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Monday, April 21, 2014

GFCF/Dairy-free (vegan) ranch dressing

My kids have gone through dipping and non-dipping phases many times.  We had a mercifully brief stretch where Boy #1 wanted ketchup at every meal and dunked everything from peas to strawberries in it.  While the kids aren't (yet) interested in MY personal dipping fave (blue cheese dressing), they do occasionally want something like ranch dressing (also one of MY personal favorites).

Since ranch dressing is buttermilk-based, I needed to find a substitute.  While it doesn't have to be vegan for my household, the recipe I decided to try was nut-based and therefore vegan.  My go-to homemade recipe for ranch dressing calls for mixing a blend of herbs and spices (given below) into equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk.  While you can mimic the acidity of buttermilk by adding a little lemon juice to a non-dairy milk, I thought the flavor might still fall flat and that the cashews might help return a bit of richness to the dressing flavor.

Also I have a bottomless bag of chia seeds that I need to use up.

My first attempt at following this recipe exactly as written was underwhelming.  My results were on the thin, runny side and rather bland for my taste.

The consistency issue is likely a two-pronged problem...I prefer a thicker, more commercial consistency (the better for dipping, yo) and also I'm using a food processor rather than a Bone Crusher 6000 blender.  I have a blender that makes a decent daquiri, but it can't reduce raw carrots to sub-atomic particles.  The food processor does better, but it's also no cell-phone grinder.  I'd maybe get a thicker, creamier dressing with a higher-powered blender.

In lieu of heavier-duty equipment, I went with heavier-duty ingredients.  I doubled the amount of nuts and chia seed, reduced the liquid and went with my personal tried-and-true blend of herbs and spices for what *I* think ranch dressing should taste like.  It's a little heavy on the garlic and dill, but that's what I like and I'm not apologizing for it :)

I'd like to try this nut-and-chia recipe head-to-head with an acidified non-dairy milk plus mayo base to see if I prefer one to the other, but for now here's the nut-and-chia vegan version.

Vegan, Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing
Makes 1 pint

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours then drained well
1 cup unsweetened rice milk
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp Ranch Dressing mix (or more/less to taste)

Blend all except the herb mix together very, very well in a food processor or blender.  Pulse in the herb mix and put in a container to fridge.  Let it set up in the fridge for several hours to let flavors blend and let the chia seeds thicken the mixture.

Ranch Dressing Mix
Makes about 3 recipes-worth

1 heaped tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dry minced onion
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper Pin It

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