Homemade Vegan Ranch Dressing

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This homemade vegan ranch dressing will transform your salads, wraps, and bowls. It’s also the perfect dip for vegetables and a great choice for vegan appetizer spreads or boards! Made with cashew nuts, this creamy condiment beats any ranch that you could buy in a bottle.

An overhead image of a glass jar, which has been filled with a white, creamy dressing.

I’ve never had a hard time making dressings from scratch.

Half the time, homemade salad dressings taste better to me than store-bought ones. They’re fresher, less artificial, and less aggressively salty.

There are some store-bought dressings, however, that I have, or used to have, a big soft spot for.

Ranch dressing used to be one of them.

In fact, it was my favorite creamy dressing when I was growing up. I didn’t hate thousand Island, Caesar, or creamy French dressing. But I really loved ranch.

That’s why I’m glad to have a very solid, homemade vegan version of ranch dressing to share with you today.

This vegan ranch is simple to make. It features ten ingredients, minus water, but many of those are just seasonings: salt, pepper, and herbs.

It’s a wholesome, whole foods take on a dressing that most of us grew up pouring from a store-bought jar. And it delivers on the flavor of the original with better nutrition and brighter taste.

This ranch has been quickly finding its way into many of my meals and snacks. Once you make it, I think you’ll find that it’s as versatile as it is tasty.

All about ranch dressing

What is ranch dressing, exactly?

Before I came up with this vegan ranch recipe, I thought I knew what ranch dressing was. Mayonnaise and herbs, right? Maybe some onion powder?

Sort of. Traditionally, ranch dressing is made by mixing buttermilk or sour cream, along with seasonings and herbs, into a mayonnaise emulsion.

So mayonnaise is involved, but it’s not the only creamy component in ranch. The buttermilk (or sour cream) is a key part of ranch dressing’s distinctive, tangy flavor, which cuts through its creamy richness.

I have homemade recipes for vegan buttermilk, vegan sour cream and vegan mayonnaise. I love them all.

So, when I first started to experiment with homemade ranch, I thought I ought to try to be fancy, making an emulsion of two of them: an acidic component and a creamy component.

It wasn’t a disaster, exactly, but it was just a lot of unnecessary work. I didn’t need to prepare two or three distinct, cashew-based condiments only to create another cashew-based condiment.

I took a step back and experimented with some simple iterations of blended, soaked cashew nuts, vinegar and lemon juice, herbs and seasonings.

Finally, I came up with a vegan ranch that I was proud of, and I did it with minimal fuss. Within a couple days of making it, I was putting it on and in everything.

A perennial favorite

I’m not the only person who loves a good ranch dressing. Ranch dressing overtook Italian dressing in 2002 as America’s favorite salad dressing.

As of 2017, it seems to be holding its own as the national favorite.

I had friends growing up who only cared for salad if ranch dressing—or something similarly creamy—was involved.

While I don’t need to be sold on salads, I can understand needing some enticement to eat un-favorite vegetables.

I’m unlikely to reach for a raw, green bell pepper, but if this vegan ranch were involved, I could be convinced!

A creamy cashew base

I’ve already hinted at the fact that this dressing has a wonderfully creamy texture. And that texture is thanks to the magic of cashew nuts.

It’s just a great big celebration of cashews in my recipe archives.

A small, ceramic pinch bowl is filled with nuts. It rests on a white surface.

Cashews are the number one ingredient that I rely on to create non-dairy goodness, including vegan cheeses, cream, creamy pasta dishes, and more.

It’s therefore no surprise that I turned to cashews for my homemade vegan ranch dressing. They’re a perfect base for authentic texture.

If you have a cashew nut allergy, you have the option to use soaked pine nuts or macadamia nuts in place of cashews.

Soaked sunflower seeds are also an option, if you’re allergic to tree nuts yet can tolerate seeds.

How to make a creamy, authentic vegan ranch dressing

One of the best things about this dressing is that it’s easy to make. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t feel that you have to mess with emulsions!

Here are the simple steps.

Step 1: Soak your cashews

You don’t technically have to soak your cashews, especially if you’ve got a high-powered blender at home. But they tend to blend up more smoothly if you do.

An overhead image of a small bowl of soaked cashews.
Soaking and then draining the cashew nuts prior to blending ensures that the dressing will have an ultra smooth, creamy texture.

I recommend soaking the cashews for at least 2 hours before making the dressing, then draining them.

If you’d like to do this overnight, in the fridge, that’s fine. You can soak them for up to 24 hours in there, if it suits your schedule.

If you’re in a pinch, you can soak the cashews in boiling water for only thirty minutes, then drain them and move on. The hot water will soften the cashews quickly.

Step 2: Blend away

Next, you’ll transfer the soaked and drained cashews, along with some of the dressing’s other ingredients—water, vinegar, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt—to your blender.

A personal sized blender is being used to blend a creamy dressing.
You can use any kind of powerful blender—full size or personal/travel-sized—to blend the dressing. A food processor can work in place of a blender, too.

Blend them on a high setting for 1-2 minutes, or until the dressing is very creamy and smooth.

Step 3: Stir in your herbs

After blending the dressing, you’ll stir the herbs that are characteristic for ranch dressing into your creamy mixture.

Taste the dressing, adjust and fine tune it as needed, and at this point, it’s ready to enjoy.

Fresh herbs vs dried

Some ranch dressing recipes call for using dried herbs, while others call for fresh.

I think that either can work, but I have a soft spot for fresh. Fresh herbs will give the vegan ranch a brightness and lifted taste that store-bought dressings really don’t have.

My favorite mix of herbs is finely minced parsley, dill, and chives. You could use the dry versions of these if that’s what you have, and you could also fold in another type of fresh herb if there’s one that you love.

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Meal prep & storage

Once prepared, the vegan ranch can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

The dressing has a generous yield of two cups, so if you’re worried about using it within that time, feel free to pop it into the freezer. The dressing can be frozen for up to six weeks and defrosted when you’re ready to use it.

I always say that a solid bottle of dressing or sauce can be the foundation of weekly vegan meal prep. What seems like an unassuming component actually has the power to transform otherwise plain mixtures of grains, greens, and beans.

With a bottle of this vegan ranch in your fridge, you’ll have what you need to season and elevate your vegan basics for the week ahead.

What to serve with your vegan ranch dressing

I probably don’t need to tell any reader who already loves ranch dressing how to enjoy this dressing.

It’s delightful on any salad or vegan bowl, for one thing. It’s also a great creamy alternative to mayo in sandwiches and wraps.

The ranch is even a good breakfast condiment: just try it in a breakfast burrito with tofu scramble, or in place of Hollandaise in an eggs Benedict or Florentine situation with rounds or squares of my easy baked chickpea frittata on an English muffin.

If you’re looking for a way to entice the vegetable skeptic in your life to eat more veggies, serving peppers, carrots, celery, or broccoli florets with some of this dressing is an excellent idea. It can be part of a lovely, plant-based appetizer spread.

Anyway, I doubt that you’ll have a hard time finding uses for a jar of this stuff, once you make it. Here’s the whole recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unroasted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, drained (140g)
  • 3/4 cup water (180ml)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh parsley leaves (substitute 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh dill (substitute 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives (optional)

Instructions

  • Transfer the cashews, water, vinegar, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt to a powerful blender or to a food processor. Blend the mixture on high for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s creamy and very smooth. 
  • Taste the dressing. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and adjust the salt, vinegar, and lemon juice to your liking. Stir in the fresh or dried parsley and dill and the chives, if using. Serve or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

On Friday, I’ll share a new bowl concoction that’s packed with plant protein and has been allowing me to showcase this reliable, homemade staple.

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