We Asked 3 Chefs to Name the Best Store-Bought Salad Dressing, and They All Said the Same Thing

published May 20, 2024
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Variety of salad dressings
Credit: Joe Lingeman

One of the first things I learned to make when I was a kid was salad dressing. I was a 10-year-old salad fanatic, and I loved shaking up my own Good Seasonings dressing in the special little carafe. I used my mom’s stash of tarragon vinegar to make it feel even fancier, and the love for homemade salad dressing has stayed with me ever since. 

So when I asked some of my chef friends to tell me about their favorite salad dressings, it was no surprise to hear that they almost unanimously prefer to make their own. But I pressed on: What’s your favorite store-bought dressing, I asked them. The result was another unanimous preference: Hidden Valley Ranch, in both the familiar squeeze bottle and the umami-rich seasoning packet.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

The Best Salad Dressing to Buy, According to Chefs

For Jessie Sheehan, ranch dressing cravings occur often, and when they do, the recipe developer, baker, and cookbook author grabs the green-lidded bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch. “I almost always purchase it rather than make it from scratch, because I adore Hidden Valley’s version and why fuss with fab?” Sheehan asks. “It is creamy, has a little spice from a generous amount of pepper, is herby in all best ways, and is tangy and acidic, to boot.”

Sheehan leans on the packets for seasoning recipes like her “firecrackers,” which you can find in her forthcoming book Salty, Cheesy, Herby, Crispy Snackable Bakes: 100 Easy-Peasy, Savory Recipes for 24/7 Deliciousness). She also appreciates the “nostalgic feels” the dressing brings up for her.

Buy: Hidden Valley Ranch Topping & Dressing, $3.49 for 24 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Keya Wingfield

Likewise, it’s the packet that appeals to Katsuya Fukushima, chef and co-owner of Daikaya Group in Washington, D.C. “I like the Hidden Valley Ranch powder for its versatility,” Fukushima says. The chef has used it to season yogurt espuma, salmon roe, and furikake, which he served with warm chips at Daikaya Izakaya. “People love ranch, and I use it to lure them in,” confides Fukushima. “Recently, I made a Hidden Valley Ranch furikake for a pizza topping at Tonari. It was like how New York pizza shops have granulated garlic in shakers.”

There’s a fine line between a dip and a dressing, and Big Dip Energy author, Alyse Whitney, knows her way around both. “Hidden Valley is the right amount of zesty, creamy, and herby, but not too thick or gloopy in texture,” says Whitney. “The bottle is best used as a dressing — HV also makes a dip, in the refrigerated section of the grocery store — but the dressing also works as a dip for veggies, chips, and chickie [sic] nuggets.”

Whitney is another lover of the packet and recommends buying it in bulk at Costco. If you’re not ready to commit to the bottle, give the seasoning packet a try. “The restaurant-style packet is the best version and uses buttermilk and mayonnaise for a wonderful texture and flavor one-two punch,” Whitney says.

Buy: Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning, $6.99 for 4 (1-ounce) packets at Amazon

Do you agree with these chefs? Tell us about it in the comments below.