The ranch is a dipping sauce worthy of your wings, a dressing fit to drum your kale, a flavor so essential to American culture, it’s sometimes just referred to as “Cool American” overseas. Over the past half-century, the ranch has become a billion-dollar industry. It is the most popular salad dressing in the US and an endless fountain of increasingly absurd memes.
Ranch Dressing is one of the most famous types of salad dressing in the world. It is made of onion, garlic, buttermilk, salt, mustard, herbs such as dill, chives, parsley, and spices like a ground mustard seed, paprika, and black pepper. All of them are mixed into a sauce based on mayonnaise or other oil mixture.
Since 1992, ranch dressing has been one of the best-selling salad dressings in the United States. It is also the most popular dipping sauce and a flavoring for chips, chicken wings, pizza, and other foods. According to a study that was done in 2017, about forty percent of Americans named ranch dressing as their favorite dressing. In this article, we will know the history of how this famous dressing came to be.
A man named Steve Henson concocted what is now known as the ranch dressing in the early 1950s while he was working as a plumbing contractor in the Alaskan bush. In 1949, Steve Henson, a plumbing contractor from the small town of Thayer, Nebraska, moved to a remote region of Alaska with his wife, Gayle, for a new high-paying gig. To keep his crew happy, Steve occasionally cooked large family-style meals. While working with limited, mostly dried, non-perishable ingredients, he developed a new salad dressing mix featuring buttermilk, herbs like thyme, dill, and a ton of onion and garlic powder. This improvised Alaskan medley was the first iteration of ranch dressing.
We can’t say that Steve just got the idea out of thin, freezing Alaskan air. Cowboys in the American Southwest had been adding creamy buttermilk-based dressing to their meals since the mid-1930s, which clearly influences Henson’s creation. Four years later, he and his wife, Gayle, opened the Hidden Valley Ranch. It is a dude ranch located at the former Sweetwater ranch in Santa Barbara County, California. They started serving the ranch dressing to their customers, and it slowly became popular up to the point where they began selling it in packages for their customers to take home. They sold it both as a finished product and in packets of seasoning that are ready to mix with buttermilk or mayonnaise. As their ranch dressing became popular and the demand for it grew, Steve and his wife decided to open the Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc., they also opened a factory to produce the dressing in larger volumes. They first distributed their products to supermarkets in the Southwest, and eventually, they were distributing it all over the United States.
In 1972, Steve and Gayle sold the Hidden Valley Ranch brand to Clorox for eight million dollars. The Clorox Company began mass-producing bottles of Hidden Valley, lining supermarket shelves, Midwestern buffets, and the stomachs of millions of celery-dipping Americans. In 1986, Cool Ranch Doritos were released, and this acts as a gateway drug for the consumers. People start imagining ranch as a flavor and not just a salad dressing.
By the 1990s, big pizza chains like Dominos and Pizza Hut added Buffalo wings to their menu, complete with a side of ranch dip dressing. And soon, they realized what small pizza shops around the country have been noticing; people are dipping their pizza into the ranch now. Naturally, pizza purists are aghast at this apparent affront to the sanctity of time-honored pizza tradition.
As the ranch dressing took over every state, other food manufacturers such as General Foods and Kraft Foods made similar dry seasoning packets and called it “ranch style.” The two companies were sued because of Waples-Platter Companies’ trademark infringement.
Variations in Ranch Dressing
On the other hand, Clorox reformulated the Hidden Valley dressing several times to make it more convenient for their customers. They made changes such as including a buttermilk flavoring in the seasoning so that the consumers can use a much less expensive regular mix to use in the dressing. In addition, they also developed a non-refrigerated bottled formula. As the years passed, the ranch became a common snack food flavor.
By 2000, we were in the age of the internet, and ranch-loving kids became ranch-loving adults. We witnessed the carbonated horrors of a ranch-flavored soda, and the copious caloric ranch means start flowing harder than the ranch dressing fountain that Hidden Valley starts selling for a cool $250.
At this time, nearly every condiment brand tossed their cowboy hats into the ranch game, and Hidden Valley released over 70 ranch re-mixes. This includes cucumber ranch, bacon ranch, and even vegan ranch, which may sound like an oxymoron.
Fun Facts about the Ranch Dressing
Here are some fun tidbits about ranch dressing for you to ponder on the next time you cover your salad in a tasty white blanket while claiming that you’re on a diet.
1. A Dallas Pizzeria Once Charged 1,000 Dollars for a Side of Ranch
However, Jay Jerrier, the owner of Cane Rosso Deep Ellum Pizzeria, claimed that the price is all in good fun. He said that his friend in the Pizza Hut innovations department jokingly gifted him a bottle of creamy white ranch dressing on his pizzeria’s opening night. That’s why Jerrier mounted it on his restaurant’s wall along with the sign that says, “Side of Delicious Ranch Dressing for 1,000 Dollars”. The same bottle remained on the pizzeria’s shelf for five years until it was bought by a man named Josh Tipton. The money accumulated for the said dressing went to an animal rescue center.
2. There is Ranch-Flavored Soda
Lester’s Fixins Soda, the same guys who manufactured the peanut butter and jelly-flavored soda, outdone themselves and created a ranch-flavored soda. It tastes mostly like sugar soda, but it smells so repulsive.
3. The Ranch Dressing We Enjoy Today Bears A Little Resemblance to the Original Ranch Dressing
When the ranch dressing was created in the early 1950s, it only had a few basic ingredients such as mayonnaise, buttermilk, herbs, and spices. It is a wholesome and caloric recipe, but sadly it is also perishable. That’s why in the journey to make a shelf-stable alternative, Clorox created canola oil and soybean-based alternatives along with other ingredients such as disodium inosinate, calcium disodium EDTA, and of course,,, MSG.
4. A Restaurant in St. Louis Features a Ranch Flavor on Everything on their Menu
This restaurant is dedicated to ranch-based dishes. Twisted Ranch use ranch as a prominent ingredient in every dish on their menu, and to top it all off, they have a total of 23 house-made assortments of the ranch dressing. They even make a dessert with ranch.
While Katy Perry has a ranch on her rider and Saweetie went viral for putting a buttload of ranch on her spaghetti, comedian Eric Andre is the undisputed king of the creamy condiment, thanks in large part to his classic legalize Ranch skit and his short-lived ranch dispensary.
The condiment, sometimes called “hillbilly ketchup,” has made its way into fine dining. Much to the dismay of some writers, one of whom claims that ranch is what’s wrong with America, while NPR admits that America is floating in a pool of ranch, metaphorically, of course. Though that would be awesome. Whether you smother it on your salad, dip your tortilla or pizza into it, the ranch dressing is undeniably one of the greatest gifts mankind has ever received.