The Beloved Chip Brand That Made Ranch Dressing A National Treasure

Other than the times you make a mustardy vinaigrette at home, what's the bottled salad dressing flavor you reach for most often at the grocery store? If you're anything like the overwhelming majority of Americans, it's ranch dressing, that dairy-rich, tangy mix that contains ingredients such as mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk, along with flavorings including onion, garlic, and fresh dill. The favorite dressing of most Americans — more than 143 million people named it as their go-to in 2020 (via Statista) — ranch is a bonafide sensation whose reach extends far beyond salads. 

You're likely to find ranch as a dipping option for chicken wings and crudités, a spread for pizza, and a batter for onion rings. There's even a cookbook devoted to the stuff, which contains a whopping 60 recipes. But as reported by The New York Times, ranch dressing's domination is a fairly recent phenomenon. Although the creamy mix was first stirred together around 1950 by Nebraskan plumber Steve Henson, who went on to found the massively successful brand Hidden Valley with his wife Gayle, it wasn't until 1986 that America really began to go hog wild for ranch, and it was all because a nationwide chip brand introduced a brand-new ranch flavor.

Cool Ranch Doritos bumped ranch into the big leagues

If you enjoy crunchy, salty snacks, then you've probably downed a bag or two of Doritos in your day. Established in 1966 with its original Toasted Corn flavor, Doritos later introduced a taco flavor, with its signature Nacho Cheese debuting in 1972 (via Maxim). Nearly 14 years later, in 1986, the snack maker unleashed Cool Ranch Doritos onto the world, and the rest is basically history. The crunchy corn chips, blasted with a mix of buttermilk powder, onion powder, tomato powder, and a healthy dose of MSG (via Doritos), had people hooked, and soon, according to The New York Times, ranch dressing was showing up everywhere.

Folded into mac and cheese, potato salad, and Thanksgiving stuffing. Drizzled-over tacos, tater tots, and casseroles — these are just some of the culinary uses for ranch, according to the paper. In 2015, the St. Louis restaurant Twisted Ranch opened its doors, serving 34 house-made ranch dressings ranging from Cheesy Smoked Bacon to Curry Yogurt, which flavor dishes such as breaded pickle chips, Buffalo chicken flatbreads, and cheese tortellini (via its official website). "We really believed in ranch from the beginning," Jim Hayden, one of the restaurant's founders, told the Times. "It wasn't just a gimmick."