Kitchn Love Letters

I Make Jar After Jar of This Homemade Ranch Dressing (No Other Recipe Tops It)

updated Mar 12, 2021
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ranch dressing sits in a glass jar on a table next to a plate of veggies
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

I’m a teacher in New York City, and last March, when our world was turned upside down and we began remote teaching, I realized what I missed most was lunch with my work friends. We are back in person now, mostly, but as with most schools, lunch is a quiet pre-packaged affair. So as I sit with my boxed salad, I remember back to the “before times” when we were able to slather our salads with the school’s delectable homemade ranch dressing. 

A long time ago, I tried to cajole the recipe out of our school chef, and all he would give up was “buttermilk.” Well, that sent me on a quest to find a recipe that best replicated the dressing that gave my coworkers and I so much comfort. After all, everyone wants a good ranch dressing: Like metallic or animal print, it pretty much goes with everything. 

In June, when my husband and I realized the playgrounds would be locked up and that our kids would have little space to roam, we fled the city for the summer. Upon arrival at my parents’ house in Ohio, my mother said, “I think I found a ranch recipe that is quite literally the best I’ve ever had.” My response? “Tell me more.” She said she found the recipe on a blog called Together as Family, which is written by a mom from Utah named Jessica. On her blog, Jessica says she feels passionate about her family eating dinner around the table together. Me too, Jessica! Me too.

Credit: Carmen Keels

Of course I tried the recipe right away, and my mom was right: It’s everything you would want in a ranch salad dressing and more. It’s also incredibly adaptable. Jessica uses dried herbs in her recipe, but over the summer I mostly made it with fresh, since I could walk out the back door of my parents’ house and pick everything from the yard. (My mom likes a pinch of fresh tarragon as a bonus in hers). I’ve also made it with my newest favorite find: freeze-dried herbs! Freeze-dried herbs are those little forgotten jars in the veggie aisle, and are a total life-saver when you want the feel of fresh. As for the dairy, I’ve made it with low-fat buttermilk, and it’s alright, but full-fat is better. Same goes for the mayo and sour cream: Fat is flavor, after all.

We made jar after jar last summer with fresh herbs from the garden. The kids ate their veggies with it, I made salads with it in between grad-school classes, and we smeared it on chicken sandwiches piled with pickles when we gathered for dinner together. I shared the recipe on Facebook, Instagram, and with my pals at work, telling them you must make this — it’s like the kind they serve at school, or your favorite New York diner. 

Credit: Carmen Keels

There’s one secret to the sauce, however, that’s particularly crucial, so don’t skip it: Worcestershire sauce. You know, that item everyone has in their cabinet and no one can pronounce. The one most people only use a shake or two of a few times a year. And if you don’t have any in your kitchen, run and get it now, and make this ranch dressing. It’s a total game-changer, adding that savory “zing” that will keep you coming back for more.

Big thanks to Jessica from Utah for putting this recipe out in the world. I hope we all can eventually get back to having happy lunch hours with coworkers and friends. 

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.