14 brands tried to find the tastiest one for veggies, pizza and much more
BY GRACE WONG
According to the Santa Barbara Independent, ranch dressing was created by Steve Henson, who worked as a plumbing contractor in Alaska in 1949 and fed it to his crew. After Henson retired, he and his wife, Gayle, settled at Hidden Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1956.
With outdoor activities and home-cooked meals, the ranch catered to tourists who quickly spread the word about the dressing served with their salads. By the early 1970s, the sauce was nationally coveted.
With a huge variety of brands, which one is best for your dipping and spreading? There’s only one way to find out — a blind tasting. We tried 14 brands of bottled, shelf-stable plain ranch dressings, avoiding ones found in the refrigerated section. Each dressing was placed in a bowl and served with carrot sticks for dipping. See the results below, listed from worst to best.
Walden Farms Calorie Free Ranch Dressing
“This tastes like straight up chemicals mixed with dirty water,” one taster wrote about Walden Farms, the last-place finisher.
The consistency was watery and thin, and the dressing smelled like paint or a public pool. Many complained of a dirty water or chemical flavor, but one optimistically said that it could be the kind of ranch used for bagged iceberg lettuce or a cheap banquet salad.
Annie’s Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
Participants were not kind to Annie’s dressing. “I literally gagged,” one wrote. Tasters hated the consistency, saying that it was too watery and looked “oddly gray, drab and sad.”
It smelled like feet or sweat and tasted like bad cheese with a powdery aftertaste, they said. “This is maybe the grossest one. I couldn’t taste it again,” one wrote.
Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Ranch
Made with avocado oil and eggs, Sir Kensington’s is gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and seasoned with mustard extract, black pepper, garlic and onion. It was the most expensive bottle of ranch included in this taste test. Nevertheless, tasters did not enjoy it.
Describing its flavor as like lemon Pledge or poppyseed dressing, tasters complained that this ranch was too salty, cloyingly sweet and acidic. “This is super gross,” one taster wrote.
O Organics Ranch Organic Dressing
While O Organics ranch dressing from Jewel-Osco evoked childhood memories for one taster, others complained that it tasted like spoiled dairy with an overpowering tartness.
Another complained that it smelled like fish or mayo, neither of which were what they wanted in a ranch dressing, and that it was too sweet.
Daiya Homestyle Ranch Dressing
Daiya’s ranch was dairy-, gluten-, soy- and egg-free. One taster said that despite being strangely sweet, the dressing had texture and flavor profiles one would expect from ranch dressing.
Another participant wrote that though the dressing looked cheap, it tasted better than expected. But many complained that it tasted chalky and smelled like cheese.
Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing
With a runny consistency and evident spices, Newman’s was super sweet and sour with a chemical note. Some said it tasted like a factory, and others complained it was too citrusy, almost like an AirHead candy.
Another taster said that it tasted like cheap pickles. $4.39, 16 ounces.
365 Organic Ranch Dressing
Tasters praised this 365 ranch from Whole Foods for its not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency and said it hit the tangy and sour notes that they looked for in a good ranch dressing. However,
multiple people said it tasted less like ranch and more like Caesar dressing, writing that the flavor was off and totally unbalanced.
Simply Balanced Organic Ranch Dressing
This ultra-thick, Target-brand dressing had a strong, garlicky scent and a super thick consistency. “This tastes like ranch I grew up eating,” one taster said, complimenting it for its vinegar profile and calling it the “ideal carrot dip.”
But other participants had issues with it tasting too much like mayo and not enough like ranch, saying that the flavor was too mellow.
Wish-Bone Ranch Dressing
This is the kind of ranch dressing that one taster would serve to vegetable-averse children to convince them that vegetables are good.
It could also be a good complement to cheese curds, but most tasters complained that WishBone was oddly sweet without any tang or herb flavors. Tasters said this was a lighter style and looked cheap on a table.
Trader Joe’s Organic Ranch Dressing
For people who want a dressing that is on the sweeter end and without that tangy zip, this is the one for you. Although it had an egg-forward flavor and a thinner consistency than others, tasters complained that it “lacked something to tie it together.”
Another went as far as to say “this is absolutely not ranch. I refuse to accept it.” A more optimistic taster said it had potential if served with fries.
Ken’s Steak House Ranch Dressing
“Unremarkable, but gets the job done without messing it up,” one commenter said. Ken’s Steak House also received compliments for its rich flavor, consistency and appearance.
Although one taster said she would dip her pizza in this ranch, another participant said it reminded him of the ranch from the salad bar in middle school. “It’s a little boring,” one said.
Tuscan Garden Ranch Dressing
The most common praise for this Aldi-brand ranch dressing was the consistency, which is thicker than most of its competitors. Participants said Tuscan Garden would be good on fries and wings and has a creamy flavor that reminded them of buttermilk. But some complained that it was too sweet, almost like ranch candy, and had a strange aftertaste.
Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing
Although Kraft Classic didn’t receive marks as high as the winner, tasters were pleased with its balanced flavor and called it “generic and inoffensive” with a great consistency and pleasant, egg-like aroma.
However, others said it tasted cheap, like a grocery store brand, and one taster complained that the consistency was too thick for a dressing.
Hidden Valley The Original Ranch
Hidden Valley’s The Original Ranch is proof that sometimes, the original really is the best. Tasters loved this one for its creamy texture, strong tang and peppery flavor.
One commenter said this would go perfectly with pizza, and another said that the more she tasted it, the more she grew to like it. Another participant accurately called it “classic,” and another said “it tastes like ranch and makes me happy.”