We Tried 14 Bottles of Ranch Dressing — And No One Saw the Winner Coming

published Feb 25, 2024
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head on shot of an assortment of different ranch dressing bottles.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

The competition for America’s favorite condiment remains contentious. For a lot of people — say, roughly 145 million Americans (or nearly half of the country!) — store-bought ranch dressing is way up at the top of that list. A few of them even work at The Kitchn. “I think ranch is the ultimate condiment,” says Cullen, our home associate editor. “It’s my desert island sauce.” 

Credit: Mara Weinraub

For those days we’d just rather not whisk together a quick ranch dressing, but still want some of that creamy, tangy, herby stuff for our salads, homemade pizza, wings, a veggie spread, you name it, store-bought is fine! But which store-bought bottle should you reach for on your next grocery run? The shelves are practically overflowing with options in both the fridge and pantry sections, after all. 

Cullen and seven other absolute ranch stans were stoked to find the answer (although they were slightly less thrilled after discovering the sheer volume of entrants.) 

Quick Overview

The Best Ranch Dressings at-a-Glance

For the purposes of this taste we focused on classic ranch dressing across three categories — refrigerated, shelf-stable, and vegan — and skipped the specialty flavors or variations. We sourced mostly name-brand dressings and from select store brands that are widely available throughout the country. Each one was priced between $3 and $8 per bottle (the bottles did vary in size slightly). To round out the list of contenders, we looked at old taste tests, recent sales data, and new launches.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

After powering our way through a staggering 14 different ranch dressings, these are the bottles we’d recommend you *add to cart.* 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Best Refrigerated Ranch Dressing: Marzetti Classic Ranch Dressing 

The people at Marzetti are really onto something with this bottle. Out of the 14 ranch dressings we tasted, this one earned the highest score. (Five people also ranked it in their top three.) Tasters are drawn to the contrast between the “bright-white” dressing and the speckled spices and herbs. As Ola, our culinary assistant, says so brilliantly: “It’s giving ranch, baby!” 

Buttermilk is second on the list of overwhelmingly simple ingredients (sandwiched right between soybean oil and distilled vinegar and egg yolk), and the likely reason why Marzetti Classic Ranch Dressing has a richness others lack and a noticeably creamy texture. “The flavors blend together nicely,” adds Ola. Other dressings in the group taste either too sweet, too tangy, or decidedly not ranch. Samantha, our social media manager and self-proclaimed ranch-lover, goes so far as to say, “This is the perfect ranch taste.”

What’s So Great

  • “No notes, perfection!”
  • Nice, balanced flavor

Good to Know

  • N/A

Buy: Marzetti Classic Ranch Dressing, $4.59 for 13 ounces at Kroger

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Best Shelf-Stable Ranch Dressing: Kraft Classic Ranch Salad Dressing

In what many would deem a total upset, Kraft outperformed the OG ranch by one (!) point. On the whole, the shelf-stable ranch dressings are thicker and more “globby,” which is a very technical term from Brian, our director of people operations. Buttermilk appears a little later on Kraft’s list of ingredients, which also features more preservatives than its refrigerated friends (to protect freshness). 

Still, it’s rich and creamy with a bright tang and the most classic ranch flavor. Brian also raves about the “well-balanced” herby flavor, as does Katie, our director of recruiting, who is also a fan of its “nice garlic flavor.” Although some found the tang a little too tangy, calling it “acidic.” While it doesn’t quite hit “queen” status for Samantha, she calls it a “good solid ranch,” which is still high praise. Two people even ranked Kraft Classic Ranch Salad Dressing as their overall fave. 

What’s So Great

  • “Creamy texture”
  • Pairs well with lots of foods

Good to Know

  • For some, a bit too much tang

Buy: Kraft Classic Ranch Salad Dressing, $2.48 for 16 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Runner-Up: Hidden Valley Ranch Topping & Dressing

As we mentioned, the competition in this category was tight. Like Kraft, two people ranked Hidden Valley Ranch Topping & Dressing as their number-one pick. Quinn, our lifestyle editor, even called it out by name, writing “Hidden Valley Vibes!” on her score sheet. 

Many other tasters note the “quintessential ranch smell” and classic flavor, which is buttermilk-forward with lots of (pleasant) tang. Although some did find the “vinegary bite” a little overwhelming. It’s also super creamy. So creamy, in fact, Ola recommends using this in an equally iconic Cobb salad recipe.

What’s So Great

  • “Herby, garlicky, creamy”
  • Classic ranch flavor

Good to Know

  • For some, a bit too vinegary
  • More dressing, than dip, vibes

Buy: Hidden Valley Ranch Topping & Dressing, $4.39 for 16 ounces at Kroger

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Best Vegan Ranch Dressing: Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing

This category was undeniably NOT close. Follow Your Heart runs away with the trophy, besting the other contenders by double digits. We mixed the vegan ranches amongst the two other categories, and this one outperformed nearly all the fridge and pantry options. (In our experience, that is not always the case!)

Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing is made with Vegenaise, the brand’s egg-free mayo and a mix of apple cider vinegar, oils (olive, flaxseed, hemp seed), lemon juice, seasonings, and spices. It “smells really aromatic,” says Samantha and “the texture is quite nice,” adds Ola, although one found it a little gritty. While it’s not as thick as others in the taste test, it’s also “not too runny,” says Katie. Tasters like the balance between sweet and tangy, and a few even note a buttermilk-y flavor (although more herbs wouldn’t hurt). “It tastes like a more complex version of the standard stuff,” says Mara, our senior groceries editor

What’s So Great

  • It’s giving “buttermilk-forward” flavor
  • Fooled nearly all tasters

Good to Know

  • Not as thick as other dressings

Find it in stores: Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing, $4.99 for 12 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Mara Weinraub

How We Tested the Ranch Dressings 

We held a blind taste test with 14 different bottles of ranch dressing across three categories — refrigerated, shelf-stable, and vegan — and recruited eight absolute ranch stans who work at The Kitchn (so you know they’re qualified) to participate in an epic afternoon of tasting.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Each ranch dressing was poured into small white or gray ceramic bowls by Maya, our studio assistant, and placed in larger ceramic bowls filled with ice to preserve freshness and obscure the refrigerated dressings from the shelf-stable and vegan ones. Each one was also assigned a letter to conceal the brands’ identities. Tasters were instructed to sample the dressings in random order, to avoid giving any one dressing preferential placement over the others. We also had baby carrots and water on hand for palate cleansing.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Tasters rated each of the ranch dressings on a scale of one to five (1 = No, thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, Please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: Would you buy this ranch dressing?

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Why You Should Trust Us

This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day and tasters were instructed to sample the ranch dressing in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one bar an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a mix of food professionals and some very enthusiastic ranch dressing fans who work at The Kitchn. All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback. 

Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the ranch dressing across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized, did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.

Did your favorite ranch dressing make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.