Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Did you know that ranch dressing is the number one most popular type of salad dressing sold in America? Overtaking even the omnipresent Italian. According to Robb Walsh of the Houston Press Ranch likely got its start as buttermilk dressing, a cowboy favorite because buttermilk was widely available in the early part of the last century. Ranch dressing is essentially a buttermilk mayonnaise dressing spiffed up with herbs. It was popularized by Clorox, when they figured out a way to make their Hidden Valley brand shelf stable. (According to Slate, the dressing is shelf stable to 150 days or about 5 months. A rather scary thought.) Ranch dressing is very easy to make, especially if you have leftover buttermilk from baking, or making pancakes or soda bread. The base is just buttermilk and mayonnaise. Everything else you essentially just add to taste — some dry mustard, salt and pepper, a little paprika, herbs like chives, onion greens, parsley and/or dill. Add some crumbled blue cheese, and you have a luscious blue cheese dressing.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry dill (or a teaspoon chopped fresh)

Method

1 In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste.

Keeps for a week, covered in the fridge.

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Links:
America's love-affair with ranch dressing - Slate article by Brendan I. Koerner
The Pizza and Ranch Dressing Rebellion - Houston Press article by Robb Walsh

42 Comments

  1. Alex D.

    I love to add a bit of chipoltle powder, or the adobo sauce from a can of chipoltes to ranch dressing. That’ll get me excited about eating an otherwise boring salad.

  2. Gary in Massena

    Hmmm… That would look (not to mention taste) good over wedges of iceberg!

  3. Kristina

    I sub in sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt with excellent results (I’m not a fan of mayonnaise so I rarely have it around).

  4. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    This is definitely a time to use some of the powdered buttermilk from your pantry, too. Each packet makes one cup of buttermilk — just the right amount!

    Powdered buttermilk? That’s new to me! What a brilliant idea. So many recipes call for buttermilk and I always have to make a run to the store. Thanks Lydia, as usual, you are a treasure trove of great advice. ~Elise

  5. Beatriz

    Thanks for sharing so many wonderful food recipes. I’m a regular reader of yours now for at least a year and enjoy every post you take time to share. I’ve been making homemade ranch dressing since being married. Luckily, the Betty Crocker wedding cookbook we got as a gift had a good basic recipe for one. We changed it to our liking, mainly adding 50/50 mayonnaise and sour cream and granulated garlic instead of fresh (the fresh was a little too overpowering). I love your idea of adding dill.

  6. Kathy Cantrell

    It’s funny no matter what form I still love it. Only now I make it with 1/3 yogurt, 1/3 buttermilk, 1/3 mayonaise. Cause of my husband and all his medical needs requires less calories, fats, you know. But I still love it even this way for forty years, my love affair with ranch still strong. Thanks, Kathy Cantrell ps. Like the chipolte idea.

  7. Garrett

    OMG, I used to make this all the time in college. This recipe is a ride on the way-back machine for me. Nothing better than homemade ranch! If we didn’t have buttermilk, we would throw some lemon juice into milk and let it sit for a while.

  8. Martha Kaye

    The idea of instant buttermilk is a wonderful idea; however, if you do not have that on hand, a tip from the 50’s. You can use your whole milk to make buttermilk by adding to 1/2 cup of whole milk either one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice…wait a while and you have your ingredient. I hope this helps because I know how it is to need a small amount of buttermilk when preparing a recipe.

  9. Elyse

    Ranch dressing is my favorite–but only GOOD ranch dressing (not some of those horrible super market fake-outs). I can put this dressing on ANYTHING. Chicken, lasagna, pasta, rice, bread, pizza, tomato soup, sandwiches, and yes, salads. I’m so excited that you’ve shared this delicious looking buttermilk ranch. It looks divine!

  10. Carolina

    I’m another long-time Ranch lover. I got my original recipe from a restaurant in Mesa, AZ in 1972. I can’t remember which one, but it might have been Reuben’s. Anyway, my recipe calls for grated fresh parm, as well as a bit of Worcestershire, a touch of lemon zest and sour cream ON TOP of the buttermilk and mayo. It too specified garlic powder, as well as fresh herbs. I have switched from mayo to low-fat Greek yogurt, which I like even better, and of course low-fat sour cream. My daughter was just old enough to begin eating salad when I got this recipe, and she began licking the dressing from the salad leaves and only eating the dressing. I had to start chopping hers up small, then thoroughly blending in the dressing so she would actually consume the veggies. She is now in her 30s, and makes it herself…she’s still ‘addicted’ to it.

  11. Trish in MO

    @ Martha Kaye: Thanks for the tip! I was all prepared to keep buttermilk on hand, then when I bought some, I had a really bad week and couldn’t do much baking. Tossed it with a deep frown.

    Though I rarely even have whole milk on hand, at least that won’t go bad as fast as my last half gallon of buttermilk! If I don’t get to using it, I can have the kids make some pudding or shakes with it!

    @ Lydia: I’ve never seen powdered buttermilk! Where would you suggest I look? Thanks!

  12. Memoria

    I wonder if this would still taste okay without the dill and mustard powder. hmm…

    It’s to taste. So, just skip it if you don’t want the dill or mustard. You could also add garlic and/or Worcestershire sauce. The base is just buttermilk and mayo, so beyond that truly anything goes. ~Elise

  13. Mark Boxshus

    Elise

    Now I’ve got another use for my dried buttermilk cultures. I’ll give this a whirl and let you know how it tastes. I’m sure the fresh buttermilk is far superior, but in a pinch I’m hoping the powdered version will work out as well. My only thought is that it will taste as yucky as the powdered milk my mother made a few times when I was a kid.

    Mark

  14. Jen

    I love the idea of having fresh dressing on hand. As I often combine ranch and blue cheese dressings on a salad, I will follow the blue cheese crumble tip! Yum!!

  15. Sylvia Nightingale

    I started using the ranch type dressing 45-50 years ago called Uncle Dan’s. Long before I ever saw Hidden Valley products. It has alaways been a favorite dressing of ours. This recipe is great. a little different but so good. I also like to use a variety of herbs at different times. Fresh lemon thyme makes a lovely addition.

  16. Marchel

    I’ve never been a big fan of Ranch dressing, too bland for my taste. However, this recipe looks like a great building block for something tangier. I’d like to add minced fresh garlic and blue or feta cheese and maybe a little cayenne. Love the idea of substituting Greek yoghurt too.

    Thanks Elise for giving me another great inspiration!

    You’re very welcome. What I love about this recipe is that it is such a good base for improvisation. Lots of directions one can go from a buttermilk base. ~Elise

  17. pat

    I make up just the spices part in a big quantity using ingredients from the bulk food store (where the spices are much cheaper).

    Then when I need to make more dressing, I just add 2 Tbs of mix and the liquid ingredients. I can have it made in 2 min. Anything to save time because I am always hungry when I get home.

    I try to cut down on the Mayo to save calories. You could use all buttermilk, or some yogurt and buttermilk. If the dressing is too thin, add mashed potato flakes. No one will ever know.

  18. Christina

    Could this dressing be turned into a dip? Perhaps by adding some sour cream? I don’t often make salads but I do enjoy having cut up veggies ready in the fridge for easy snacking and I would love to use this recipe for both dressing and a dip by keeping half of it runny for the dressing and thicker for a dip.

    I think it would make a great dip, go for it! ~Elise

  19. SAS

    Oh, Elise! I can’t believe you posted this. I had to make it, and then practically drank it straight from the bowl. Finally had enough self respect to put it on some lettuce, then my steak, then back to my fingers.

    It was yummy! Thanks Kathy C. for the 1/3 mayo, 1/3 yogurt (Greek, non-fat), 1/3 buttermilk tip – added a tad more buttermilk to make it pourable. Also added some dried, minced onion since it was on hand.

    Now, off to find the next “carrier food”…!

  20. Linda In Washington State

    Hi Elise, The Sun is shinning today!!!!!!
    At a popular local brewery here, I eat fries served with a thick creamy ranch dressing to go with my beer of course! Your recipe would definitely make a great dip for fries and oh yes, veggies too. I would add softened cream cheese to thicken it to keep the favor consistency of your dressing in the dip.

  21. Mekhala

    For instant buttermilk, blend milk and plain yogurt in 1:1 proportion. If you want it more thick, add extra yogurt, more thin, add extra milk.

  22. Eirikur

    To my buttermilk dressing I like to add half of a Hass avocado (sometimes a whole one) and a few shakes of Tabasco sauce. It’s particularly good on grilled hamburgers, spring greens and French fries.

  23. Deanna

    I love this! So fresh and tasty. I rarely have buttermilk on hand or want to purchase a large container that would probably go bad, so I usually make my own too, 1 C milk to 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar. I use 1% milk too and it still works. I just used it in a bread I made.

  24. n8

    I would like to try this recipe with lowfat (or skim) buttermilk and some substitute for the mayo. Any suggestions for a mayo sub? Yogurt? Sour cream?

    One thing I’ve done in the past for yogurt based dressings is to use fat free yogurt and sub in a table spoon of olive oil. Fat free yogurt and sour cream both seem to take take oil very well. I wonder if one of them, “oiled-up” would work here as a mayo sub.

  25. Anita

    The first time I tried it out, I followed the recipe exactly. However, we found that we did not like the taste of the paprika. I make it with lowfat buttermilk and lowfat mayo – it is fantastic every time. Thank you for another great recipe!

  26. Myesha

    This was my first time making homemade ranch dressing and I used this recipe and wow! I’m amazed. I loved it. Definitely will make it again. Thank you!

  27. Eric

    This is a great recipe – thanks! I didn’t have chives, so I subbed cornichon & onion.

  28. Amy

    I have been wanting to make my own ranch dressing for ever, and I’m so glad I stumbled upon this recipe! I did 1/3 buttermilk, 1/3 mayo, and 1/3 sour cream, and may actually eliminate the mayo because we’re not really big fans. When I tried it, it felt like there was something missing, so I tossed in a splash of Worcestershire and voila! It’s perfect! I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire.

  29. Huber Hanes

    ROQUEFORT CHEESE SALAD DRESSING

    By: Huber Hanes

    This Dressing is great for “dips” as well as being sensational on all salads. You can break this volumn down — but here it is for a big party to serve.

    4 qts. of Regular Mayonaise
    2 lbs. of Crumbled Roquefort Cheese ( Bleu Cheese will work also )
    23 ozs. of Regular Tomatoe Juice
    10 ozs. of Lea & Perrins Worchestershire Sauce
    1 tbs. of garlic salt
    1/2 Pint of Buttermilk

    Mix up all togeather, chill over night. It will have a ‘pinkish color’ to it. Keeps fresh in the fridge for 3 weeks! Best flavor you ever had for a salad.

  30. Michelle

    Homemade “ranch” buttermilk dressing is delicious! The store bought varieties always have a tinny taste to me. Anyway, I have made dressing with the Saco brand powdered buttermilk, and it works okay. But, I prefer regular buttermilk. It’s hard to use up a whole quart, so I just freeze the extra in one cup measures and use it as needed after a quick thaw in the fridge. Yes, it separates a little bit, but after it’s blended up in the dressing we can’t tell! It can be used for baking also, just blend it back together.

  31. Robyn

    I made this last night and added 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon onion powder. Yummy!! Better than the powdered mix.

  32. Hil

    Delicious.

  33. Sharon

    Found and made this recipe today after having a delicious salad with house made ranch at a local restaurant. I added just a tiny bit of hot sauce for a little zip. Fantastic! Thanks so much!

  34. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    I’m not quite sure why this didn’t work out for me, but mine was very gelatinous in consistency. Almost like thinner mayonnaise, and not very tasty at all. I’m not quite sure how you achieved such a thin consistency, as buttermilk and mayo are pretty thick, but I’d love to know if you or anyone else has any suggestions. I’m willing to try again!

  35. rosa menchen

    I love to have buttermilk on hand, as it is very versitile and nutritious. Use it in cakes, bisquits, eggs, mashed potatoes,sauces,custards, marinades, pies, smoothies. If you want to thin out your dressings, consider lime or lemon juice (and other fruit juices to go with the other foods), milk,flavored vinegars halved with water or straight. I like mine dressing with chipotle Tabasco, my daughter likes it with regular Tabasco. My guys like it anyway they can get it. I have also made it with plain yogurt. Hubby likes my homemade mayonaisse with it. I like to use mostly buttermilk, but halve the mayo with low fat yogurt or sour cream. I have also made it with straight buttermilk, but it is thinner, but tastes great. For use with sandwiches and burgers, thicken it with the mayo and yogurt. I figure about 1T per sandwich, so I make a “master” blend with the buttermilk, and stir some in with the mayo/yogurt mix for the sandwiches. It is also good with deviled eggs with cayenne sprinkled on top.

  36. Andrew

    Mom forgot, that you can use this stuff with fish too. I like it with fish when tarragon and dill is used with lots of fresh parsley and some capers. If too thick, thin it with lemon and lime. Grate some peel in there too.
    I like this on nachos with fresh chopped chilis and cilantro, pour on top of melted cheese. You can use in place of mayo in tuna, and I like it on plain pasta

  37. sally

    I have just returned after spending 6 weeks with my son in California, where I became addicted to Ranch dressing. On my return I was having withdrawal symptoms, so looked up the recipe on the internet…. back into bliss mode!

  38. Bob

    Taste great, but it is really thin. What should I do?

    Well, if you want to thicken it you could add a little corn starch to it. ~Elise

  39. Agnes

    Thank you so much for this fantastic recipe! I’m always wanted to make my own ranch dressing and this recipe hit the spot! I added more mayonnaise to thicken the dressing and used fresh dill and garlic powder to add more flavor. It’s perfect to serve as a veggie dip too! =)

  40. Christina

    We really enjoyed this recipe. Thanks!

  41. Shelby

    Okay, this sounds absolutely MARVELOUS. I just tried making this, went out and bought all of the ingredients but FAILED miserably. Like someone else mentioned above, mine was very gelatinous and it just did not taste very good at all. How do you make the consistency more runny?

  42. Kimberly

    This is great! I had just churned a bunch of butter from yesterday’s milking and googled buttermilk ranch. It’s delicious. I wish I had fresh parsley, but at least everything else was on hand. Thanks for sharing!

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