The Worst Store-Bought Ranch Dressing Comes From A Popular Fast Food Chain

When it comes to ranch dressing, fresh is best. If you've got the time to combine the creamy ingredients and fresh or dried herbs, the pungent flavor — such as in our buttermilk ranch — can't be beaten. That's not always in the cards, though, which is why many rely on store-bought bottles of ranch dressing. But not all ranch dressings are created equal; some capture the rich, herbaceous flavor spot on while others fall short by being too tangy or sweet or just plain artificial-tasting. We don't want you to suffer the shortcomings of the subpar ranch, which is why Tasting Table grabbed a bunch of bottles to find out which are worthwhile and which should be left on the shelf. While the winner was as clear as it was flavorful, the bottom rung of our ranch roundup was a bit of a surprise.

That's because it came with a pretty popular name attached, one that many people see as a mark of quality. Chick-fil-A's Garden Herb Ranch Dressing had our hopes up but quickly dashed them in a wave of overwrought tanginess that left the salad dressing-dipping sauce hybrid a bit one-note. Though creamy and rich, none of the touted herb flavors came through — a letdown that feels almost like a bait-and-switch.

Is it a dip or a dressing?

Ranch was originally created as a salad dressing. Yet, it has become so much more than that. It goes with everything from pizza crusts to chicken wings, and even powdered ranch mixes have wide-ranging utility. What's more? There are different approaches to making ranch for different uses. Some put out a thinner ranch that is best for dressing greens in a salad, while some thicken it up for a dip that adheres to that which is plunged into it.

Given that Chick-fil-A Garden Herb Ranch Dressing is from a restaurant that excels in making all things fried chicken, from sandwiches to nuggets, maybe it's not right to judge this as a dressing despite its name. While this is just not the right choice for a salad, our tester opined, it could be a fine dip for fried chicken, from Chick-fil-A or otherwise. The assertive sour note could be just what a savory and rich chunk of chicken needs for balance.

Chick-fil-A also serves Garden Herb Ranch in its stores, so one can test out this theory. But note that the packets in-store are labeled "sauce" while the store-bought bottle is a "dressing." Though they have the same ingredient listings, in Chick-fil-A stores, the sauce seems to be a bit thicker than the bottled dressing, a distinction that may be rooted in the intended usage. Regardless, when you have to grab a bottle of ranch at the grocery store, pass this one by.