I’m a vinaigrette kind of lady, but every once in a while a dish comes along that begs for Ranch dressing. I used to think one of the costs of going vegan was saying goodbye to creamy dressings and sauces, but I have happily discovered that we can have our ranch and eat it, too.
In a recent commercial for Hidden Valley Ranch, a place “where kids always eat their vegetables,” Ranch dressing is delivered in the place of milk and kids enjoy broccoli with Ranch dressing instead of ice cream. Then, seated at rustic picnic tables in a sunny, Leave it to Beaver community, children enthusiastically eat salads and vegetables coated with Ranch. The not-so-hidden message, of course, is that the only way to get kids to consume veggies is paired with bottled salad dressing. Holy preservatives, Batman!
Ranch is by far the favorite salad dressing of Americans, both at home and at restaurants. In fact, we love it so much that a 2012 campaign was launched to rename Ranch “American” dressing (oh, the pride!), there is a movement to brand Ranch “The New Ketchup,” and Ranch dressing upset bleu cheese (gasp) as the favorite side for 1.23 billion chicken wings consumed on 2013 Super Bowl Sunday. First World issues, anyone?
What’s the harm of pouring that bloop of comforting Ranch on your gorgeous garden greens, you may ask? First, you realize you’re letting more than the allotted 2 tablespoons slide out of the bottle, right? But, Hannah, you whine, I grew up with Ranch dressing, it’s the taste of my childhood! That very well may be, but you also grew up sporting a mullet, pimples, and leg warmers, and that time has, gratefully, passed. Further, have you taken the time lately to actually read the label on the (probably long expired) bottles of salad dressing kicking it in your refrigerator? It’s time, my friend, because the ingredients in Ranch are, at best, unhealthy, and at worst may be doing you harm.
Check out the ingredients in “Lite” Ranch Dressing: water, corn syrup, soybean oil, vinegar, egg yolks, salt, modified food starch, sugar, less than 2 percent of phosphoric acid, monosodium glutamate, xanthan gum, garlic (dried), artificial color, polysorbate 60, spice, parsley (dried), onions (dried), natural flavor (milk), lactic acid, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium edta (to protect flavor). Could you whip this up at home? I thought not. One more tidbit: each serving contains 440 milligrams of sodium, or one-third of your daily recommended intake.
Let’s just glance at one of the lovely players in this group, polysorbate 60, a toxic chemical and known skin irritant which causes diarrhea and reproductive problems in rats when administered at high doses. (The good news is that it seems to only cause tumors on rodents treated dermally, so you should be fine if you avoid washing your face with Ranch dressing.)
Your best option is not to swear off your beloved Ranch, but to make your own delectable vegan ranch-style dressing that you can dip everything from carrots to pasta in – and guilt-free! I made this for my non-vegan family this evening to enjoy with enchiladas, black bean and mole sauce, and salad, and it was fabulous to see that bottle of Ranch pushed aside.
Vegan Ranch Dressing (adapted from Appetite for Reduction)
- 1 package extra-firm silken tofu (absolutely has to be silken!)
- 2 T. vegannaise (vegan mayo)
- 1 t. vegetable broth concentrate
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 t. dried dill (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped fine)
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1 t. onion flakes
- 1 t. garlic powder
- 1 t. light agave syrup
- salt, pepper to taste
1. Boil a small pot of water. Cut tofu into cubes, then add to boiling water and remove after 2 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water.
2. Add water, vegannaise, and vegetable broth to tofu. Blend with immersion blender (if you want to wear a bit of tofu/mayo) or throw into food processor.
3. Next, add rest of ingredients and beat until smooth. Go get some carrot sticks and serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator for more Ranch-like coolness. Makes about 6-8 servings. Enjoy!