If you’re looking for a creamy and rich plant-based ranch dressing, the kind that's dairy-free, flavorful, and doesn't require soaking cashews, you are on the right page, my friend.
In case you haven't heard the news. Ranch dressing is a creamy combination of herbaceous (herby), a liberal dose of allium (that’s onion and garlic), just enough of the piquant (tangy), along with a generous shot of black pepper.
And yes, it came from a ranch, aptly named Hidden Valley.
Since the 1950s, when Steven Henson (the father of ranch dressing), started selling it, ranch dressing has been the quint-essential American dressing. By leaps and bounds, it remains the most popular salad dressing in the US.
And when I say ‘salad’ dressing, let’s be honest, we’ve all been dousing a lot more than salads with ranch dressing. I wouldn’t think to limit you on what you’re going to pour ‘Henson nectar’ over or what you decide to dip it in (yes, even a spoon or finger).
That said, there are a few recipes we love with cashew ranch.
My mind is filling up with just the mention of ranch dressing and big, loaded salads, but let me rein that back and get to the mission. That’s all about helping you to create a plant-based dressing that is ready in a few moment’s notice to meet your ranch craving.
There are a lot of versions of ranch dressing around. I even have a tahini ranch that is equally rich and creamy. So why, you ask, create a cashew ranch?
There are a few reasons to embrace a cashew-based ranch dressing.
First, raw (unroasted and unsalted) cashews provide a creamy, rich texture. They are an example of healthy, plant-based fat.
In moderation, cashews are healthy. They are rich in protein, as are all nuts.
For us plant-based folks, they are a good source of the trace mineral copper, an immune booster. Although copper mainly comes from animal sources, here we have a tasty way to counter that argument.
The second reason to embrace the cashew is their delicate flavor. You get richness without transforming the traditional taste of original ranch dressing.
If you want to be a bit untraditional, and don’t happen to have cashews, by all means, make a bowl of tahini ranch dressing. You won’t regret that. But if you want a more traditional ranch, cashews are the source.
I’ve experimented with both hemp seeds and white beans in place of cashews. Neither had quite the taste I was after.
It turns out that hemp seeds make great parmesan, but are slightly bitter when used in the dressing. White beans make thick, savory gravy, but yield a 'beany' dressing.
The third reason for using cashews is the simplest. Because you can. And if you use my favorite 'forgot to soak the cashews' hack, you'll be eating ranch dressing in minutes.
There’s no magic involved. Grind dry cashews first. If you have a powerful blender, you may be able to grind them into a powder. I don’t. Which is why I rely on my spice grinder to do the job.
Once you have the cashews ground, add them to a blender along with
½ cup of plant milk
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 clove of minced garlic (add another is you like a strong flavor)
1 teaspoon of onion powder
The combination of the milk along with the vinegar and lemon juice that creates that traditional buttermilk ranch flavor. That’s what sets the dressing apart from cashew cream (or vegan sour cream). That creamy concoction only requires water.
We are intentional about blending before adding the herbs and pepper. You want to adjust the tanginess and garlic flavor without their flavors being masked.
A bit of taste, adjust, and pause is a helpful cooking strategy to avoid the overuse of ingredients. Keep that in mind the next time you reach for the saltshaker.
Once you pass the initial blend, you can start adding more milk until you get the consistency where you want it. Now you’re ready to add
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
I made these heaping tablespoons, and I’d encourage you to adjust accordingly. If you suddenly realize the consistency is a bit thinner than you'd like, some additional herbs are an opportunity to shore up the consistency as well as the flavor.
The last thing I do when I make this dressing is to add a healthy dose of ground black pepper. I find that about ½ a teaspoon it about right, but of course, you might want to shake it up a bit.
If you want to put a unique spin on your original ranch, the finishing spice is a place to start.
What other finishing spices can I use?
Cayenne or chipotle pepper
Red chili flakes
Sumac (this will give you a tangy flavor)
Chili powder (a bit of Mexican flavor)
Plant-based bacon bits
Commercial pepper blends
Reaching the ranch on a healthy path is another way we can embrace goals of eating well, by just eating well. So, pile on the greens and veggies and add a few dollops of ranch dressing and get a few moments of joy. Those moments add up. Peace.
Creamy and rich plant-based cashew ranch dressing requires few minutes to make and filled with the savory ranch flavors you crave, it’s a healthy addiction.
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 – 1 cup plant milk (I used oat milk)
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- Using a powerful blender or spice grinder, grind dry cashews into a powder.
- In a blender, add the cashews, ½ cup of plant milk, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1 tsp. onion powder. Blend until smooth. Test the consistency and add more milk if desired. Taste again and add more of any ingredients if desired.
- Transfer the dressing to a small bowl and use a spoon to mix in the dill and chives.
- Add ground black pepper to taste.
- Nutritional information is based on servings of 2 tablespoons.
- Store any unused dressing in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- The final yield depends on the amount of plant milk you add and the exact measure of the cashews, but you will get at least 1 to 1 ½ cups of dressing.
- Category: Dressings & Condiments
- Method: Blending
- Cuisine: plant-based
Keywords: plant-based cashew ranch dressing