Vegan Ranch Review and Cauliflower Bites
One thing as a plant based eater that can be annoying, especially if you hate to cook, is finding a fun snack to bring to parties. Another thing that can be annoying is trying to replicate exact textures and flavors of some of your old favorite foods. You do get used to new ones, as I've written about before and extensively believe, but you always want to find that magic substitution that is precisely like the original.
Much like I managed to bump into Just Eggs by accident, I glanced in an area of the produce section I often skip and managed to find Vegan Ranch during my last trip to TJ's. Whaaa? Something that I can bring to parties AND something I'm not great at making? Ranch often escapes me. While I can make a decent ranch cashew dressing I'm not always spot on with my seasoning blend. I am also not a food chemist and I am happy to enjoy the occasional processed product that manages to taste like heaven.
My mind immediately goes to dips like Hellavagood Onion dip, Hidden Valley Ranch packets with sour cream, and all the rich, salty, tangy dips on the market.
To test them I both ate some from a spoon for science, and I made some buffalo wing cauliflower bites to dip.
If you don't know how to make those, let me offer a 1 minute explanation on how to cauliflower bites.
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop or pull apart cauliflower florets until they are all roughly the same size. I prefer littler because I like little crispy bits.
Step 2: Make batter in a bag. Batter in a bag is 45% flour and 55% liquid. Did I make those percentages up? Ah yea... but I find it's almost always 50/50 with a little more leaning to the liquid side. It should be like pancake batter.
For buffalo, make liquid half buffalo sauce half water. For sticky asian bits, make half of it water and half a store bought orange or general tso's sauce (if you're going sticky Asian sauce, I recommend a second coat of the just the sauce when turning pieces half way though)
Step 3: Put the bits in a bag, blow it up, and shake it around
Place nicely on non-stick pan trying to avoid any of the pieces touching.
Step 4: Pop them in the oven and find something to do for 20 minutes. Then flip them so their brown side is facing up and bake for 10 more minutes.
So back to the ranch.
The ingredients are as follows, a la the TJ's website...
INGREDIENTS: COCONUT CREAM (COCONUT, WATER), CANOLA OIL, WATER, RED WINE VINEGAR, PARSLEY, GARLIC, SEA SALT, SHALLOTS, CHIVES, BLACK PEPPER, DILL, XANTHAM GUM.
To start, I am super impressed at how unprocessed this dip is. All pronounceable. All things I've seen. Upon gazing them on the package I thought, "damn, they really put coconut in everything these days." Which they do.
Secondly, I has a ton of calories but it's ranch dip. It's 100 calories for 2 tbs with 11 grams of fat but I feel like that's on par. And I'm not over here doing a ranch cleanse. Moot point.
So I dig in and I immediately have the following thoughts:
"Interesting texture. It's a little different but it's fine"
"Hmm, I feel like they did the ranch seasonings ok. I was looking for punch-me-in-the-face packet ranch but that's not quite what this is"
"Is it the coconut? Is that the weird texture thing?"
"Something tastes off"
Of course I still had to sample it with some buffalo bites because often in my world a dip or condiment is simply there to enhance the flavor of whatever vessel I have used to shove it into my mouth with.
My other thought was that depending on the friend group I could NOT take this dip unnoticed. There is something about it that is distinctly different than what you are expecting when you think traditional ranch dip. I still want to blame the coconut.
- You can easily pick it up for a party with zero prep work
- It is thick and creamy and cools your mouth down from spicy food
- It's noticeably different from traditional ranch dip
- The flavor is off some how and not quite as strong as I'd want
- It is very calorie heavy if you're worried about such things
Overall grade: C+
Overall I'm more upset that this isn't as good as I want it to be because I want to be Trader Joe's biggest number one fan for everything they make. It'll do the job if you're really needing to bring something easy to a party, but don't get too upset if you're the only one eating it. I look forward to seeing if I actually finish the rest of the tub. The most positive part of this taste test was remember how much I love cauliflower bits. THEY were excellent, lol.