What to CookSalad Dressing

This One Ingredient Makes Ranch Dressing Waaay Better

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Ranch dressing grew up in California, just outside Santa Barbara, on a green, mountainous, sprawling—ahem—ranch named Hidden Valley. This was the 1950s. Nebraska-native Steve Henson and his wife Gayle had just bought the property. They wanted to live the cowboy life. But one thing led to another and they became food entrepreneurs.

For years the Hensons were dinner-party famous for their buttermilk dressing. Soon enough, they were actually famous for it. A couple decades after they moved to Hidden Valley, they sold their recipe to Clorox for $8 million.

Today, ranch is one of the most iconic salad dressings in the United States. Which means, inevitably, there are a million and one versions. But there are some usual suspects: buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs (especially dill, chives, and parsley), garlic, vinegar (often white distilled), and spices (from paprika and cayenne to black pepper and mustard). Sometimes sour cream joins in for extra tang and richness. Sometimes Worcestershire for umami oomph.

"I love you!" the Cobb salad says to the ranch dressing.
"I love you!" the Cobb salad says to the ranch dressing. Photo by Rocky Luten

This recipe uses something else.

Miso. This fermented soybean paste is a staple in Japanese cooking and is becoming more and more a regular in American cooking, too. It brings a salty funkiness that, like Worcestershire, you often can’t quiiite pinpoint, but would miss if it weren’t there.

I tried this recipe with two types of miso: 1) White. This mellower, sweeter variety has been fermented for a shorter period of time. 2) Red. This older variety has a bigger, bolder personality.

And, it goes without saying, the colors are different. The red miso turned the ranch dressing, well, red—sort of like a chipotle ranch. But it also distracted from the tangy-herbiness in a way I didn’t love. White miso added that something-something, but still let the ranch be ranch.

I love it for salad-tossing, veggie-dunking, even rice bowl–drizzling. But the whole point of ranch is you can put it on just about anything, right?

Miso Ranch Dressing

Miso Ranch Dressing

Emma Laperruque Emma Laperruque
Go To Recipe
Makes 1 1/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, or to taste
Go to Recipe
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This article was originally published in June 2018. We're running it again because ranch dressing never goes out of style. What do you put ranch on? Tell us your favorite way to use it in the comments!

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