Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Homemade Hidden Valley Ranch

Around our house Ranch dressing is the king of salad dressings. At one time my grandson went through a phase in which just about everything he ate was coated in ranch dressing. And not just any ranch dressing, it had to be Hidden Valley brand. Now it is true that not all brands of ranch dressing taste the same, but for the most part, they are all similar in taste and ingredients. Because my grandson was so picky, and would not eat any other brand of ranch dressing I decided to save the empty bottle and I began to refill it with a cheaper brand. Yes, sneaky I know, but he never could tell the difference. Well, he never mentioned it if he did.

The problem was that even when we could find it on sale, I knew I could make a homemade version of ranch dressing that was quite a bit cheaper, even if I still had to keep refilling the 'Hidden Valley' ranch bottle with my homemade version to appease my grandson. Now there are two different approaches to making your own ranch dressing. The primary difference is whether you use fresh buttermilk (wet recipe) or a dry buttermilk power (dry recipe). I have made it both ways, but as I generally keep a container of SACO dry buttermilk powder on hand, if most often use the 'dry recipe' and use whole milk in place of the buttermilk. In addition to this being more convenient, the dry mix is more versatile as well as being quite a bit cheaper to make than buying the commercially available dry 'Hidden Valley' brand ranch mix.

There are many different recipes of dry ranch dressing mixes out here on the Internet some are more elaborate than others, but most have the same basic ingredients. I have made several different batches of dry mixes, and the following is my go to substitute for 'Hidden Valley' ranch style dry mix. Generally I just make a one time recipe equivalent to an individual store bought packet (1 ounce), but during the writing of this blog entry we are well into the holiday season which at my family gatherings means many veggie trays with ranch dip, Cajun Fire Crackers, and lots of ranch salad dressing. For that reason, I have included both a single portion packet recipe as well as a recipe for make your own powdered ranch mix in bulk quantity it you wish.

The Ingredients

So why go to all the trouble of making your own version of 'Hidden Valley' dry seasoning mix? I mean the commercial 1oz packets of the dry seasoning mix are convenient to use, and they taste good. In my case the two primary concerns is that first, I can control what goes into my seasoning mix, and secondly it is quite a bit cheaper to make. The fact that I think it tastes just as good or better than the store bought is of course an added bonus. So let's look at the ingredients used in both the 'Hidden Valley' ranch seasoning mix, versus or homemade version.

Hidden Valley Ranch – Maltodextrin, buttermilk, salt, monsodium glutamate (MSG), lactic acid, dried garlic, dried onion, spices, citric acid, less than 1% calcium stearate, artificial flavor, xanthan gum, carboxymethycellulose, and guar gum.

Homemade Ranch Seasoning – Cultured buttermilk powder (includes sweet dairy whey and lactic acid), parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, white pepper, paprika, and monosodium glutamate (optional).

Now, I am not the monosodium glutamate (MSG) police. I have never known or met anyone who has an allergy to this flavor enhancer, but maybe you have or if you have concerns regrading the safety of it's use simply omit it from this recipe. Sometimes I use it in my mixes, and sometimes I do not. That's the beauty of making your own seasoning mixes, you have total control of the ingredients that you use.

Cost Benefit Ratio

As you can see, at my local Walmart 4 individual 1oz packets of the 'Hidden Valley' brand seasoning mix will cost you $4.58 ($1.15 per packet/oz), whereas 12 ounces of the SOCO buttermilk powder will cost you $4.48 ($0.37 per ounce). The 4 ½ teaspoons of dried spices that you have to add to the buttermilk powder to make 1oz of homemade ranch seasoning mix will cost you about $0.05 to $0.08 for a total of $0.42 to $0.45 per 1oz, a savings of $0.70 per ounce. So making your own ranch seasoning mix will save you approximately 61% versus buying the 'Hidden Valley' brand prepackaged mix. There is no difference in savings between making a single serving mix, versus the bulk mix, as the price of the ingredients is the same. Therefore I only make the bulk recipe during the holiday's or when I want to share with friends and family.

Homemade Ranch Dry Mix (Equal to a single serving packet)

2 tablespoons dried buttermilk powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley, divided
½ teaspoon dried dill, divided
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon Accent (MSG) (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Use as needed.

Dry Ranch Dressing Mix (bulk Recipe)

1 cup dried buttermilk powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
2 teaspoons dried dill, divided
2½ teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Accent (MSG) optional
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

  • Remove two teaspoon parley and ¼ teaspoon of dill and place in a small bowl off to the side. Combine the rest of the ingredients into a small food processor and pulse 4 to 5 times. All the mix to settle for a few minutes before removing it from the food processor.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix together.

Ranch Dressing – Combine the milk and the single packet homemade seasoning mix recipe, or 3 tablespoons of bulk recipe mix with 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 cup of whole milk until smooth. You could use more or less milk depending on how thick you like the your dressing to be. Refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving, although I find waiting 24 hours before using yields a better flavor. The following are a few of the variations that I have made over the years. I am sure there are many other possible combinations so I encourage you to experiment and expand your palate.
  • Bacon Ranch – Add 4 to 6 slices of crispy bacon chopped fine.
  • Buffalo Ranch – Add 3 to 4 tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce.
  • Buttermilk Ranch – Substitute buttermilk for the whole milk.
  • Chipotle Ranch – Add one chipotle pepper (smoked jalapeno) and one teaspoon of the adobo sauce. Remove the seeds if you wish as they contain most of the heat and do not attribute to the flavor of the dressing.
  • Fiesta Salsa – Add ¼ to ½ cup of your favorite salsa.
  • Santa Fe Ranch – Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of salsa verde (green chile salsa) or Hatch green chilies.

I find that when making any of the variations that have solid ingredients such as the 'Chipotle', 'Fiesta Salsa' and 'Bacon' ranch etc. That combining the milk, seasoning mix, and additional ingredients in a pint mason jar and pureeing them with my emulsion blender before adding the mayonnaise helps give the dressing a smoother creamier texture.

Sour Cream Veggie/Chip Dip – Add one single recipe of your homemade seasoning mix, or 3 tablespoons of bulk recipe into 16 ounces of sour cream (or Greek yogurt). Add 1 teaspoon dehydrated onions and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving, although as with the ranch dressing, I find waiting 24 hours before using results in the best flavor.

I will be honest with you, most of the time we just use ranch dressing as a dip for vegetables when we make a veggie tray as we usually have one variety or another on had. The consistency of the ranch dressing is just right as a vegetable dip. This recipe really shines as a dip for chips as it is thicker and easier to scoop. Any of the additional ingredients used to make the dressing variations work well in the veggie/chip dip.

The Bottom Line

Making your own ranch seasoning mix is 61% cheaper ($0.45 versus $1.15 per ounce) than buying the commercially prepared 'Hidden Valley' ranch seasoning mix. Having control of the chemicals or lack thereof that goes into the dressing that your family will consume is well....”priceless”. In addition, making your own ranch dressings and or dips give you the ability to experiment with different flavors and textures and change them to suit you and your family's individual needs. I hope you and your family enjoy making your own ranch dressings and dips as mine does.