate… woof, that’s terrible. It’s all weird, stabilized oil taste and very little of anything else.
According to the label, I was wrong about anything artificial or hydrogenated. The ingredients are all normal foods, but it also lacks sugar, gluten, and dairy, which is a pretty big hill to climb for a ranch dressing.
21. 365 Organic Ranch (Sample 7)
Price: $3.99 at Whole Foods.
This is definitely more towards the off-white, non-dairy end of the spectrum, not super appetizing. The nose is almost nonexistent other than a slight vinegar. On the palate, this one is all sugar with no body. Plus it’s vaguely pasty like I can really taste the fake thickeners and stabilizers.
This is just regular-ass ranch dressing with sugar, dairy, and eggs, I have no idea why it tastes so bad. I somehow have it rated even worse than the light version of the same dressing.
20. Newman’s Own (Sample 13)
Price: $3.64 at Walmart.
This one is white with peppery-looking flakes and has a fair amount of body. Not loose at all but spreads out on the board and is smooth on the surface. I don’t get much from the nose other than a hint of white vinegar. On the palate, it’s all sweet and non-dairy, and tastes more like stabilizers than food.
Very “partially hydrogenated” tasting.
Paul Newman, say it ain’t so! I would’ve assumed the beloved actor would make a great ranch dressing to fund all those non-profits, but the truth is, this one tasted like a sugar bomb. According to the label, it doesn’t have twice as much sugar as Hidden Valley. Some people like that sweet taste (much as with jarred marinara) but to me, it just tasted off.
It gave me the sense that it was trying to mask something weird (as sugar often does) even though this claims only natural and non-weird ingredients (depending how you feel about xantham gum).
19. Wishbone (Sample 2)
Price: $2.28 at Walmart.
This is much more white in color, more what I imagine ranch to look like. It’s white with some darker particles. It’s on the thicker side, more like bottle ranch than restaurant ranch. It looks inviting though. On the nose, I get what I believe is buttermilk. In fact, it smells maybe *too* milky. On the palate, it’s the same, the balance is way off towards the creamy dairy side (if it’s even real dairy) with not enough spice/acid. There’s a little spice towards the back of the throat at the very end, but not enough.
Wishbone is sort of an OG in the ranch game (I’m mentally wedgying myself for typing that sentence) so you’d expect them to fare a little better, but alas. This was all cream with no bite. Half the reviews on the website seem to be angry about the “new formula” and “creamier taste” and they hate it, for whatever that’s worth. I can’t remember the last time I had Wishbone ranch dressing so I was coming to this with no preconceived notions.
18. Plant Perfect Ranch Vegan Dressing (Sample 9)
Price: $6.29 at Whole Foods.
This is off-white to almost white with lots of herb/pepper flecks. On the nose, it’s a bracing vinegar and not much else. On the palate it’s very sweet and not very creamy. It doesn’t really coat at all, but it also doesn’t have that vinaigrette tang. It’s kind of one-note sweet with some vague onion flavor.
It’s hard to expect a vegan ranch to taste like a dairy-based one and this one doesn’t. It also wasn’t my favorite of the vegan offerings.
17. Drew’s Organics Vegan Ranch (Sample 14)
Price: $4.99 at Whole Foods.
This one is much more off-white, maybe greenish. The texture is tighter. On the nose I get vinegar and green herbs. I really don’t like the mouthfeel, this feels like non-dairy creamer ranch. It’s not a sugar bomb like some of the other non-creamy options, definitely more herbs and vinegar on this one.
This one has some wild ingredients, like agave syrup, white miso, and rice koji, not to mention celery seed and rosemary extract. Wasn’t enough to make it not taste like fake cream but I respect the effort. Butt pats all around for the chefs at Drew’s Organic.
16. 365 Organic Light Ranch (Sample 17)
Price: $3.99 at Whole Foods.
This is slightly off-white and fairly loose. There’s vinegar/onion/herbs on the nose, but feels lacking on the cream side. On the palate, it’s really thin and really sweet. Not enough body, and too sweet.
Don’t ask me how I rate this more highly than its non-light cousin, but the rub is that I wouldn’t buy either. The real heads call the other one “ranch heavy.”
15. Trader Joe’s Organic Ranch (Sample 12)
Price: $11.01 on Amazon. (This product has disappeared from the Trader Joe’s website, so I may have gotten it just before a pause in distribution)
This looks more toward the loose end of the spectrum (like your mo– no, I told myself no crude mom jokes in this post). On the nose, it’s… barely there. Weirdly non-aromatic. On the palate, it’s all sugar, like a French vinaigrette with just a hint of something creamy. Not terrible but doesn’t strike me as “ranch.”
They definitely attempted something different with this one, more towards a vinaigrette than a ranch. Nothing wrong with that (I actually like the much-more vinegary Australian mayo for that reason) but this just didn’t hit any flavor points for me. It felt like a weird in-betweener, and maybe that’s why it’s not on the website anymore.
14. Organicville Non-Dairy Ranch (Sample 1)
Price: $4.99 at Whole Foods.
Looks more off-white than white, like maybe it’s non-dairy. I can see some herbs in there, the texture is not too gloopy. Actually this watery-ish texture is kind of ideal to me. On the nose, mostly it smells like acid and herbs, like a vinaigrette, maybe some cucumber in there. On the palate, it has a nice zingy vinaigrette flavor to it, but I’m not really getting what makes this “ranch.” It just tastes like a vinaigrette. Not too off-putting, but lacking in that creamy/zestiness.
File this one under “tastes fine, just not really ranch.” I’m sick of these “plant-based” ranch dressings. Give me a “based-plant” ranch. Blackpill all the veggies and then put them in the bottle. I want my eyes to glow when I drink it.
13. Kraft Classic Ranch (Sample 10)
Price: $2.12 at Walmart.
This one is a very uniform white and on the lower end of the herb particle spectrum. The texture seems right, not too loose, but not too gloopy. On the nose, it leans creamy/eggy, maybe not vinegary enough. On the palate, it’s the same. Too creamy/eggy with not enough vinegar or onion flavor to cut all the dairy.
It tastes “fake” in some ineffable way.
A lot of people supposedly love Kraft products. I couldn’t tell you any of them that I enjoy regularly, but one probably exists. The product page on Walmart raves that this “goes great on salads!” which is a bold claim to make about a salad dressing.
12. Chosen Foods Ranch (Sample 3)
Price: $10.99 on the website.
This one is looser, probably the right amount of loose. It’s off-white in color with larger herb flecks. The nose is… eggy? Is that what that is? On the palate, this one is sharp and vinegary, but maybe lacking in body. I don’t get “ranch” with this one, it tastes more like a vinaigrette. It’s fine.
I guess the angle with this one is that it has avocado oil. I don’t really understand the “seed oil” panic, but avocado oil seems perfectly cromulent to me (I cook with it). It also seems to be dairy free, though the packaging doesn’t announce that anywhere. Maybe the selling point is modesty! I dunno, it was fine, but you kind of need some dairy to taste the way a “ranch dressing” does. This is kind of a different thing, and that’s fine.
11. Hidden Valley Plant-Powered Ranch (Sample 15)
Price: $3.68 at Walmart.
This one is white and very uniform, it sits in a nice smooth pool. On the nose, I get mostly… buttermilk? This one is very rich and creamy on the palate, and the mouthfeel is nice but it could probably use some more vinegar/veg notes to it.
This non-dairy offshoot of the OG ranch, made with “soybean protein isolate” clearly did a good enough job tricking me into believing it had dairy. Just not a good enough job to get it inside the top 10. Still, my top-rated vegan option.
10. Bob’s Famous Ranch Country (Sample 5)
Price: $5.13 at Walmart.
This one is very white with some herb flecks, and one of the gloopier ones. Rating it just on looks, the color is nice but probably a little too thick. It looks a little like French onion dip. On the nose, I get a nice mild oniony-ness, and the cream and vinegar seem balanced. On the palate, it’s oddly a little thin for how gloopy it is and tastes overly milky. It kind of tastes like yogurt. The spice/zest balance is a little muted. It tastes like cream and dry spices with not enough acid.
Pinkies up, everyone, this ranch comes from the refrigerator section. Ooh la la!
I haven’t been to a Bob’s Big Boy since the 80s but the large son lives on in this sour cream-based ranch dressing. I did wonder going into this how much better the refrigerated ranches would do against the shelf-stable ones. The answer seems to be… slightly better, but not much?
This one was fine, just a touch muted on the spice/vinegar end for my tastes. It’d go great as a chip dipper.
9. Ken’s Steakhouse Ranch (Sample 4)
Price: $3.29 at Target.
This is very white and uniform and has a nice amount of body without being gloopy. I get cream and vinegar on the nose. This one tastes the most like ranch so far. There’s a nice body to it that coats, but isn’t cloyingly creamy, and there’s a vinegar and herb bite to it that doesn’t taste like a vinaigrette. There’s a weird aftertaste though, like something artificial.
This one had me at first, but the more I ate of it the weirder it tasted. It tastes good until the very end when a weird aftertaste comes on.
8. Full Circle Market Organic Ranch (Sample 23)
Price: $3.29 from Weis Markets.
This is another looser, white one, like restaurant ranch or Carl’s Jr. buttermilk dip. On the nose I get a nice mix of vinegar/onion. On the palate, the vinegar twang is nice, but it’s a little thin and a lot sugary. I don’t mind the loose texture so much as the sugary taste. Don’t love it, don’t hate it.
Nothing especially weird or offputting about this one, but it’s definitely for people who like sweeter dressings.
7. Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch Yogurt Dressing And Dip (Sample 6)
Price: $4.16 on Walmart.
This one is white and towards the looser end of the spectrum, with medium flakeage. The nose has a nice vinegar/pepper kick to it. On the palate, this one is kind of a dill bomb. It’s off-putting at first but when I go back to it I start to get used to it more and even enjoy it. I like the cream/vinegar balance and it coats about right but there’s a lot of dill.
The website’s description of this one says “we took the Ranch you love, and added more garlic, dill, and buttermilk,” and that sounds about right. This one was definitely an outlier, which may have cost it some points, but the more I tried the more I enjoyed that extra dill flavor (shut up, dude).
6. Drew’s Organics Creamy Ranch (Sample 11)
Price: $2.99 from FoodsCo.
Not the whitest white, and a little looser. The texture looks about right. This smells… is that cucumber? There’s a vegetal quality to the nose that feels a little off. On the tongue, it’s a little thin, not creamy enough, and doesn’t quite coat, but the spice balance and vinegar feel about right. This seems right but a little watered down.
This one calls itself “creamy” but it’s one of the less creamy options. Curious, that! It’s pretty okay.
5. Tessamae’s Pantry: Classic Ranch (Sample 21)
Price: $5.54 at Walmart.
This one is all green and herby, with a looser, more vinaigrette consistency. On the nose, I get lots of dill. On the palate, more of the same, lots of dill and a nice vinegar twang. This doesn’t scream “ranch” to me but it’s surprisingly pretty good. It tastes like real herbs.
There’s nothing “classic” about this dairy-free ranch, but it is pretty good. Pretty impressive for a non-dairy option to sneak into the top five, honestly.
It doesn’t really read ranch to me, but I would still eat it.
4. Marie’s Creamy Ranch (Sample 22)
Price: $3.81 from HEB.
This one is white and probably the second gloopiest, a little thicker than I’d like. The herb specks are large and numerous. On the nose I get dill and I think vinegar. On the palate, more dill, plus a super creamy mouthfeel. I think this is good as a chip dip (like it’d go great on a Ruffle) but a little too thick for what I think of as ranch. It doesn’t have enough of a zest or an aromatic bite, though it doesn’t taste like fake stuff either.
This one was another refrigerated option. It wasn’t my favorite ranch or even my favorite refrigerated ranch, but I think this would be my top choice if I was buying a ranch to dip chips into. It’s a little thicccc for a dressing but great with chips.
3. Litehouse Homestyle Ranch (Sample 19)
Price: $5.18 from Walmart.
This one is very white and loose, though it looks more like real cream than the stabilizer/homogenized ones. Not a ton on the nose, but nothing too unnatural in it. I think this is about the ideal texture — nice creamy mouthfeel, but not too gloopy with nothing artificial and little onion/herb bits in there. It’s well-seasoned.
This is pretty good, but flavorwise I think it’s missing a slight bit of tang.
This refrigerator-section ranch was my top refrigerator ranch and my wife(*Borat voice*)’s favorite. I noticed the fresh herbs, but it never occurred to me that this was fat-free, or that it has twice the sugar (four grams) of some of the others that tasted like sugar bombs. The actual dairy products probably have something to do with that.
Anyway, pretty good, only the relative lack of bite kept it out of the top slot.
2. Olive Garden Parmesan Ranch (Sample 18)
Price: $4.18 from Walmart.
This is whiter and thicker, more like cream thick than yogurt thick. Nose on this is weirdly nonexistent. It also spreads weirdly. On the palate it tastes… pretty close to the way I imagine ranch to taste, actually. The vinegar/creaminess balance is right on, with a slightly vegetal taste to it.
Olive Garden?! I didn’t expect a shelf-stable Olive Garden product to be my second-favorite ranch, but it’s also the only option with Parmesan cheese, which is both a classic flavor enhancer and my own go-to. (I put it on my popcorn, by far the best popcorn topping).
1. Hidden Valley Ranch (Sample 20)
Price: $3.79 at Target (16 ounces).
This is very homogenous and white-looking, lots of body. Texture is almost blue cheese thick. Nose is heavy on buttermilk. From my notes: “This is pretty good but definitely leans buttermilky. Like this is a good buffalo wing ranch (though I’d always opt for blue cheese).”
It doesn’t have any artificial-tasting flavors in it. Something about it just feels right, I keep going back to it.
This would’ve been the expected result going in, being both the original ranch and the ranch I had in my fridge as a kid. But you usually don’t get the “expected” result in a blind tasting, and I didn’t think “this is definitely Hidden Valley” upon first taste. I kept going back to my top five to test them against each other, and this one sort of just stood out as having the ideal balance of dairy and spice. It’s hard to put your finger on why, it doesn’t have more fat or sugar than any of the others, and none of the ingredients are outliers. Sense memory, maybe.
*While the accepted definition of “millennial” keeps creeping, it is my firm contention that anyone old enough to have learned to masturbate using analog sources (as opposed to high-speed internet) is too old to be a millennial. This describes people my age, who I call Gen Y. We’re the generation after Gen X and before millennials. Thank you for your time, now if you’ll excuse me I have to do some stretching exercises for my back.