Why is ranch dressing so good? A question that we could spend a lot of time debating, but let’s do that while eating a fantastic salad with ranch dressing, shall we? Creamy and cool, herby with a touch of garlic, tangy and rich. It’s one of the most popular salad dressings in the country for good reason. Fresh herbs and ingredients make homemade ranch so much better than the powdered stuff from a package.
It’s great on any kind of crunchy lettuce salad, and it’s also a terrific change of pace as a pasta salad dressing; try it on a BLT Pasta Salad. Then dollop it on chicken, and even on pizza (trust me, it’s weird, but it’s still delicious!). If you want to try more homemade creamy dressings, check out blue cheese dressing and this tangy buttermilk dressing.
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Homemade Ranch Dressing Is Better!
When they were young, two of my nieces would essentially only eat a vegetable if there was ranch dressing to dip it in, and I think they represent a significant portion of the kid population. There are decent bottled dressings out there, but nothing compares to the freshness of a homemade ranch dressing, and it’s quite easy to make. Plus, it will last for a week in the fridge, so salads a-plenty for everyone.
And, when we were shooting the ranch dressing for my first cookbook, The Mom 100 Cookbook, the head of the Saveur Test Kitchens (where we were shooting the book’s photography) insisted that this ranch dressing was the one item she wanted to take home from the shoot. I count that amongst my favorite small victories.
Homemade Ranch Dressing: A restaurant-quality homemade version of the classic salad dressing we all crave: fresh, creamy and tangy.Tweet This
- Mayonnaise – I use equal amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream for a perfect amount of creaminess.
- Sour cream – Gives this dressing its thick texture and creamy flavor.
- Buttermilk – The acidity of the buttermilk gives this creamy dressing a nice balance. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can quickly make your own with regular milk and a bit of vinegar or lemon juice! Or if you do have it, this is one of the best ways to use up leftover buttermilk.
- White wine vinegar – Makes the ranch slightly tangy.
- Parsley – Fresh parsley is essential here. The dried kind won’t give it that same herby freshness.
- Dill – Use half a teaspoon of dried dill, or 1 full teaspoon if you have fresh dill.
- Thyme – I like dried thyme here, and it saves you the hassle of getting those tiny leaves off the stem.
- Garlic – Either minced garlic or dried granulated garlic will work in this recipe.
- Sweet paprika – The main kinds of paprika are sweet, hot, and smoked. I find that the sweet paprika works best in ranch dressing because you want to get the paprika flavor without as much potency or spiciness.
- Dijon mustard – Adds a little kick of spicy flavor.
- Salt and pepper – To taste. I recommend tasting the salad after dressing it to adjust for salt and pepper.
- Ranch dip: If you want to make a thicker version, reduce the buttermilk to 2 to 3 tablespoons. Adjust so the dip is the thickness you like. It serves as a more substantial dip for crudités or chips.
- Lower-fat ranch dressing: Use low-fat mayo and substitute 1% Greek yogurt for the sour cream. Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and has less of a tart-tangy taste than regular yogurt. It gets its thick texture from being strained so that the whey is removed from the yogurt. In many cases, it can be used as a substitute for sour cream, cutting down on the fat and calories in a recipe. It is full of protein and available in fat-free, 1%, 2%, and whole versions. As with milk, the more fat, the creamier the texture and the richer the flavor. Most Greek yogurt available here in the States is made with cow’s milk. The buttermilk available in most markets is, in fact, low-fat (different than the name suggests!).
How to Make Salad with Ranch Dressing
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Make the salad: To make a simple salad that is the perfect canvas to highlight the delicate yet creamy dressing, combine 6 cups washed and dried torn lettuce, such as romaine, butter or Bibb, and arugula (or mixed), 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced seedless cucumbers, thinly sliced red onions, and 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes or diced large tomatoes.
- Dress the salad: Add about ½ cup ranch dressing and toss well, adding more dressing as desired — don’t overdress your salad! Keep tossing until the dressing is evenly distributed amongst the salad ingredients before you decide to add more.
Let’s be real: Ranch is not the healthiest salad dressing out there. This is because it is mainly made up of mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk. However, though these ingredients are high in fats, they also have more protein content than a traditional vinaigrette. And you can use low-fat versions of the dairy products to cut back on fat and calories. And if ranch dressing is the only thing that can get you or your kids to eat their nutritional-rich veggies, that’s a good thing.
Ranch dressing is made up of a base of mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, and buttermilk. These ingredients give ranch its signature creamy texture and tangy taste. It is seasoned with herbs and spices, including parsley, dill, thyme, garlic, paprika, and mustard. The seasonings add freshness and lots of flavor to this creamy dressing.
Ranch dressing and ranch dip have the same ingredients in different proportions. Ranch dressing is thinner and pourable so that it can coat the vegetables in a salad, while ranch dip is thick and sturdy so it can be scooped up by a celery stick or chip. In order to turn any ranch dressing recipe into a ranch dip recipe, increase the amount of mayonnaise and sour cream relative to the amount of buttermilk.
What to Serve With Salad with Ranch Dressing
More Salads with Creamy Salad Dressings
- Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons
- Slivered Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Bacon
- Mixed Green Salad with Creamy Sesame Dressing
- Chopped Salad with Chicken and Blue Cheese Dressing
- Creamy Avocado Dressing
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Homemade Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried dill (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon finely minced garlic (or garlic powder)
- ⅛ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. You can also blend this up in a food processor or blender if you want a smoother dressing.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
- Place salad ingredients in a large serving bowl, drizzle over the desired amount of dressing toss and serve.
- Ranch dip: If you want to make a thicker version, which serves as a more substantial dip for crudités or chips, reduce the buttermilk to 2 to 3 tablespoons; adjust so the dip is the thickness you like.
- Lower-fat ranch dressing: Use low-fat mayo and substitute 1% Greek yogurt for the sour cream. Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and has less of a tart-tangy taste than regular yogurt. It gets its thick texture from being strained so that the whey is removed from the yogurt. In many cases, it can be used as a substitute for sour cream, cutting down on the fat and calories in a recipe. It is full of protein and available in fat-free, 1%, 2% and whole versions, and as with milk, the more fat, the creamier the texture and the richer the flavor. Most Greek yogurt available here in the States is made with cow’s milk.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.