Ranch Dressing: The American Salad Dressing

Ranch dressing was invented in 1954 by a cowboy from Nebraska named Steve Henson. Henson worked in Alaska as a plumbing contractor for several years. One aspect of his job there involved cooking for coworkers. It was during that period that he began to develop his buttermilk-based salad dressing.

After Alaska, Henson had started a dude ranch in California with his wife Gayle at which he served his salad dressing. The dressing garnered fame among guests at the ranch and it was beloved by the Hensons’ friends and family as well. Eventually, it would become so popular that Henson was regularly shipping packets of the ranch dry mix all over the country.

Early on, the Henson’s sold their dressing as a powdered mix rather than as the prepared version that many are familiar with today.

Financial problems caused Henson to sell a portion of his land, and he began to focus on marketing his dressing. Henson trademarked the name Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, which has since expired. The Hidden Valley brand name — which Henson sold to Clorox in 1973 — is still owned by Clorox.

Ranch dressing would become an American staple in the early 1980s with the invention of a version that did not require refrigeration until opened.

The first bottled ranch dressing was produced in the 1980s under the Hidden Valley brand name. Since then, the dressing has become more than a salad dressing. For many people, it has grown into an all-purpose condiment.

Ranch dressing flavor profile

The original ingredients in ranch dressing were mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk. Each ingredient has a mildly acidic flavor profile, and that acidity is the main flavor note in ranch dressing. That tartness is backed up by a creamy richness, which is ranch dressing’s second main flavor characteristic.

After the creaminess, there are a few spices including monosodium glutamate along with garlic and onions. Together, these give a subtle savory complexity to the dressing.

Health benefits of ranch dressing

You won’t get much nutritional value from ranch dressing but it is made up of ingredients that contain small amounts of some major nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Ranch dressing doesn’t have much of any single vitamin but it does contain small amounts of vitamin A, various B vitamins, and may contain a trace of vitamin C. Some ranch dressings will contain vitamin K as well.
  • Minerals: Because of the dairy products it contains, ranch dressing is a source of some important minerals like calcium and potassium.

The nutrients from ranch dressing may be useful for treating or preventing health conditions like:

  • Weak bones: The calcium and vitamin K in ranch dressings can boost bone health.
  • Heart health: According to some researchers, the vitamin K in ranch dressing can improve heart health.

Health concerns

Ranch dressing’s creamy consistency comes from all the fat it contains. Ranch dressing contains a significant amount of fat per serving, which is something that you should keep in mind if you are trying to lose weight. Much of the fat is saturated, which means that it can contribute to heart disease.

Common uses

In addition to its use as a dressing for tossed salads, it is also used as a topping for buffalo wings and a table condiment for pizza. The dry seasoning mix is sometimes added to the breading for fried chicken or used as a dry rub for roasted and grilled meats.