We Tried a Dozen Ranch Dressings to Find the Very Best

These five bottles show the range, complexity, and deliciousness of the all-American sauce.

6 min read

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One of my favorite cross-cultural culinary facts is that in much of Europe, the Cool Ranch flavor of Doritos is called Cool American. Ranch is, after all, the most American of dressings: the Fahrenheit of foods, the unofficial dip for those of us using our hands to play football and taking on student debt. Born in the Wild West and still not understood by the rest of the world, ranch dressing started out as an obscure salad dressing but shot to fame as a Swiss Army knife of easy-to-add-to-anything flavor and, essentially, eventually, a lifestyle choice.

Despite its long shelf life, the creamy, tangy, herb-flecked magical potion tastes fresh and like spring — or at least, it should. We put more than a dozen bottles to the test, and these are the ones we wanted to keep on hand.

The Tasters

I have been running taste tests for food magazines and websites for years, honing my tasting and sorting skills via sampling 75 kinds of hot sauce and 50 types of pasta. But I recruited some helpers for this one.

One of ranch’s most useful applications is in encouraging picky toddlers to eat their vegetables, a trick I’ve employed perhaps too well. My six- and eight-year-old daughters have been planning their future restaurant for three years, fully half the younger one’s life. It is called “The Uninvented” and its signature dish is “Retchup,” rice dressed in a mixture of ranch and ketchup. Needless to say, they have been training their whole lives for this moment. My husband joined in, too, citing his Midwest upbringing as his credentials.

The Methodology

Along with the dressings, I served a crudité platter of carrot sticks, cucumber coins, and red bell pepper strips. This not only worked best for tasting so many varieties, but it also made it easy to see which ones the kids really liked, as their sticks began double- and triple-dipping. (I also served rice.) Once we sorted the truly terrible from the top bottles, we tested each one again, assessing it for the essentials of a great ranch dressing: creaminess, herbiness, tang, and complexity. It quickly became clear that creaminess mattered more than anything: None of the less-creamy competitors made it past the first round.

The Results

Best Overall: Hidden Valley Ranch Original Salad Dressing


The OG remains undefeated. Hidden Valley Ranch created ranch dressing, and no other shelf-stable version came remotely close to unseating it from its throne as reigning champion. It's herby, it's creamy, it has a gentle but integral tang. It's thick enough for dipping and thin enough for dressing. It simply embodies the ideals of ranch.

Best for Dipping: Marie's Creamy Ranch Dressing + Dip


While no other shelf-stable ranch could touch Hidden Valley, the refrigerated section held a few versions that rivaled it, particularly Marie’s. There’s an unblemished creaminess to this dressing, thanks to the inclusion of perishable ingredients. Only on the refrigerated ranch dressings did the buttermilk come before the water in the ingredient list, and here it was the second ingredient. That allowed fresher-tasting herbs to shine through in a way that often got masked or dulled in other versions. While Marie's had the flavor nailed, it was so thick that it felt more like a dip than a dressing.

Herbiest: Kraft Ultimate Deluxe Ranch Dressing


For dill lovers, this bright version topped the list. As the name implies, this dressing dials up the flavor, pairing the big herb blast with a bracing bite of vinegary tang. “If you eat it with a cucumber, it’s kind of like a pickle,” the eight-year-old noted astutely (while declaring it her favorite). My husband took it a step further, saying it tasted like a whole deli sandwich.

Tangiest: Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch Yogurt Dressing


Bolthouse Farms takes advantage of its spot in the refrigerated section and relies on yogurt as its base ingredient. While it's definitely less traditional than buttermilk, yogurt creates a stronger tang without overpowering the herbs, making it the optimal choice for folks who like their dip to pack a punch.

Most Complex: Ken's Steak House Ranch Dressing


Ken’s managed to be complex and interesting without being overwhelmingly herby. This made it a favorite of my six-year-old, whose taste buds still lean more mac-and-cheese than dill-and-parsley. That makes this version an ideal crowd-pleaser for mixed-palate crowds — while other less-herby dressings went big on bland, this one still had enough subtle allium flavor to keep everyone interested.


  • Photography: Paul Quitoriano

  • Food Styling: Lena Abraham

  • Prop Styling: Gerri Williams

  • Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez