Ranch dressing is a quintessentially American condiment. It tastes amazing on a whole variety of foods, from salads and vegetables, to pizzas and wings, to French fries and so much more.
Making your own homemade ranch is simple and fast, and it allows greater control over ingredients and flavor. But as all ranch lovers know, the consistency of ranch dressing is just as important as the flavor.
Thin ranch dressing is typically low on flavor, and what is more, it doesn’t stick to food as well, especially when eaten as a dip. So, what can you do to thicken it up?
In this article, we’ll quickly review the ingredients of ranch dressing and then discuss a couple of techniques for yielding a thicker consistency when you make it yourself. That way, your homemade ranch will be perfect every time.
What Are the Ingredients of Ranch Dressing and How Is it Made?
To understand how to thicken ranch dressing, we first have to have an idea of what’s in it and how those ingredients combine to make ranch dressing in the first place. Then, we can look at how to balance them or add to them to thicken our dressing.
No matter what food you’re talking about, homemade is almost always better, all the way around. Ranch dressing is no exception.
Homemade ranch dressing is typically made from a combination of a few standard ingredients:
- Sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
- Regular milk (whole) or buttermilk
- Lemon juice
- A whole bunch of spices, typically including chives, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, pepper, and salt
Some recipes also call for apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or other seasonings to add some spice or more flavor.
There usually aren’t any complicated directions for making ranch; you just whisk everything together. It’s best to combine the dairy ingredients and then add the spices slowly, tasting intermittently to adjust the flavor according to your tastes.
How to Thicken Homemade Ranch #1—Give it Time
Homemade ranch is very easy to prepare, with relatively simple ingredients that you may even already have in your home. However, for it to be ready to be served, it must chill for a period of time.
Most recipes and cooks recommend refrigerating your homemade ranch dressing for at least eight hours after mixing the ingredients, 12 hours is better, and 24 is ideal.
If it still isn’t thick enough after a day, you can give it a couple more days to thicken up in the fridge. It might just need more time for a lot of reasons, including your climate (temperature and humidity), the temperature of your fridge, and even how often you open it.
If you’re planning to serve your ranch for a special meal or occasion, make sure you build a couple of days to chill it out beforehand.
If it has been a couple of days and your homemade ranch dressing is still thin or watery, then keep reading. The problem is most likely something else.
How to Thicken Homemade Ranch #2—Use Xanthan Gum
Aside from thickening naturally through the chilling process, you can add a thickening agent to your dressing. In cooking, thickening agents are ingredients you add to a variety of dishes to change the consistency.
Examples of thickening agents include a variety of starches (cornstarch, tapioca, flour, potato, and more), as well as gelatins and gums and fats. One of the best options for thickening ranch dressing is xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is a synthetic food additive used for thickening and preserving foods. It is a common additive in many store-bought soups and sauces.
Xanthan gum is great for ranch dressing because it has no taste. That said, you will need to be very careful not to add too much and to blend the gum thoroughly.
The downside to xanthan gum is that it is synthetic, and the long-term health benefits aren’t clear. If you’d rather explore more natural options, keep reading.
How to Thicken Homemade Ranch #3—Add Cornstarch
You probably don’t have xanthan gum lying around the house, but you might have cornstarch. The next best option for ranch dressing is cornstarch.
Mix the cornstarch well with equal parts water until it is dissolved and forms a thick paste. Add a couple of drops of the mixture at a time and mix it into the ranch dressing.
Continue to add more of the cornstarch into the dressing a few drops at a time. Be sure to also taste the dressing as you go, since the more cornstarch you use, the more it will affect the taste of the dressing.
How to Thicken Homemade Ranch #4—Add Mayonnaise
Now, normally, the thickness of any combination food is about simply achieving a balance between solid and liquid ingredients. But this becomes a lot trickier with ranch dressing, since some of the ingredients, such as mayonnaise and sour cream, are semi-solid.
Mayonnaise is the better choice when it comes to adding more of an existing ingredient to ranch dressing. This is because the mayonnaise is already a dominant flavor in ranch dressing.
That said, you can only add so much mayonnaise before you ruin the overall taste of the ranch. Before you know it, you’re adding more salt and pepper, then more of the other spices, and finally more sour cream and milk; you still have the consistency problem, and now your dressing won’t even fit in your container!
For that reason, we recommend trying other ideas before this method.
Thickening Ranch Made From a Seasoning Packet
Your methods here are not going to be terribly different from thickening strictly homemade ranch dressing. Essentially, these ranch packets just package all of the spices together for you and you add the perishable ingredients.
More than likely, you had to add mayonnaise, so use that to thicken. You can try cornstarch as well.
Keep in mind that there are probably already additives and preservatives in the packet, so whatever you add might react in a weird way.
Also, if you dilute the flavor of the seasoning, you won’t know exactly what spices were in it to reflavor your dressing; you might have to go out and buy a whole additional packet. That’s another reason why homemade is typically preferable.
How to Thicken Store-Bought Ranch Dressing
You can try any or all of the methods above to thicken bottled ranch, but you might run into a similar problem as the packets: you could get a strange reaction from the combinations.
Our recommendation is to not try to thicken store-bought ranch, but rather, find a brand that works with your taste buds.
What If My Ranch Is Too Thick?
You needed to thicken up your ranch dressing, but you went too far. It’s not an uncommon mistake, and it is certainly able to be fixed.
The easiest way to thin out your dressing is to add some kind of liquid. You can certainly add more milk or buttermilk, but the problem with this method is that (especially with buttermilk), you will also impact the overall flavor of the ranch since buttermilk has a distinct taste of its own.
Alternatively, you can use pasta water to thin your dressing. Pasta water has starch, but does not have a strong taste.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.