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Food Facts and Opinions

A Brief History of Ranch Dressing

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Ranch dressing is American as it gets, so why not learn about its history? This Ranch Nation NY Times article is a good read.

Sometimes, but not often enough, I wake up, sip my coffee, and do a little morning reading. Occasionally the reading inspires me to do things. For some reason this morning, I felt it important to spread the word about this one. I did you the favor of turning an almost 2500-word article into less than 420. You’re welcome.

The Ranch Dressing Facts

  • Ranch was created by a plumber, Steve Henson and his wife, Gayle. In 1954, they purchased a ranch right above Santa Barbara, California and named it Hidden Valley Ranch. They opened a steakhouse there that became popular for its salad dressing.
  • The dressing became so popular that by the late 1950s, they began selling the dry ingredients in envelopes, so customers could make it at home. Boom! Ranch packets were born.
  • By the 1970s, it spread to the Midwest but, it didn’t go nationwide until Doritos introduced Cool Ranch Doritos in 1986.
  • The shelf-stable pre-made dressing didn’t hit shelves until 1983, but that’s not too important because we all know that stuff does NOT taste as good as the dry packet. In fact, some, myself included, might even think it tastes bad.
  • Ranch dressing made a Simpsons episode. This means everything.
  • Today, ranch is most popular in the mid-west. (I could have guessed that)
  • There is an Association of Dressing and Sauces. No kidding.
  • In a lot of European markets, ranch dressing is called “American dressing” and Cool Ranch is called “Cool American”.
  • The brand was sold to Clorox in 1972 for $8 million. In 2017 the brand made over $450 million.
  • The first restaurant to serve the dressing, outside of the ranch steakhouse, Cold Spring Tavern, opened in 1868 and is still open today.

Questions and Notes

The article states that ranch eventually pushed blue cheese out of the picture when it comes to wing dipping, but it is WRONG. As a purist, anyone who respects the chicken wing knows that blue cheese is and always will be the only dipping sauce for buffalo chicken wings.

I’m curious if MSG is an original ingredient or if it was added later on after being bought by the Clorox company. I don’t mind a little MSG as I don’t believe it is harmful and it makes things taste good. If you say it gives you a headache, you might be racist. Just sayin’.


Jillian believes her passion for cooking stems from the fact that she was born and raised in Southern California. The best climate conditions for growing the finest produce all year around and the diverse mix of cuisines have always been an inspiration to her. Her love and ability to make people happy by way of delicious food began at an early age and still grows today. She is the proud Chef and Owner of Jillian Fae Chef Services, a personal chef business specializing in private dinner parties, customized menus, and weekly meal preparation.

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