Ranch dressing is, quite surprisingly, one of the most divisive foods in America. Some people can’t eat a slice of pizza without it; some shun those who do. Some swear by it as a wing sauce; some only use blue cheese. No matter your opinion on it, ranch has been the best-selling salad dressing in America since 1992, and we tried 10 of the country’s leading ranch brands in a blind taste test, and one came out on top.
Ranch dressing actually has a pretty interesting history. It was first whipped up by a plumbing contractor named Steve Henson in the early 1950s, and a few years later he and his wife, Gayle, opened a dude ranch near Santa Barbara, California, that you may have heard of: Hidden Valley Ranch. Guests were served the concoction, and it was such a big hit that the Hensons began selling it to take home, both as the dressing itself and as seasoning packets to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk. Eventually, the duo formed Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products Inc. and opened a factory. In 1972, they sold the company to Clorox, the current owner, for $8 million.
So what exactly is ranch dressing, anyway? Every brand has its own recipe, but it’s generally a mixture of mayonnaise (or yogurt), buttermilk, vinegar, herbs, and spices. A surprising number of brands use MSG in their ranch, so check the label if you’re concerned. Our panel of tasters tried each version (blind) on its own and with their choice of celery or baby carrots, and they judged each on texture, consistency, flavor balance, aroma, identifiable herbs and spices, and overall “ranch” flavor. To check out the ranking, click here.