Blue cheese and ranch dressing are two of the most popular salad dressings and dipping sauces. Both have creamy, tangy flavors and cooling properties that make them versatile accompaniments to salads, wings, and an array of snacks and appetizers.
While the two share some similarities, there are distinct differences between blue cheese and ranch dressing in terms of ingredients, taste, texture, uses, and nutritional value.
Key Takeaway: Blue cheese and ranch dressings have similar creamy bases but differ primarily in their main flavoring ingredients. Blue cheese gets its strong, pungent flavor from blue cheese and vinegar while ranch has a milder, herbaceous taste from herbs like dill, parsley, and chives.
A Brief History of Blue Cheese and Ranch Dressings
To better understand the essence of these two dressings, it helps to look at their origins.
Blue Cheese Dressing
The earliest known published blue cheese dressing recipe appears in Fannie Farmer's 1918 cookbook. However, it did not gain widespread popularity until the 1930s when it was included in the Joy of Cooking cookbook.
Ranch dressing was invented in the 1950s by Steve Henson, who served it at his dude ranch in California. It became popular across the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s and has been the best-selling salad dressing in America since 1992.
So while blue cheese dressing has European roots and a longer history, ranch dressing is a relatively new American creation that has rapidly dominated the dressing market.
Ingredients in Blue Cheese Versus Ranch
While the specific ingredients can vary depending on the recipe, blue cheese and ranch dressings do have some common components.
- Mayonnaise and/or sour cream - For the creamy base
- Milk or buttermilk - For tangy flavor
- Onion and garlic - For savory flavor
- Salt and pepper - For seasoning
Unique blue cheese ingredients
- Blue cheese - Strong, funky flavor
- Vinegar - Adds tanginess
- Spices like paprika or cumin - Extra flavor dimension
Unique ranch ingredients
- Fresh herbs like dill, chives, parsley - Give fresh, herbaceous flavor
- Spices like garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder - Provide zest and bite
The main distinction is that blue cheese dressing gets its robust flavor from actual crumbled blue cheese plus vinegar. Ranch dressing has a fresher taste thanks to loads of fresh chopped herbs and reliance on dried herbs and spices for flavor.
Comparing the Texture and Consistency
Beyond ingredients, blue cheese and ranch differ in texture:
- Blue cheese dressing has a thick, chunky consistency from bits of crumbled blue cheese dispersed throughout.
- Ranch dressing tends to be smoother and more homogenous thanks to its herb-infused creamy base and lack of chunks.
So ranch has a uniform creamy texture while blue cheese dressing is chunkier and tends to coat the palate.
Flavor Profiles: Herbaceous Ranch Versus Pungent Blue Cheese
The different ingredients also mean that blue cheese and ranch dressings have distinct flavors:
- Blue cheese dressing is dominated by the strong, salty, funky flavor of the blue cheese, which gives it a potent, pungent taste. The vinegar adds a certain puckery quality.
- Ranch dressing has a cooling, creamy background thanks to ingredients like mayo and buttermilk, with the herbs and spices providing a predominantly fresh, herbaceous flavor.
So ranch is mild, cool, and herb-forward while blue cheese is intense, funky, and vinegar-accented. Those who find blue cheese too strong often prefer ranch.
The Most Popular Uses for Blue Cheese Versus Ranch Dressings
Blue cheese and ranch dressings share overlap in function as dips and dressings, but they do have signature uses:
Most Popular Uses for Blue Cheese
- Serving with hot wings, especially Buffalo wings
- Drizzled on top of burgers or steak
- Mixed into dips and spreads
- Pairing with assertive flavors like BBQ
Most Popular Uses for Ranch
- Tossed with or served alongside salad
- Dipping raw vegetables or chips
- Adding flavor to wraps, pizza, sandwiches
- Serving with milder flavors like grilled chicken
- Blue cheese dressing excels when paired with bold flavors and hearty foods.
- Ranch dressing shines with lighter fare and milder flavors.
But both can add flavor and flair to a variety of dishes beyond salad!
Nutritional Value: Calories, Fat, and Sodium
When evaluating blue cheese versus ranch dressing, you may also want to consider nutritional value:
- Calories: Ranch has around 140 calories per 2 tablespoon serving compared to 120 for blue cheese.
- Fat: Ranch has about 14g fat per serving while blue cheese has 12g.
- Sodium: Blue cheese tends to be higher in sodium with around 260mg versus 210mg for ranch.
So ranch actually has slightly higher calories and fat than blue cheese, though blue cheese packs a stronger sodium punch. Overall the differences are minor - both should be enjoyed in moderation.
Can You Substitute Blue Cheese for Ranch or Vice Versa?
Because of the similar creamy bases, blue cheese and ranch can be used interchangeably in some cases, for example:
- Using ranch instead of blue cheese with hot wings
- Adding blue cheese instead of ranch to a salad
However, the flavor won't be the same. The blue cheese will give hot wings a much stronger, pungent flavor compared to cooling ranch. And ranch will provide a more subtle flavor on a salad versus assertive blue cheese.
The takeaway? While you can substitute ranch and blue cheese, the overall flavor profile may change significantly depending on the dish. It comes down to personal taste preferences.
Creating Your Own Signature Dressing: Custom Combinations
Once you understand the essence of blue cheese versus ranch dressings, you can start crafting your own signature dressing combinations, for example:
- Ranch with crumbled blue cheese added
- Blue cheese base with chopped ranch herbs
- A ranch, sour cream, and blue cheese hybrid
- Blending any creamy base with your choice of herbs, spices, cheese, etc.
The options are endless! Use your knowledge of each dressing's strengths to invent the perfect blend.
Key Takeaway: Ranch and blue cheese dressings can be used interchangeably in some dishes but the flavor will differ. While substituting is possible, each dressing has signature uses that optimize its flavors.
FAQ About Blue Cheese Versus Ranch Dressings
Is blue cheese dressing just ranch dressing with blue cheese added?
No, blue cheese dressing relies on the vinegar, spices, and actual blue cheese for its flavor. Simply adding blue cheese to ranch would not reproduce authentic blue cheese dressing.
Is ranch dressing healthier than blue cheese?
They are comparable - ranch may be slightly lower in calories and sodium but both are high-fat, high-calorie condiments. Overall nutritional value is similar.
What food is better with ranch vs blue cheese?
Ranch goes better with lighter fare like salad and grilled chicken while blue cheese pairs best with bold flavors like buffalo wings and steak.
Why do many people dislike blue cheese?
The strong, pungent flavor of blue cheese is polarizing. Many find it too smelly, too funky, too salty, and too sharp. Ranch has a more crowd-pleasing flavor profile.
Can you make blue cheese or ranch dressing vegan?
Yes, by swapping the dairy for plant-based alternatives like vegan mayo, almond milk, avocado, cashews, coconut yogurt, etc. Herbs and spices can be kept the same.
While their creamy appearances may seem interchangeable, blue cheese and ranch dressings actually have distinct ingredients, textures, flavors, and ideal uses.
Blue cheese dressing relies on its namesake cheese and vinegar to provide an intensely savory, funky flavor that excels when paired with bold dishes. Cool, herbaceous ranch with its fresh chopped dill and chives proves more versatile for lighter fare.
Understanding the nuances between these two beloved condiments allows you to make the optimal choice for any salad, sandwich, wings, or veggie platter.
So embrace both blue cheese and ranch dressings – just be sure to use each for what it does best! Experiment with your own custom combinations and unlock new dimensions of flavor.