Home on the “Ranch”, the History of one of America’s Favorite Seasoning Blends

Aug 20, 2023

There used to be a day, that when someone mentioned the word “ranch”, the first image that came to mind was a large range of space with fences, animals and perhaps a cowboy on horseback with a lasso.

Then, along the trail, another “ranch” came along.

Now, among the many images that come to mind, most of us think of a creamy dressing or some other food that’s seasoned with what has since become one of America’s favorite seasoning blends.

And that,

….would be Ranch.

Like so many American business success stories, this one is no different.

It wasn’t created in a lab, or by a trained Chef in a gleaming, stainless steel-clad kitchen.

The recipe wasn’t even created on a ranch?

Truth be told, this savory, put it on everything, can’t live without it salad dressing was actually created by a 35-year-old Alaskan plumbing contractor named Steve Henson, in the early 50’s.


His story is that he was just trying to keep his workers happy with food they enjoyed.

Go figure.

Steve’s business was so successful that at 35 years old, he was able to retire, and moved to Santa Barbara County, California where he soon after purchased an old property in San Marcos Pass in 1954 called Sweetwater Ranch and then renamed it, yep, you guessed it, Hidden Valley Ranch.

This working ranch had employees and guests that needed to be fed, so Steve put his soon to be famous salad dressing on the kitchen’s menu.

Shortly thereafter, the dressing became so well liked that Steve made some for a local tavern and then created a dry mix of his spice blend which he began to sell commercially in 1957, only 3 years after he bought the ranch.

It wasn’t until Steve sold his ranch in the early 70’s and then is his recipe, and its name, to the Clorox company in 1973 that things really began to happen.

Its popular, dry mix packages were all the range, but it wasn’t until 1983, when the Clorox company introduced its shelf stable, ready to use bottled version, that things REALLY took off.

Today, Ranch Dressing is the number one dressing flavor in the United States, with Italian being second.

And it’s moved on from just a salad dressing, to being on par with ketchup with its versatility as a condiment, a dip, a marinade, a mayonnaise and sour cream substitute and believe it or not, as an ice cream topping.

While buttermilk-based dressings have been around nearly 2 decades before Steve Henson took whisk to bowl, his enticing blend of herbs and spices was genius.

We’ll never know what his first recipe really tasted like or, for that matter, what’s exactly in the “secret sauce” that the Clorox company puts into today’s shelf stable version, but its base ingredients are well known.

Buttermilk (or buttermilk powder), garlic, onion, dill, parsley, chives, pepper, salt, and possibly ground mustard.

There are now numerous companies making “Ranch Style” dressings and seasonings but all rely on this amazingly popular seasoning blend recipe which has changed little since those plumbers sat down at the dinner table in Anchorage, Alaska in the early 1950’s.

Recently, we sat down with Dan Lowry, Asmus’s President and seasoning blend Guru to get an “inside look” from a Rancher’s perspective.

We asked Dan just how Asmus creates its custom Ranch blends for their customers?

“When we develop a Ranch seasoning blend for our client, it’s important for them to first understand that “dairy”, or the milk or buttermilk power we use, is an allergen.

From there, we discuss any kind of flavor profile that they might have in mind, for instance, heavier in garlic or dill if it’s a traditional Ranch, or perhaps Chipotle or Ancho powder if they want a “smoky / hot” kick.

We also have had customers that want it to have a more “citrus” flavor.”

Does Asmus itself have its own Ranch dressing for customers to buy?

“Yes. we make three different types of Ranch mixes.”

“One is a Ranch base for the Chef to add other spices or ingredients to create his own signature recipe. We also make a finished product pre-portioned with instructions. Finally, we make a more of a Salsa type of Ranch with a tomato and citrus flavor.”

Can Asmus make a “low-fat” Ranch seasoning blend?

“Yes, we can and we do. All is dependent on the type of buttermilk powder we use. There is both low-fat and full fat available to use in these blends”

What started out as a simple seasoning blend, invented by a plumber to satisfy this workers, has become an international taste sensation.

Whether you use Ranch dressing on a salad, as a marinade or as a dip, Asmus Seasonings is a trusted ranch hand you depend on for all of your company’s seasoning blend needs.

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