If you love ranch enough, you’ll want to know how long it lasts when opened and unopened, and whether or not it expires.
In this article, you’ll learn just that, and discover how to tell a ranch dressing that has begun to go bad.
Does Ranch Expire If Not Opened?
First and foremost, let’s talk about the handy little date stamped on the neck of your ranch dressing container- the ‘Best By’, ‘Fresh Until’ or ‘Use By’ date.
This date is provided by the manufacturer as a guideline for when their product will maintain its peak quality and flavor, and is not actually the “expiration date” in the sense that the product ceases to become edible or useful once the date has passed.
In fact, expiration dates are more commonly found on items like drugs and baby foods where a degradation in quality of the product can result in detrimental consequences to the health of the person consuming it, i.e cause malnutrition or sickness in babies or even adults.
For use by dates, they’re more of a quality check than a safety one, and even when past them, many products are still safe to consume although they may not taste great.
In general, an unopened bottle of ranch dressing like the one from Hidden Valley or Kraft has a shelf life of 12 months from the date of its manufacture, and can last well beyond the ‘Best By’ date if stored properly.
How Long Is Ranch Good After Expiry?
Generally speaking, unopened bottles of ranch dressing can last up to one month past their expiration date when stored properly in a cool, dark place, like the pantry, shelves or on the dining table.
Opened bottles of ranch dressing however, are best consumed within 2 weeks past their expiration date as they would lose quality quickly and taste slightly off after sitting for that long.
Before consuming the ranch, always use and trust your senses – if something seems completely off about your dressing (although subtle but not terrible changes would present themselves for an expired ranch, like an off color, smell and even taste), it’s more than likely to have gone bad and it’s better to err on the side of caution and toss it out.
Do You Need To Refrigerate Ranch Dressing Before And After Opening?
When it comes to storing ranch dressing, there’s often confusion about whether refrigeration is necessary before and after opening the bottle, and this confusion stems from the fact that ranch bottles are found alongside other non-refrigerated condiments like Mayo in the grocery shelves.
Let’s end the confusion here once and for all.
Refrigerating Ranch Dressing Before Opening
Most store-bought ranch dressings are shelf-stable, which means they can be stored at room temperature for as long as their best before date dictates, or even longer as we have seen above.
They are able to store for this long because of the smart choices and combination of ingredients as well as use of chemical preservatives.
That said, homemade ranch dressing as well as some organic or natural varieties like wingstop’s ranch dressing may require refrigeration even before opening, because they have fewer preservatives (or don’t even have at all) and need cooler temperatures to maintain their freshness for longer.
The best way to stay safe is to always check the label for any specific storage instructions if you’re purchasing an all-natural or organic ranch dressing.
Refrigerating Ranch Dressing After Opening
Once you’ve cracked open that bottle of ranch goodness, it’s time to move it from your pantry to your fridge as exposure to air, heat and light accelerates spoilage.
Refrigerating opened ranch dressing helps prevent bacterial and fungal growth and ensures that the flavors and quality remain intact for as long as possible.
The general rule of thumb is to store opened ranch dressing in the refrigerator for up to two months (or 2 weeks if it’s past the expiry date).
For homemade ranch dressing and other types of dressing without added preservatives (check the label to confirm that), keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator (middle shelf) for no longer than 2 weeks.
Follow the steps below to properly refrigerate an opened ranch dressing.
Seal it tight
After using your ranch dressing, make sure to close the cap or lid tightly to prevent unwanted air or contaminants from sneaking in and compromising the quality of your dressing.
Keep it cool
Find a spot in your refrigerator where the temperature is consistently cool and store the bottle upright to minimize possible leakage or spills.
Avoid placing your ranch near the door, as temperatures can fluctuate there due to frequent opening and closing. A shelf towards the back or middle of the fridge is ideal.
Label it (optional)
If you forget things a lot, it’s a good thing to mark down the date you opened that bottle of ranch to be able to keep track of its freshness.
Use a marker or sticker to note the date you first cracked it open. Most opened ranch dressings, store-bought, and not past their expiry dates, can last up to 2 month in the refrigerator, but always check for signs of spoilage like mold, off-odors or separation that doesn’t resolve with shaking.
Does Ranch Go Bad In The Fridge?
Yes, opened ranch dressing, even when stored in the fridge, will eventually go bad because contaminants in the air are always introduced into it with every opening.
The essence of refrigeration is to slow down bacterial activities not to stop it completely, so eventually, the contaminants in it will win, and cause the product to spoil.
Signs That Your Ranch Dressing Has Gone Bad
Sniffing is usually a good test to identify if your ranch has gone bad. A rancid smell typically indicates spoiled ingredients within the product which means the product has gone bad.
Also, check for any changes in color or consistency i.e. separation or curdling, as well as the growth of mold in the ranch or around the container. These usually are signs of spoilage.
If you’re unsure about whether your ranch dressing is still good to eat but don’t see any obvious signs of spoilage like bad smell or discoloration, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dispose of it rather than risk consuming something potentially harmful.
Is It Okay To Eat Ranch That Was Left Out Overnight?
It’s not recommended to consume ranch dressing that has stayed out overnight (especially in a hot environment) because the dairy-based composition in it makes it highly susceptible to spoilage.
If it was just oil and yolks, with some bit of acidic, like the classic mayo, then it can actually sit out overnight without issues, although it’s still recommended to store opened bottles of Mayo in the fridge to preserve flavors!
To avoid future mishaps with your ranch dressing or other perishable condiments:
- Always store it in the refrigerator within 4 hours after opening.
- Never dip your hands into the container or neck of the bottles to scoop out ranch. It will introduce bacteria and cause spoilage.
- Keep track of expiration dates and use up products near their expiration dates fast.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Hidden Valley Ranch Last?
The popular Hidden Valley Ranch typically has a “Best By” date of around 12 to 18 months from its date of production.
This date indicates when the product is at its peak quality in terms of taste and texture. However, it can still be consumed for a few more months after this date if stored properly (in a cool and dry place) and passes all necessary quality checks.
Once opened, Hidden Valley Ranch should be refrigerated and ideally consumed within two months.
Does Zaxby’s Ranch Have To Be Refrigerated?
Yes, just like any other creamy dressing, Zaxby’s ranch need to be refrigerated to maintain its freshness and quality. Once you’ve opened the container or if it’s a leftover from your meal, make sure to store it in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. Consume it within a week to prevent running into a spoiled mess.
Does Chick-fil-A Ranch Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, Chick-fil-A ranch dressing should be refrigerated after opening although leaving it out overnight won’t cause it to go bad. If you have an unopened bottle or container, then it’s fine to leave it out at room temperature since it is shelf stable.
Like most dressings and condiments, refrigeration helps maintain its quality.
Do Kraft Ranch and McDonald’s Ranch Expire?
Like all condiments, both Kraft Ranch and McDonald’s Ranch do come with a “best by” date, signaling when their freshness and flavor may start to decline. However, this doesn’t mean they’re unsafe for consumption past that date.
Kraft Ranch can last up to a year if unopened and stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Once opened, store it in the refrigerator and consume within a few weeks for optimal quality.
McDonald’s Ranch packets also have a lengthy shelf life of up to a year when stored correctly. If you’ve already opened one, use it within a week or so, keeping it refrigerated to maintain its quality.
Does Wingstop Ranch Expire?
Wingstop Ranch does expire more quickly than other ranch dressings because it’s homemade without added preservatives. An unopened container should last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator before signs of spoilage appear. Once opened (and after dipping chicken into it), use it within a couple of days as freshness declines rapidly.
To store Wingstop Ranch properly, seal tightly and place in the coldest part of your fridge (usually towards the back). And remember – no double-dipping! Introducing bacteria from fingers or utensils can shorten its lifespan.
Can Ranch Get Warm?
If you’re talking about leaving it outside to store, eventually exposing it to warmer temperatures for extended periods of time, especially after being opened or prepared from a packet mix, the ranch dressing can become susceptible to spoilage and bacterial growth.
If you find that your ranch has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s best to err on the side of caution as it has the potential to cause food poisoning.
If what you meant was warming ranch dressing, it might not be as good of an idea as eating it cold since it could separate during warming and wouldn’t generally taste better than a cold ranch anyways.
Can You Eat Ranch Dressing That Has Expired 3 Months Ago?
It’s good to live on the edge sometimes but when it comes to expired food, it’s best to play it safe.
If your ranch has expired three months ago and you’re feeling a little daring (or desperate), give it a thorough sniff test and inspect its appearance for any mold or separation.
If everything seems okay and you’re willing to take the risk, go ahead and give it a taste. But remember: when in doubt, throw it out.