Ranch vs Ranch

>> Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My son has decided that salads are not a bad thing...as long as he has his ranch dressing.  He likes one very specific kind of ranch - Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing.  That's it.  Try to substitute with Hidden Valley Ranch, and he'll turn his nose up.  (I know.  I tried just last week when we were out of Annie's ranch.) 

Sometimes I get in a rut buying things because I know that they're HFCS and trans-fat free, so I buy them without even thinking about them.  I realized this was the case with my son's salad dressing.  So, I thought it was time to do a little investigating.  On that note, let's take a look at the ingredients lurking in both Annie's Cowgirl Ranch and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. 

Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
Canola oil, water, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk powder (cultured nonfat buttermilk), sugar, sea salt, whole egg powder, onions, garlic, chives, xanthan gum, parsley

Wow!  Not bad!  They even put their ingredient list in plain site on their product page - always a good sign.  The only ingredient that gives pause is xanthan gum. 

What is xanthan gum?  Xanthan gum is an additive that is used to thicken and stabilize foods.  Xanthan gum is especially useful in products that require an emulsifier like salad dressings.  Xanthan bum is found in toothpaste, foods, and even medicines.  It has a remarkable thickening ability, so just a little xanthan gum can thicken a large amount of salad dressing.

Xanthan gum is made by fermenting sugars (glucose and fructose) with the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris.  The resulting polysaccharide (or many sugars chemically bound together) is precipitated and ground into a fine powder.  Liquid is added later to form the gum.  Xanthan gum can be made from a variety of sources - wheat, soy, corn - but corn syrup is the most common starting material in the US. 

Am I worried about xanthan gum?  Not really.  Do I wish it wasn't in Annie's salad dressing?  Well, sure, but it seems to be the price we pay for buying a shelf stable salad dressing in all honesty.  For the most part, I think that Annie's has done a great job keeping their ranch salad dressing as free from "strange" ingredients as possible. 

Ok, now let's look at the competition:

Hidden Valley Original Ranch Topping and Dressing
Vegetable oil (canola and/or soybean oil), water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavor, spices, less than 1% of garlic (dried), onion (dried), vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbid acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.

That's quite a difference, isn't it?  In addition to the xanthan gum, there are a host of other preservatives and "strange" ingredients.  I don't recognize many of the additives in the ingredient list, but frankly, I don't feel compelled to become familiar with them right now. 

Needless to say, I'm happy that my son likes Annie's ranch dressing over Hidden Valley ranch!

Do you have an ingredient that you'd like to know more about?  Have a food question that you'd like answered?  E-mail me!  I love learning about the foods that we eat and am always looking for ideas.


Amy July 28, 2010 at 11:33 AM  

Thanks for investigating. Would you have to call the company, or would they say on the label- should they choose to make Xantham Gum from wheat? Curious for the gluten free world?

cathy July 28, 2010 at 12:11 PM  

Amy - I've never seen the source of xanthan gum specified on the label. It's a pretty safe bet that it's made from corn if it's a US product, but to know for sure, you'd have to call the company...and even then they may or may not be able to tell you!

TwinToddlersDad July 28, 2010 at 5:22 PM  

Ranch dressing is popular in our household too. Sometimes the twins like to use it as a dip for carrots. I will need to check which brand we use; we haven't paid that much attention to it so far. But after reading your article, it is clear that not all ranch dressings are created equal! Definitely a good idea to check the list of ingredients. Thank you for the wonderful details about Xanthan Gum.

Lori July 29, 2010 at 4:43 AM  

It is really amazing when you start stacking up ingredient lists. This isn't the case here, but I've also noticed that there is often a difference between generic versus name brand. Often the generic is loaded with extra fillers.

Kayla July 30, 2010 at 10:42 AM  

If you're interested, I make my own salad dressing - and it's a quickie, I promise!

3 TBsp olive oil
2 TBsp lemon juice
1-2 clove(s) chopped garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

It makes a fair amount, and this way you get two foods - olive oil and garlic - that are MUCH better for you eaten raw.

Even my dad liked it, after turning his nose up at the prospect of "homemade" salad dressing.

cathy July 30, 2010 at 1:04 PM  

Kayla - That dressing sounds delicious! Doubtful that I could sell my son on it, but I'm sold on it already! Thanks for sharing. I'll probably make it tonight.

Martha A. August 1, 2010 at 8:33 AM  

We do not buy bottled dressing except on very rare occasions. I hate almost all of the ones I have tried, but I grew up with eating homemade ranch. Have you tried making one that is ranch that your son likes?

Ours was equal buttermilk, mayo and spices that were finely ground between our hands and vegesalt. It was good, but I grew away from liking ranch and am winning my children over as they want to steal my salads from me! i use a little oil, just a tiny bit, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, pepper, sprinkle of onion and garlic powder and let it set a bit to absorb. I like my salads with a tad bit of feta cheese too though.

cathy August 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM  

Martha A - I have tried making homemade ranch dressings for my son, but none have appealed to him thus far. His tastes are certainly evolving, so maybe one day. I, on the other hand, do prefer the fresh, homemade variety of salad dressing, though I will admit that my dressing of choice is generally a pre-packaged miso dressing from the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Sagan August 2, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

Nice comparison! I like making my own salad dressings, but when you have picky kids, you've got to take what you can get. If they'll eat the Annie's variety instead of the other one, then that's awesome.

Blake August 24, 2010 at 6:30 PM  

Thanks for the explanation on xanthan gum... never knew what it was.

viagra online February 13, 2012 at 8:05 AM  

Xamtham gum! how dangerous, thanks for the warning, good bye Ranch dressing :(

kittygoespotty April 19, 2012 at 10:01 AM  

Quite useful data, thank you for this article.

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