What Exactly Is in Ranch Dressing Mix?
Ranch’s full potential, unlocked.
Ranch dressing was invented by a Nebraska cowboy-turned-entrepreneur named Steve Henson. When he and his wife, Gayle, founded Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch just outside of Santa Barbara, they served Steve’s trademark buttermilk-and-herb dressing to their guests. Before long, customers began requesting the recipe and asking for jars of the tangy dressing to bring home with them. To satisfy demand, Henson started mailing packets of spices and dried herbs — his ranch mix — to devoted fans. Hidden Valley Ranch ultimately became a mail-order business, then was acquired, leading to the launch of bottled dressings in the 1980’s and later seasoning shakers.
Though many companies make ranch mix, the Hidden Valley Ranch name remains synonymous with ranch dressing, which probably explains why its Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix remains the number-one selling ranch mix. Clorox, which owns HVR, divulges only that the dry mix includes a blend of herbs, spices and buttermilk; all you need to add is milk and mayo to get a taste of the original ranch dressing. Based on some of the homemade ranch seasoning recipes (see below), it’s safe to say that the herbs likely include dried parsley, dill and chives. Other ingredients listed on the packet’s label include maltodextrin (a food additive that’s often used to extend shelf-life), salt, monosodium glutamate (aka MSG, which no doubt imparts a dose of umami) and dried onion and garlic. There are a few more ingredients on the label, though most mysteriously are “natural flavor” and “artificial flavor,” of which each packet contains less than one percent.
It’s safe to say that Americans can’t get enough of ranch. Besides using it to top salads, ranch has become the country’s favorite salad dressing, thanks in no small part to its usefulness as a dip, for just about everything from chicken wings to pizza crusts to veggies. Many home cooks have discovered powdered ranch mix’s potential as a ready-made seasoning for cooking, too, using it to add a zesty punch to dishes such as baked chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and meatloaf.
Here are some of our favorite recipes that prove that ranch dressing mix is no one-trick dip.
This quick and easy Cooking Channel recipe (pictured above) calls for cayenne to create a spicy take on classic ranch mix, made with dried herbs and buttermilk powder. Sprinkle it on roasted cauliflower, or on popcorn, for an inventive take on the theater snack.
This homemade ranch seasoning recipe calls for a flurry of chopped fresh parsley (and/or dill), chopped fresh chives, plus a duo of garlic and onion powders to approximate the savory, herbaceous bite of the powdered stuff. Half the mix seasons the flour mixture used to dredge zucchini rounds before baking, while the other half is whisked together with buttermilk, mayonnaise and vinegar to make a dip for the fries.
We imagine this fried chicken tastes like its already been dunked in a side of ranch, thanks to a double-layer of ranch-inspired seasonings. A medley of spices including fresh thyme, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne spruce up a buttermilk-and-mayo based marinade, while freshly chopped chives, thyme and paprika add an herbaceous pop to the breadcrumb-based dredge mixture.
Step aside, salsa. Ree’s taquitos call for a ranch-inspired sour cream dip using cilantro, dill, chile powder, garlic and a bit of hot sauce.
This hearty recipe calls for both powdered ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning mix, which lends a big pot of ground beef, beans, tomatoes and green chiles a nicely spiced, creamy bite. Sour cream is among the list of suggested garnishes, but we’d gild the lily with a dollop of ranch.