How Long An Open Bottle Of Ranch Lasts In The Fridge

America loves its ranch dressing. According to 2021 statistics published by Statista, ranch is the second most popular condiment in the country, with only mayonnaise edging ahead in terms of profits. This creamy condiment is not only poured onto salads, but also used for dipping pizza, marinating meats, topping nachos, and more. While ranch can be made from scratch, most households stock a squeeze bottle (or two) of their favorite brand from the store.

One of the best qualities of ranch is its long shelf life, but it doesn't last forever. The USDA states that creamy salad dressings should be used within three months of opening, and commercial dressings are also given a lifespan of three months max. This seems to be the definitive lifespan for ranch. Many manufacturers add preservatives to keep their ranch shelf-stable at room temperature for up to a year, but this is only if the bottle is unopened. Once you pop the cap off, the dressing must be refrigerated to maintain its quality and remain safe to eat. 

Meanwhile, homemade ranch dressing has a shorter life, and should be used within two weeks. No matter where you got it from, if your ranch has changed color, grown mold, developed a funky smell, or separated into liquid and solid parts, it's likely rancid, and should be thrown away. If the dressing looks fine, but tastes funky, you should also get rid of it. 

The history of ranch

Ranch lovers owe Steve Henson a big "thank you" for creating the creamy condiment that makes everything taste better. The California cowboy invented ranch dressing back in 1954. It used a base of buttermilk, but what really made it "ranch" were the dried spices and herbs (namely parsley, thyme, dill) in the recipe. Henson served the dressing at his dude ranch, Sweetwater Ranch. Guests loved it so much that they took it home in jars, and soon, Henson began selling his dried herb mixture nationwide, so fans could prepare it in their own kitchens.

Henson's brand was later renamed Hidden Valley Ranch, which is perhaps the most famous brand of ranch today. In addition to pre-made dressing, Hidden Valley and many other brands still sell dry ranch seasoning mix. If you like ranch, but only use it occasionally, packets of seasoning last far longer than bottled or jarred versions. The herbs and spices can be mixed with buttermilk and other dairy products to make an instant dressing, or you can add it directly to chicken breading, fries, chips, and more. The shelf life of dry ranch seasoning is 18 months, and it can really help you avoid food waste.

Cooking with ranch dressing

If your Costco-sized bottle of ranch dressing looks like too much to consume in three months, there are many ways to use it up before it goes rancid. Ranch dressing can replace mayonnaise on sandwiches to add a herbaceous and zesty flavor. You can also try it in a wrap with grilled chicken and romaine lettuce. And we all know that this dressing doubles as a tasty dip. Beyond pizza, crudites, fries, chips, and chicken tenders, try dunking burritos or even tacos in ranch.

Mexican street corn, called elote (or esquites when the corn is cut off the cob), is another great use for ranch. Traditional recipes use mayo or crema, but ranch works just as well. Squeeze some ranch dressing onto grilled corn, then sprinkle on cotija cheese and fresh cilantro. Don't forget to squeeze a lime wedge over the whole thing before digging in. 

You can also dip meats and fish in ranch and then roll them in crunchy breadcrumbs. The ranch helps the breading stick and adds flavor, making for delicious baked salmon or chicken cutlets. You can also marinate proteins in ranch dressing overnight to flavor and tenderize the meat. Lean cuts of chicken really benefit from this tip. Once marinated, the chicken can be patted dry and grilled or baked. Add veggies, pasta, or rice to make an easy meal that everyone will enjoy. With all these ideas, your ranch likely won't go to waste.