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Ranch Dressing, what is up with that?

At this point in our development as a civilization, ranch dressing has become one of the most popular condiments in the U.S.


I don't understand dipping french fries in it. Dipping pizza in it. Dipping hamburgers in it....all these things people do. I don't get it.

Anyone know the history of Ranch and how it came to be so popular?

Just curious.

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  1. Perhaps this slate.com article can shed some light on the issue, and offer you a few laughs at the same time.


    I definitely feel like Ranch is a West Coast thing, since it was born here and until recently the only people I knew who dipped everything in it were Californians.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      Definitely not a West Coast thing. I have one nephew who will only eat a carrot or a cucumber if it is dipped in ranch dressing. And another relative who dips fries, vegatables and chicken tenders in ranch dressing. On a recent vacation with extended family from Boston, Virginia and the Mid WEst, we prepared a crudite plate each night for the kids before dinner, and i'll bet we used gallons and gallons of the stuff. I presonally don'tunderstand it, as I don't really care for it- but it seems to be popular with the children.

      1. re: macca

        The original recipe was developed at the Hidden Valley Guest Ranch in California. The commercial product named after it was developed in the labs at Clorox, which is headquartered in Oakland, California, but I believe the brand was introduced nationally. Just plain "ranch" is now a generic name for any buttermilk dressing. Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker came up with a slightly different version of the story than that in the Slate article referenced above:

        "The couple who owned Hidden Valley Ranch, near Santa Barbara, had come up with a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, onion, garlic, and parsley flakes that was mixed with equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk to make what was, by all accounts, an extraordinary dressing. Clorox tried to bottle it, but found that the buttermilk could not coexist, over any period of time, with the mayonnaise. The way to fix the problem, and preserve the texture, was to make the combination more acidic. But when you increased the acidity you ruined the flavor. Clorox's food engineers worked on Hidden Valley Ranch dressing for close to a decade. They tried different kinds of processing and stability control and endless cycles of consumer testing before they gave up and simply came out with a high-acid Hidden Valley Ranch dressing — which promptly became a runaway best-seller. Why? Because consumers had never tasted real Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, and as a result had no way of knowing that what they were eating was inferior to the original. For those in the food business, the lesson was unforgettable: if something was new, it didn't have to be perfect."


        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          That's very telling. I hate all ranch dressings I recall having been exposed to except the one at CPK that they make. It is phenomenal.

          What claims to be the recipe is here:

      2. re: Pei

        I was just to about to say... what Ranch Dressing craze... in California I rarely see it on anything menus except as an option with Green Salads.

        Anyway... my guess is that it has to do with the American cooking paradox.... with everyday that passes more Americans are into Gourmet foods & cooking... but with everyday that passes Home Cooking... particularly from scratch... becomes a lost art in this country. (Generation Y'ers stastically can barely boil water). I guess Ranch Dressing is an easy way to change things up for people that don't know how to cook from scratch.

      3. There was a decent article in Slate called America's Love Affair With Ranch Dressing. It talks about the history of Ranch Dressing and how it has grown in popularity. It was invented at Hidden Valley Ranch.


        1. Just from a personal note, I really love ranch dressing with fries - not so much with pizza or burgers.

          It's a great comfort food, esp. when you have a hangover.

          I also like ranch dressing with the following:

          *McD Egg McMuffin
          *Hot dogs
          *Baked potato

          Curious, have you ever tried ranch dressing as a dipping sauce?

          I think the appeal is that it is sweet, salty and tangy all at once.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Salad yes
            Veggies yes
            Buffalo wings yes (I'm not a huge blue cheese fan)
            Chicken fingers ok
            Baked potato, it is ok
            Fries, not really but I can

            Not much else. However it is a great way to get kids to eat some items. It is a easy dressing for kids to eat, not very acidic and creamy and if it works to get kids to eat certain foods, why not.

          2. A local hamburger joint serves it with the spicy curly fries my son loves. It goes into the garbage. (Not that the fries are exactly healthy!)

            1. I used to despise the stuff and I really don't grok the mentality that's accepted it as a ubiquitous side(the taste is so idiosyncratic...comparatively...ketchup is a wallflower).

              So...I've learned to occasionally enjoy Ranch...but...urgh...I can't stand the move to replace bleu cheese dip with the concoction esp. as per Buffalo wings/strips...fie on you Ranch!

              1. It does seem to be an ubiquitous side for a lot of people with fries and pizza, especially in California. Maybe akin to the Euro fries with mayo habit? I've never hopped on that bandwagon myself, but it does make nibbling the pizza crust more tasty when you dip it.

                Maybe, more simply: "It's the saturated fat, stupid."

                4 Replies
                1. re: allegro805

                  I'm not sure to whom you are referring with, "it's the saturated fat stupid." However, the move to replace blue cheese dressing with Ranch is motivated by those poor souls with palates that simply cannot abide the blue cheese AND Ranch is much cheaper to prepare...not so much..."it's the saturated fat, stupid": if that were the case then mayo would be the dip du jour...sorry Belgians. Of course in downstate Illinois, at least...the preferred unguent is Miracle Whip...whatever that is.

                  1. re: aelph

                    Definitely wasn't calling anyone stupid -- I was just referring to that old political joke. And of course, you're right, if it were just the fat, mayo or butter would do the job much better.

                  2. re: allegro805

                    While it has a higher saturated fat profile than a vinaigrette, it often has a lower calorie count. If you make a vinaigrette in the European way, with more oil and less vinegar than many Americans tend to use, vinaigrettes are very high in calories. Why? Because oil is a pure fat, with 120 calories a tablespoon. Mayonnaise has somewhat less, because it is part oil and part egg. Heavy cream has half the caloric load per tablespoon of oil. Sour cream has less, and lowfat sour cream and buttermilk have far less. That's why creamy dressings often have 2/3 or less the calories of a vinaigrette. Moreover, because they coat greens better than a vinaigrette (and one is better able to tell how well coated they are), one often uses somewhat less.

                    1. re: allegro805

                      I love dipping my pizza crust in a glass of red wine, that's "tasty" to me!

                    2. Ranch Dressing = American Aioli

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ML8000


                        Ranch Dressing = California Catsup
                        (and I live in CA)

                        You can get a kid to eat just about anything if you add Ranch. Don't ask me why, but it works. Hence the reference to catsup.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Yes, I agree. In Europe and in the UK aioli is often served with french fries. I love it. And I love Paul Newman's Ranch Dressing which is hard to find here in the UK.

                        2. I am an anti-ranch dressing person. For some reason I cannot stand it... I am/was of the thought that it is mostly a west coast thing...

                          It was a big problem when I first moved to LA. Ranch with buffalo wings - eewwwwww! :-) As a matter of fact, ranch was ever-present in LA, served with everything and I just did not "get it". You learn to live with it, or without it, in my case.

                          Now that I am back and I have my SoCal husband with me, I notice it more in NYC. If he has a choice, he will order it and true to form, eat it on anything and everything.

                          To each his own :-)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Michele4466

                            Hot, fesh, Baguette, dipped in Garlic and Peppercorn Ranch! Yum!

                          2. when i was very young, i wouldn't eat salad unless it had ranch on it. now, i can't stand ANY dressing on my salads at all.

                            regardless, i still enjoy ranch with baby carrots and (here's a weird one) ruffles potato chips. ranch is also good with garlic fries, though only a tiny handful or it's just too much...

                            1. Hmm, I don't get how anyone eats buffalo wings and celery sticks without ranch dressing. :)

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: slacker

                                Buffalo wings and celery were MADE for blue cheese dressing :-)

                                But..it has to be good dressing, and please note: I would never eat blue cheese dressing on ANYTHING else!

                                Slacker, where are you from? East or west coast or in between?

                                1. re: Michele4466

                                  West Coast: L.A. I was sharing some buffalo wings with someone recently who did not make any use of the ranch, it rather shocked me.

                                  1. re: slacker

                                    I remember when I first moved to LA, I could not find a place that served blue cheese with wings and I was miserable :-)

                                    I just never ate ranch, or remember anyone I knew eating ranch in NYC growing up...

                                    Weird, maybe I just did not notice it...

                                    1. re: Michele4466

                                      I've lived in L.A. since I was very little, and I don't remember a time when there wasn't any ranch! Or maybe I just blocked that period out. lol!

                                  2. re: Michele4466

                                    THANK YOU!! I am not a big fan of the Ranch... but bring on the blue and I'll dip even Oreos in it...


                                    1. re: Dommy

                                      Ewwww! I live with you and I didn't know that awful fact. Those poor Oreos in stinky blue cheese. Blechk!

                                      - P.

                                      1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                        You kids really need to talk more!

                                        As for YOU, young man, I'd worry more about those boring Oreos messing up that voluptuous blue cheese...

                                        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                          Too funny!

                                          My husband and I have a similar problem! LOL As I mentioned in a previous thread, he is a SoCal guy and we are now back in NY after years in LA so...

                                          However, it is so cute now that I am pregnant (8 1/2 months). When he is asked what type of dressing he wants on his salad in restaurants, he looks at me sort of sheeishly and then says "thousand island" or "balsamic vinaigrette" to the server knowing that I would choose one of those. (I have tended toward my beloved thousand island or russian since pregnancy, why not splurge a bit.)
                                          I then confirm with the server which dressing I WANT! :-)

                                          Long Live Blue Cheese! (though I must mention, the pregnancy thing has kept me away)

                                          1. re: Michele4466

                                            I'm seriously curious: Why does he order the dressing that *you* would prefer? Does it skeeve you to even watch him eat Ranch on a salad so much that he won't even do it in your presence???!

                                            1. re: allegro805

                                              No, it is because I will probably want to eat half his salad. LOL

                                              When they serve a salad before an entree, if mine does not come with a salad, he does this becuase he is just not that into a plain green salad (he is waiting for his steak or ??). We generally share everything and usually have at least two things on a menu that we both want and it works out perfectly. It is just him being sweet. He doesn't care that much about the salad or the dressing on it and I love all salads.

                                              I am not skeeved by ranch, I just don't particularly care for it. I have recently made a salsa ranch, I know he likes it, and it was pretty good with crudite.

                                  3. In case you're a ranch dressing hater, please keep an open mind if you haven't tried some that is made completely from scratch with buttermilk or at least from the HVR spice packet. I'm much more picky about ranch dressing since I discovered that the bottled stuff is TERRIBLE, therefore I rarely have it in restaurants.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: DiveFan

                                      Denny's of all places has good Ranch dressing, but I think it comes out of a packet like the HVR one does.

                                      1. What's there to understand? Some people tried it and liked it, so they continued to eat it. Others saw that or heard about it and tried it. Word spread. People eat it.

                                        To me, there's never anything to understand or 'get' about why someone likes a certain combination of flavors. I couldn't imagine questioning or trying to stop people from eating ketchup on eggs, swiss cheese on a cheesesteak, or even mayo on pastrami (insert rude comments here from condiment police). As long as no one is making you eat it, let it go and have things your way.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: SuzyInChains

                                          This is how these posts usually end.

                                          The pizza drives me nuts. Just dip the crust in the excess cheese grease pool if you cant manage to eat it plain. lol

                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                            Oh no, pizza crust dipped in Ranch is GREAT!

                                            1. re: Prawn Cocktail

                                              I agree! In fact, whenever I make pizza, I make extra dough for breadsticks to dip in ranch dressing. (And sometimes, I don't even bother with the pizza! :-)

                                        2. I went to lunch at an assisted living facility. The lady I was dining with had ranch dressing on her red Jell-o. I asked one of the staff members and she said it was very, very common there.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Snackish

                                            You really go out of your way to exotic locales looking for new ChowHound culinary experiences, dontcha?

                                            1. re: allegro805

                                              Allegro- you just made m e laugh out loud!! Funny post

                                            2. I was first really exposed to people putting ranch dressing on everything when I went to college in Oklahoma. The folks I knew ate it on fried okra, chicken fried steak, etc, etc.

                                              myself, I like ranch on almost everything, burgers, fries, etc.

                                              1. Cusabi = Ranch dressing + cucumber dressing (or pureed and drained cucumber, or use cucumber juice to make the Ranch) + wasabi.

                                                Makes the most amazing dip for breaded chicken tenders, or any breaded and deep fried chicken product. Also works great on sandwiches, especially roast beef sandwiches

                                                1. I'm glad I got all this response.

                                                  Honestly I was just curious where it all came from, this whole ranch thing.

                                                  1. Bittman's Minimalist column in Yesterday's NYTimes has a recipe for Ranch. Perhaps the power of Bittman will change your mind? I might try it this weekend.

                                                    1. Did you ever notice how chain restaurants serve everything with dipping sauces... usually a version of ranch dressing. Outback, Applebees, TGIF, Chili's, all of them. I came to the conclusion that every dish comes with some sort of dipping sauce because they are trying to cover the bland, tasteless, frozen entrees they serve. Also kids seem to love dipping sauces because it's like playing with their food. What do you think?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: suannes

                                                        Dim sum restaurants serve everything with dipping sauce too, you know. Maybe it's because they like seeing gwailo lose the jiaozi in the sauce and splash it all over themselves?


                                                        As for the ranch phenomenon, it is DEFINITELY more common in LA than almost anywhere else. I do like it with fries, though after a few of them I get this kind of over-rich, over-fatted sensation and go back to dipping them in mustard.

                                                        Homemade ranch doesn't taste anything like the stuff out of the bottle, which is unnaturally thick and gooey, and I like it better. The packets are also fine.

                                                      2. I never liked the bottled stuff but I used to make dip for potato chips by adding one of those Hidden Valley Ranch powder packets to reduced-fat sour cream. It was a real hit at parties.

                                                        One time I served it to Italians and they couldn't get enough of it and then I blew their minds with rice krispie treats, they were like "WHAT is this delicious square?!"

                                                        1. I also think it has to do with how godawful 90% of the pizza in this country is!!! :-) No one would ever dunk a slice of DiFara's or Totonno's is ranch dressing!

                                                          1. This is a great topic. I have noticed that it is a huge trend with Echo Boomers.

                                                            Their parents have a hard time grasping the concept, but after trying Ranch on a few different foods, it becomes addicting to them as well.

                                                            Does anyone know of any good articles or statistics regarding the increase in sales of Ranch over the last few years. I am looking to do a report on this Echo Boomer craze and am looking for some assistance finding some sources.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: cartoonsrcool

                                                              My son and daughter went to college in Western Pennsylvania. Ranch dressing is a staple there -- goes on everything. Pizza delivery comes with plastic containers of the stuff. You eat your fries with it. They put it on your table when you go out to eat for breakfast. Frankly, I think they put on their youngun's butts instead of diaper cream. I would not be surprised to find a beauty cream made with a ranch dressing base in the local Wal-Mart.

                                                            2. It's the buttermilk! Magic, that stuff.

                                                              I use it on very few things, but it certainly has its place...

                                                              1. i will occasionally get a salad at my work cafe and add chicken fingers and as a dressing i will mix ranch with hot sauce.
                                                                it does make a very decent dip howeve once you notice the fat content it becomes easier to not want to eat it!
                                                                my younger cousin puts it on everything and i mean everything! - the weirdest i think is on ramen (dry version not soup).

                                                                1. It's most definitely one of my top condiments of choice. I'm from Texas, where it's very common to see Ranch used for pizza dipping, etc. During my summer internship in NYC (almost 10 yrs ago), I could not find Ranch on a menu anywhere. Most of the folks I encountered had no clue what Ranch was. Now days, Ranch has definitely made its way across the US.

                                                                  I use it in the following ways:
                                                                  Dipping pizza in it
                                                                  Using it instead of milk to make scrambled eggs
                                                                  Topping burgers
                                                                  Blended in to hamburger meat prior to forming patties
                                                                  Mashed potatoes
                                                                  Mixed with ketchup to dip my fries/onion rings in
                                                                  Component of the "wet" ingredients to make fried chicken


                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                    I like to dip my pizza in red wine!

                                                                  2. My daughter does a hot dip that draws raves every thime she makes it. It's more of a method than a recipe:

                                                                    Poached/boiled white meat chicken, ground up in food processor. She used to just shred it, but now she prefers to process it.
                                                                    Large bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce
                                                                    Large bottle of Ranch dressing
                                                                    chopped up celery
                                                                    grated sharp cheese.

                                                                    Combine 1st 3 ingredients & put in a baking dish. Sprinkle with celery. Top with cheese. Bake. Serve with sturdy corn chips and lots of beer.

                                                                    1. I don't really care much for blatant eggs, and for me, ranch dressing subbed in for mayo make a far better tuna salad or tuna melt than mayo does.

                                                                      1. Ranch works with fish tacos as well.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: cathodetube

                                                                          AIEEEEEEEEE BLASPHEMY

                                                                          Fish tacos require crema mexicana (Mexican sour cream) and lime juice -- not a buttermilk-and-sugar ranch. In my very humble opinion (cough).

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                            C'mon, UG, anything goes with anything if that's what you like. I'm frankly disgusted by Mrs. O's fondness for ketchup, but I restrain myself from expressing it, as she is outwardly tolerant of my habit of dipping my fries into tartar sauce (or mayo, or Arby's Horsey Sauce) instead. I do agree that crema and lime is the best possible thing for fish tacos, but that's not a concern for authenticity, it's just my mouth talkin'.

                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                              I've had ranch on fish sticks before and it's just... it's just a flavour combination that I find repulsive. But if others like it, well, chacun a son gout... I just would have a hard time eating it and would trash any fish taqueria on Chowhound that dared try it.

                                                                            2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                              I have to vehemently agree with Das Ubergeek here. Ranch dressing on alleged "fish tacos" is a hideous abomination, for which there should be some penalty. It's worse than Steak 'n Shake serving Fritos on a taco salad. (But that is easily avoided by never, ever ordering taco salad. One does not have the option of never ordering fish tacos as often as possible wherever one happens to be, however.)

                                                                          2. Mmmmm....Ranch dressing. I grew up in Southern California, and I think it was about 9th or 10th grade when we started dipping our fries in it...then the pizza..then the chicken fingers, and fried zucchini, etc etc etc. Now I am a bit more picky. I still go for the chicken strips and the zucchini and onion rings, but mayo has trumped ranch for my fries. And I would never dip my "real" pizza in it, that's reserved for Pizza Hut. Strangly, I don't really like it on my salads, unless it's iceburg, cheddar and bacon bits.

                                                                            1. So now I went to a Swiss restaurant which served what it called house or Swiss ranch dressing, and it was gorgeous. What is a likely replica or real name? It seemed dairy based, maybe buttermilk, and was not acidic. I could imagine it had egg yolk. I could see fine brown mustard grains but couldn't detect herbs. They might've been there but couldn't tell. This dressing had a very mellow taste and was served with red lettuce.

                                                                              1. I had forgotten that thanks to HVR, ranch dressing had originated in CA. I'm a native midwesterner and so was appalled when I moved to TX found everything here deep fried and dipped in ranch dressing. Some restaurants here even offer multiple flavors of ranch dressing on their menus. Pity poor souls like me who want to go to a restaurant here and order red "French" dressing like I grew up with. I can barely find it in the grocery store, but there's no problem finding every flavor of ranch imaginable.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: cycloneillini

                                                                                  Ranch dressing with chipotle is actually quite good. Better still is ranch dressing with cucmber and wasabi

                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                    I just bought a jar of Marie's ranch dressing with chpotle. Can't wait wo try it!

                                                                                2. I think commercial or bottled ranch dressings are disgusting. They are way too sour and seem more like a vehicle for fat and sugar than anything I would enjoy to eat. Some of the food service ones seem a little less awful than the bottled grocery store variety but are still nothing I would want to eat.

                                                                                  The first time I encountered ranch served at a restaurant was at Carl's Jr. in CA, they serve ranch dressing dip with fried zucchini. I now live in the Midwest and they seem to serve it with everything but as a mostly low brow lower class thing. It is today's "smother everything in ketchup".

                                                                                  Actual ranch dressing made from scratch or with the seasoning packet isn't horrible and it tastes totally different that the swill in a bottle. I can deal with the from scratch type but it still isn't my go-to dressing.

                                                                                  1. I do love ranch dressing, but only on greens. I think some people like the way it works with other foods while some people simply need a way to make the ranch dressing chewable.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: mimolette

                                                                                      Ranch Dressing is so popular in the U.S. because it's the simple fact that anything CREAMY, SALTY AND SWEET WITH SOME SPICE is what the American taste buds are addicted to PLUS it masks any natural element put in the mouth. Ketchup is not as bad because it is a SWEET/SOUR condiment that really enhances certain things...although still overused at times. I hate the thought of Ranch. There is nothing worse than a commercially stabilized ranch dressing...PUKE!!

                                                                                      1. re: napolean

                                                                                        Ketchup is worse. You can eat it with french fries only!

                                                                                        Think of the mainstream alternatives: thousand island, italian, french, caesar. Most salad dressings are disgusting. It's it really a mystery why ranch came out ahead?

                                                                                        I always get vinegarette. But I think homemade ranch (the runny kind) is great with carrot/celery sticks.

                                                                                    2. I hate it, along with every other store-bought salad dressing. But I like to dunk french fries in mayo (childhood habit picked up in Belgium), and sometimes ranch dressing is the available facsimile. On second thought, I do like one commercial dressing on salads: Cardini's cesar dressing. It's not at all like what you'd really put on a cesar salad, but it's a nice dressing, I think. Cardini's cesar dressing is sort of like ranch with parmesan, garlic and a touch of anchovy.