The origin of Ranch Dressing can be directly traced to the dressing that Steve and Gayle Henson served to customers at their dude ranch, Hidden Valley Ranch on San Marcos Pass in Santa Barbara. But that’s not to say that it was actually invented here in Santa Barbara. Apparently Steve Henson created the dressing while living in Alaska. It might have languished in obscurity, but instead he and his wife retired and bought a ranch in Santa Barbara. They started serving it to guests of their ranch and word spread. And spread. They sold the business in the 1970s and by the 1990s Ranch Dressing was the best-selling salad dressing in the United States.
What is the Essence of Ranch Dressing?
There is something about the tanginess of the buttermilk and the combination of herbs that makes Ranch Dressing the perfect condiment. Most people think of buying the seasoning packets or buying it in a jar. But a quick glance at the ingredients, and you might decide to make it yourself. Over the years, the commercial product has added artificial flavorings and various processed ingredients that are difficult to pronounce.
But you can make it yourself! The key ingredients are buttermilk and an assortment of herbs. You could make your own dried seasoning mix, but I rather like the idea of using all fresh ingredients. Fresh buttermilk, fresh herbs, shallots and garlic. It may not have the same consistency as the dressing made from dried seasonings, but I love the bright green flecks of chives, dill and parsley. And the flavor is superb.
Of course you can use it to dress a salad. But ranch lovers know that it is phenomenal drizzled on pizza, as a dip for French fries, or used as a sauce for roasted vegetables, grilled seafood—you name it.
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1 Pinch of paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the mayonnaise and buttermilk in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use as salad dressing or sauce. You can put into a glass jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, if it lasts that long.
Photo by Joshua Curry.