Homemade is best
If I had a dollar for every time someone commented “But homemade is WAY better!” on one of my posts. 🙂 Yes, yes, yes – we ALL know homemade is best. When you have the time. And energy. And the will (and want) to do it. The same holds true for salad dressings too. But yet, salad dressing is a million dollar food industry. So somebody out there is buying bottled salad dressing (raises hand.) Most of us are picking up a bottle of salad dressing at some point during our many grocery trips.
Which store-bought ones are the best?
So, if we’re all buying bottled salad dressing at some point – which ones are the best? To me, this is always a tough one. I will often have folks ask me which brands are my favorite. Some salad dressings that I used to love changed their recipe and I’m not so crazy about them anymore. And there are always new bottled dressings being introduced all the time. Plus, there are different criteria for everyone’s personal tastebuds. I’m very specific in what I like and what I don’t.
Easy to find
So, in doing this very un-scientific survey, I basically had one rule of thumb. It had to be found in most major grocery stores (like Wal-Mart.) There is no way I can try every single bottled salad dressing on the planet. I mean, I could, but I’d never get this post written. So I decided I needed to choose bottled salad dressings that are readily available in most of the United States. I had a friend recommend a Ranch dressing that she absolutely loved that she could only get at Whole Foods. I ain’t got a Whole Foods within 3 hours of my house so that one was automatically taken out of the running. I don’t even remember the name of it now.
I don’t like tangy Ranch. I don’t like overly vinegar-y Italian. I don’t like Thousand Island to be too sweet. Same with Balsamic Vinaigrette. So now that you know my tastebuds, you can decide if you might like these same dressings. Be sure to leave a comment below with your favorite salad dressings. I’m sure there are some really good ones I missed! So, let’s get to it!
Cardini’s Caesar Salad Dressing. This is one a lot of people may overlook because it is normally on the top shelf and not so obvious. It’s a good, solid Caesar dressing.
Marzetti Thousand Island Dressing. Marzetti salad dressings are found in the refrigerated produce section. This dressing is thick and not overly sweet. You can see bits of chopped pickle in the dressing. But again, it is thick so if you aren’t a fan of thick dressings, you may not enjoy this.
Runner up: Kraft Thousand Island – it wasn’t too sweet and was thinner than the Marzetti so would be easier to pour.
This category was pretty much a tie. They were both a little too tangy for my liking but, having said that, they might be good in a pasta salad or as a marinade. Ken’s Steak House Greek Dressing had chunks of feta cheese but wasn’t heavily seasoned.
Marie’s Greek Vinaigrette is another salad dressing that can only be found in the refrigerated produce section. It also had chunks of Feta cheese in it and had seasoning I could taste.
Almost all of the balsamic vinaigrettes I sampled were pretty sweet. Some were sickeningly sweet. I wanted a balance of sweet and tangy. Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette was the only one I thought that fit that bill.
I actually had three Italian dressings that I enjoyed. The top one was Wish Bone’s Ristorante Italiano Signature Italian. This is a new dressing flavor for this brand. I enjoyed that it was not mostly vinegar like many Italian salad dressings. I could really taste the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasonings.
This one is technically not a bottled salad dressing – Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing. You do have to mix it up with vinegar and oil. But it is pre-packaged so I felt it at least deserved a mention here. I’ve used it for years and it is a good, solid Italian dressing that I enjoy and the taste doesn’t overwhelm any other flavors in my salad. According to the Kraft website, there are other flavors (like Greek) but I wasn’t able to find any of those other flavors locally.
Honorable mention goes to Ken’s Steak House Italian Salad Dressing with Aged Romano. It had a good cheese flavor and I could taste the seasonings. I could’ve done with a little less vinegar in this one. It might be good for pasta salads or chicken marinade.
I think this was the toughest category to judge. Ranch is my favorite dressing so I am super picky and judgy about it. I will definitely say none of these are anywhere near as good as Homemade Ranch Dressing. It’s what I judge all other Ranch dressings by. But I knew what I did not like: I don’t like it to be overly tangy. A lot of the buttermilk Ranch dressings were so tangy that I couldn’t taste anything else. Again, a lot of brands love to use vinegar and/or tons of sugar in their dressings.
So, having said all of that, I did find a couple that I would deem acceptable substitutes when you just cannot make homemade. Surprisingly, it was the super cheap Great Value Ranch Dressing that topped my list. It wasn’t overloaded with vinegar or sugar. It had an actual ranch flavor. It is thick so would make a good dipping dressing.
Honorable mention has to go to Marzetti Classic Ranch Dressing. As I said earlier, Marzetti can be found in the refrigerated produce section. It is a thinner dressing so is easily pourable. If you like your Ranch dressing to have a buttermilk flavor then you will enjoy this one. It has that little bit of zingy tang that some folks enjoy.
Final Note: It is really important with any salad dressing that you give it a very thorough shake before pouring! This was a totally independent and unscientific study by myself. I was not paid by any brand or company to give my opinion on the above products.
Cook’s Note: Below are some of the Homemade Dressing Recipes that I have on the blog. Just click on the photo to take you to the recipe. 🙂