My parents are fond of telling me that they remember a time before ranch dressing. While ranch was invented in the early 1950s, it wasn’t popularized until the mid-1980’s. Ranch dressing used to be a much more involved affair, requiring you to mix a packet of spices and flavorings with your own mayonnaise and milk. Nowadays, of course, you can get it by the bottle in your local market.
This is pretty convenient, but I’ve noticed that the quality of that bottled ranch tends to vary quite a bit. The things I buy at the grocery store don’t hold a candle to the ranch dressings that I can get at my favorite wing joint.
This holds true for flavored ranch as well. Just because the ranch I buy at the local market is orange colored doesn’t mean that it’ll hold a candle to the incredible southwestern ranch served at Buffalo Wild Wings.
When I want to enjoy some southwest ranch at home, I use the recipe below. With a bit of adjustment, you can get it very close to the flavors you’ll find in Buffalo Wild Wings ranch.
But don’t stop there!
You can customize this sauce to give you the flavors YOU enjoy, and not the flavors you’d find in a restaurant.
Incredible Homemade Southwest Ranch
1 cup mayonnaise (the real stuff. Low-fat will NOT work)
1/3 cup sour cream (full fat)
1/3 cup buttermilk
up to 1 cup seeded, diced peppers (see notes)
1/3 cup cilantro, lightly chopped (you’re blending this in a second)
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 packet of ranch dressing mix (see notes)
Blend ingredients until smooth. Chill for several hours before serving.
While this recipe seems simple, there’s a lot of room for customization.
First, the seasoning. Ranch dressing mix packets haven’t fully died out, and they cut a lot of the hassle out of making your own ranch. If you’d like to use your own spices, that’s fine. I’ve got a rough guide below to how to make your own ranch dressing mix without needing to buy a paper packet each time.
Second, there are a LOT of things you can do with the peppers. I’m a fan of using a mix of toasted jalapenos, habaneros, and Anaheim chiles. If I’m careful to seed all of my peppers completely and I use mostly Anaheim chiles, the ranch comes out pretty spicy but not too overpowering. If I use mostly habaneros and let a couple of seeds through on purpose, I’ll get a sauce that’s crazy high on the spice-o-meter.
Feel free to use whatever peppers are handy in your area and adjust the recipe to your own taste. As a rule, more seeds = more spicy. Buffalo Wild Wing’s ranch is pretty spicy, so if you’re looking to emulate that you might want to start with well-seeded jalapenos and go from there.
I mentioned this in the ingredients section, but low-fat mayo or sour cream will NOT give you the taste or texture that you’re looking for. Ideally, you’d actually make your mayo yourself, but if you’re not willing to break a few eggs, look for real, full-fat mayo at the store. Same thing with the sour cream. You want plenty of decadent flavors in your final product.
Ranch Mix Spice Packet
2 units dried parsley
2 units dried dill
2 units salt
1 unit sugar
1 unit cumin
1 unit garlic powder
1 unit black pepper
1 unit paprika
1 unit cayenne pepper
Mix ingredients. If you’re making a single batch of the ranch above, try using 1/4 tsp as your unit size. In other words, use 1/2 tsp of parsley, dill, and salt and 1/4 tsp of everything else. Feel free to adjust the proportions as you like or even use fresh herbs.
You’ll notice a pretty big difference in flavor!
It’s worth noting that this powder is a pretty versatile flavoring tool that has a few neat uses outside of making actual ranch dressing. Try stirring some into a cheesy pasta dish or using it to flavor breadsticks, croutons, or garlic bread. You’ll get a bunch of neat flavors without having to mix in a fatty, high-calorie sauce.
The Best Ranch Is Homemade
I’ve got good memories of eating at my favorite wing joint and consuming copious amounts of their delicious ranch. Armed with the recipe above, however, I can make a sauce at home that puts it to shame.
Because I can control the amount of spice, the amount of salt, and even the amount of sweet that’s in my dressing, I can customize it to my very own tastes. I get an incredible ranch dip or dressing that’s made just the way I like it every time.