Whether ranch is your dipping sauce of choice for foods like pizza, buffalo wings, chicken strips, and fries, or it's your preferred salad dressing for that crunchy-creamy texture dichotomy, its tangy, herbaceous flavor has people hooked. Some social media users have even branded themselves around their love of the condiment, with one TikTok star writing their catchphrase, "With ranch, obviously," in their bio.
While it's common to ask for ranch when dining out at a restaurant, keeping a bottle in your fridge can also feel like a necessity. Although the condiment is relatively simple to make using buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and garlic, many store-bought ranch dressings just seem to taste better. Most popular brands, from Hidden Valley to Lighthouse, come in "family size" containers with 20 fluid ounces of the stuff.
This amount can be hard to consume quickly, which has led many to question how long ranch dressing stays good once the bottle is opened. According to the USDA database, items like mayonnaise and salad dressings need to be refrigerated once opened, though the agency notes that these products can last "up to [two] months" in the fridge. More specifically, the entry for creamy salad dressings in the USDA's FoodKeeper app lists a consumption window of three to four weeks for "freshness and quality" once opened and refrigerated.
Most People Take Expiration Dates With A Grain Of Salt
The USDA seems to be erring on the side of caution in its food-safety recommendations, as many folks believe opened ranch dressing lasts much longer than a month or two in the fridge. A Reddit user posed a similar question but inquired about the "Best by" date on the bottle itself, claiming they had refrigerated a bottle of opened ranch for five months, and it still smelled and tasted fine.
One commenter claimed they had eaten ranch after a year and it "didn't hurt [them]," but they added that they "never really think about condiments going bad." Another user recommended the "sniff test" but also acknowledged that simply buying a fresh bottle and throwing out the old one wouldn't be the biggest deal. In all likelihood, there are probably quite a few condiments in your refrigerator that don't need to be there.
Of course, some meals just aren't the same without ranch dressing, and when you sit down to eat after a long day, stressing over expiration dates or pondering that late-night trip to the store for another bottle aren't the most appealing options. One way to avoid this conundrum is to always keep a backup ranch in your pantry. Unopened bottles can remain shelf-stable for at least six months. It will likely be easier to toss your opened ranch when the guidelines suggest if you know that a fresh bottle is within reach.
Read the original article on Mashed.