Ranch dressing

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Ranch Dressing
Ranch dressing.jpg
Homemade ranch dressing
Place of origin United States
Creator(s) Steve Henson
Year of invention early 1950s

Ranch dressing is a type of salad dressing made of some combination of buttermilk, salt, garlic, onion, herbs (commonly chives, parsley, and dill), and spices (commonly black pepper, paprika, and ground mustard seed), mixed into a sauce. Sour cream is also frequently used, and some home cooks may substitute yogurt for the sour cream to create a lower-fat version. Ranch dressing has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, when it overtook Italian dressing.[1] It is also popular as a dip.


Hidden Valley Ranch
Owner The Clorox Company
Country U.S.
Introduced 1954
Website hiddenvalley.com

In the early 1950s, Steve Henson invented what is now known as ranch dressing while working as a plumbing contractor for three years in the remote Alaskan bush. In 1954, with his wife Gayle, Henson used his savings to open Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch near Santa Barbara, California, where he served his invention to the ranch's guests. The Hensons soon realized their unique salad dressing was popular with guests as well as local consumers. They began selling packets and bottles that guests could take home. When demand outgrew their limited manufacturing capacity at the ranch, the Hensons incorporated Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc. and opened a factory to manufacture packets of ranch seasoning that had to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk (packets that are still available to this day). Soon they were shipping products to supermarkets throughout the Southwest, and not long after, the entire country. In October 1972, the Hidden Valley Ranch brand was bought by Clorox for $8 million.[1]

During the 1960s and 1970s, it was then unclear how to generically describe the new kind of dressing pioneered by Hidden Valley Ranch. Kraft Foods and General Foods responded to the new threat with dry seasoning packets labeled as "ranch style." This resulted in a trademark infringement lawsuit against both from the Waples-Platter Companies, the Texas-based manufacturer of Ranch Style Beans (now part of ConAgra Foods), even though Waples-Platter had declined to enter the salad dressing market itself out of fear that the tendency of such products to spoil rapidly would damage its brand. The case was tried before federal judge Eldon Brooks Mahon in Fort Worth, Texas in April 1976. On October 19, 1977, Judge Mahon ruled in favor of Waples-Platter in a lengthy opinion which described the various "ranch style" and "ranch" products then available, of which many had been created to compete against Hidden Valley Ranch.[2] Judge Mahon specifically noted that Hidden Valley Ranch and Waples-Platter had no dispute with each other (though he also noted that Hidden Valley Ranch was simultaneously suing General Foods in a separate federal case in California). The only issue before the Texas federal district court was that Waples-Platter was disputing the right of other manufacturers to compete against Hidden Valley Ranch by using the label "ranch style".

Meanwhile, Clorox reformulated the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing several times to try to make it more convenient for consumers. The first change was to include buttermilk flavoring in the seasoning so that at home one added milk rather than buttermilk.[1] In 1983, Clorox developed a more popular non-refrigerated bottled formulation. At the current time, Clorox subsidiary Hidden Valley Ranch Manufacturing LLC produces ranch packets and bottled dressings at two large factories, in Reno, Nevada and Wheeling, Illinois.[3]

During the 1980s, ranch became a common snack food flavor, starting with Cool Ranch Doritos in 1987, and Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lay's in 1994.[1]

During the 1990s Hidden Valley had three kid-oriented variations of ranch dressing, pizza, nacho cheese, and taco flavors.


Ranch dressing is common in the United States as a dip for vegetables such as broccoli and carrots, as well as for chips and "bar foods" such as french fries and chicken wings. It is also a common dipping sauce for fried foods such as fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, chicken fingers, and hushpuppies. In addition, ranch dressing is used on pizza, pickles, baked potatoes, wraps, tacos, pretzels, and hamburgers.

While popular in the United States and Canada, ranch dressing is virtually unknown in many parts of the world.[4][5][6]

Ranch dressing is produced by many manufacturers, including Hidden Valley, Ken's, Kraft, Marie's, Newman's Own, and Wish-Bone.[7]

Author C.L. Freie titled her 2008 humorous book about central U.S. culture I Love Ranch Dressing: And Other Stuff White Midwesterners Like.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Slate magazine Ranch Dressing. Why do Americans love it so much? - August 5, 2005
  2. ^ Waples-Platter Companies v. Gen. Foods Corp., 439 F.Supp. 551 (N.D. Tex. 1977).
  3. ^ Brown, Gerald, et al. "Optimizing Plant-Line Schedules and an Application at Hidden Valley Manufacturing Company," Interfaces 32, no. 3 (May–June 2002), 1-14.
  4. ^ de la Vina, Mark (28 June 1995). "Hold On To Your Tongue! 'Real World' Lashes Out". Daily News. Philadelphia. "... there is no ranch dressing ... in Britain." 
  5. ^ Supine, John (22 January 2010). "Germany doesn’t beat Champaign". Peoria Journal Star. Retrieved 24 June 2013. "... he misses ranch dressing [in Germany]." 
  6. ^ Layden, Tim (18 March 2010). "Saint Mary's shakes off pundits, travel to score first-round upset". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 24 June 2013. "They don't have ranch dressing in Australia." 
  7. ^ Calorie counter - ranch dressing
  8. ^ I Love Ranch Dressing website

External links[edit]