Italian dressing and ranch are both familiar to most Americans. While they are both salad condiments, they are not usually interchangeable. If you have to choose between them, it is important to understand their qualities and how they compare. Let’s take a closer look at them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
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How does Italian dressing differ from ranch?
Italian dressing and ranch dressing have different ingredients. Like all vinaigrettes, Italian dressing consists mostly of oil and vinegar. Ranch dressing is a creamy dressing that gets its rich mouthfeel from ingredients like sour cream and mayonnaise.
The different ingredients mean that these dressings have different appearances. Italian dressing is usually translucent with a golden color from the extra virgin olive oil in the recipe. White wine vinegar can also contribute to the golden color. It is usually speckled from the dried herbs and garlic contained in the most common versions.
Ranch dressing is mainly cloudy and white or off-white. Some versions include chopped herbs, so those versions may be speckled with green.
Italian dressing has a significantly different flavor profile from that of ranch dressing. Italian dressing is light and herbal with umami from the garlic it contains. There should also be a significant amount of acidity from the vinegar along with a little richness from the olive oil.
Ranch dressing is all about the creaminess with a little tartness from the buttermilk, sour cream and mayonnaise used in most versions. Italian dressing is thin and runny while ranch is thick, resulting in a different mouthfeel.
Italian and ranch dressings have different nutritional profiles, which means that they will have different effects on health. It consists mostly of healthy ingredients like olive oil and herbs. It has a relatively low calorie count and no cholesterol.
In comparison, ranch dressing contains ingredients like sour cream and mayonnaise that are high in fat and cholesterol. The dairy products in ranch dressing also contain calcium and other nutrients that you won’t get from Italian dressing.
Can you use Italian dressing as a ranch substitute and vice versa?
Italian dressing won’t make a good substitute for ranch dressing if you want any of ranch’s characteristics. It lacks a thick and creamy consistency, which means that it won’t make a good dip. It will work if you want to replace ranch with something lighter and with fewer calories.
Similarly, ranch won’t make a good substitute for Italian if you need a light salad dressing. It will only work if you want to replace Italian dressing with something heartier and richer. Ranch dressing powder can be used in a marinade, but you will have to add oil, vinegar, or other liquids to make it a good replacement for Italian dressing.
When should you use Italian dressing, and when should you use ranch?
Use Italian dressing for Italian-style green salads. An Italian-style salad will have traditional Mediterranean ingredients like pepperoncini, olives, and radicchio as well as other more common salad vegetables like lettuce and cherry tomatoes. If you need a fast and simple marinade, you can use Italian dressing there as well. Its acidity, oil and seasonings make it perfect for giving tenderness and a light flavor to chicken or pork chops.
Use ranch when you want a creamy dressing for a heavier salad. Ranch dressing powder can be reconstituted to make ranch dressing by adding milk and mayonnaise, or you can use it as a dry rub or part of a marinade for meat or roasted vegetables.