I love ranch dressing — and I am not alone. Ranch is the most popular salad dressing in the United States year after year and has been since 1992. Though there are hordes of ranch-o-philes who subscribe to the creamy, tangy lifestyle, there are others with opinions that seem to stem from a place of simply wanting to be contrarian.
Let’s ignore the naysayers. I am here to advocate for you reaching the next level of your ranch fandom by making it from scratch (if you aren’t already doing so).
Introduced by Steve Henson around 1950, ranch started as a riff on a more classic buttermilk dressing with a mixture of dried herbs and spices that would become Henson’s signature recipe. He was working a construction job in Anchorage at the time, and fresh ingredients were not widely available. In 1954, Henson and his wife, Gayle, bought a ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif., and named it Hidden Valley. They hosted guests and ran a popular steakhouse, and they would send packets of the dry seasoning mix home with guests to add to buttermilk and mayonnaise as a souvenir. Soon, packing and shipping ranch seasoning packets became their family business. “The dressing pretty much took over the ranch,” Nolan Henson, their son, told the New York Times in 2018.
From there, ranch dressing swept the country to become the “American dressing” as it is known in Europe.
The shelf-stable version of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing introduced in 1983 is already delicious, so why go through the trouble of homemade when store-bought is fine? Because making your own ranch dressing with fresh herbs is a recipe that can’t be beat.
Fresh herbs offer a wonderful brightness that sets this ranch dressing apart from — and dare I say, above — the original. (Yes, you can make this recipe with dried herbs — using teaspoons instead of the tablespoons of fresh called for below — but at that point, you might as well just buy the seasoning packet or premixed bottle from the grocery store.)
The choice of which herbs to use seems to be a matter of personal preference. Some recipes call only for chives while others stick to dill. Ina Garten includes basil in the mix (which seems strange to me, but I won’t knock it till I try it) and more still might feature parsley and even thyme. I opted for equal parts chives, dill and parsley, but feel free to use whatever combination of soft herbs you wish.
The herbs are added to a creamy, tangy base of sour cream, mayonnaise and buttermilk. (Make it a dip by reducing the amount of buttermilk for a thicker consistency.) Garlic powder is used instead of raw for wonderful garlic flavor without the risk of it becoming overwhelming as it sits. Hot sauces adds a nice zip in this recipe, where others might call for mustard or Worcestershire sauce, and a splash of lemon juice perks everything up.
The remaining key ingredient for extra oomph and to truly set this recipe over the top: MSG. The science behind the anti-MSG campaign of the 1960s and ’70s was debunked years ago — a pinch or two of MSG is perfectly fine to include in your cooking. You could certainly leave it out, but the umami it lends here will make this ranch dressing one of the best you’ve ever tasted.
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Total time: 10 minutes
Makes: 12 servings (about 1 1/2 cups)
Ranch dressing is one of the most popular condiments in the country and there are numerous ways to make it. This version is a take on the classic, but with a slight twist. Tangy from buttermilk and sour cream and bursting with freshness thanks to a medley of herbs, this recipe also includes MSG for added oomph reminiscent of store-bought ranch dressing. Make it a dip by reducing the amount of buttermilk for a thicker consistency.
Storage Notes: The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- A few dashes Cajun pepper-style hot sauce, such as Tabasco brand
- Fine sea salt or table salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, chives, dill, parsley, lemon juice, MSG, black pepper, garlic powder and hot sauce until well combined.
- Taste, and season with salt as needed. Serve, or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
Nutrition per serving (2 tablespoons) | Calories: 93; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 16 mg; Sodium: 115 mg; Carbohydrates: 1 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 1 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Recipe from staff writer Aaron Hutcherson.