DIY Ranch Dressing Recipes

We’re all familiar with that old classic, buttermilk ranch dressing. Even if you aren’t a fan of the bottled stuff today, chances are you have fond memories of it showing up on salads when you were a kid.

As we grow up, however, ranch dressing stays the same – always the same old bottle, always the same old flavor – and for some of us, that means we leave it in the past.

But what’s that you say? There are grown up versions of buttermilk dressings? Yes, it’s true. Learning to make your own ranch (or any other kind of buttermilk dressing, for that matter) is easier than you might think, and requires only a handful of simple ingredients. Once you’ve got the basics down, the possibilities are endless.

You can stick to the classic ranch flavors (an herby mix of parsley, dill, and chives) or step outside the box with some Mexican flair (jalapeno, lime, and cilantro, anyone?) or a cool Mediterranean twist (with lemon, mint, and shallots). The beauty of making things from scratch: there are no rules when it comes to flavor. Once you know the basic formula, you can add or subtract according to your tastes,  or to compliment other ingredients in your dish.

The backbone of all buttermilk dressings are three things: mayonnaise (the real stuff, please), sour cream, and, you guessed it, buttermilk. But hold your horses, because those things alone do not a buttermilk dressing make. A squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar bring the dressing to life, and a good pinch of salt and pepper are a must. From there, a little bit of garlic adds a touch of savory flavor for a very basic dressing.

Basic Buttermilk Dressing


Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • ¼ cup cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated or finely minced (about ½ tsp.)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a glass measuring cup, bowl, or jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the consistency by adding more buttermilk as needed. Dressing can be used immediately, or stored in the fridge up to the expiration date of the sour cream or buttermilk (whichever one comes first).

(Tip: if raw garlic has too much bite, try using a small pinch of granulated garlic instead, or use roasted garlic in place of fresh.)

 

kj-ranch-dressing_002As the food writer Shauna Niequist put it, “recipes are the scales, the training wheels, the paint-by-numbers that lead us to jazz, two-wheel riding, and our very own blank canvas.” I couldn’t agree more. A recipe is there to show you the way, and once you know it, you can make your own detours and carve your own path.

Here are a few variations you can try, along with serving suggestions. (Because who says dressings are only for salads?) Think of these recipes as a jumping off point – give them a try first as they are written, then take the reins and adjust as you see fit. Never be afraid to add or subtract when cooking, or even veer off in a whole new direction. Try swapping greek yogurt for the sour cream, or use different herbs or flavored vinegars to make your own signature blend – because the best buttermilk dressing is the one that’s tailored just for you.

 

Classic Ranch Dressing


Drizzle this dressing over greens, or keep the consistency of this dressing on the thick side by using a little less buttermilk, and use it as a dip for vegetables, meats, or thick-cut wedges of potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • ¼ cup cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP fresh chives, finely chopped
  • ½ TBSP fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated or finely minced (about ½ tsp.)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a glass measuring cup, bowl, or jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the consistency by adding more buttermilk as needed. Dressing can be used immediately, but is best after sitting in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend. Dressing can be stored in the fridge up to the expiration date of the sour cream or buttermilk (whichever comes first).

 

 

Mediterranean-Style Ranch Dressing


The Mediterranean flavors of this dressing go great on lamb burgers, as a sauce for grilled kebabs, drizzled over fish, or serve alongside hot Indian curries to cool things down.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • ¼ cup cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup finely diced English cucumber
  • 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp. Finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tsp. Finely chopped shallot, or red onion
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a glass measuring cup, bowl, or jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the consistency by adding more buttermilk as needed. Dressing can be used immediately, but is best after sitting in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend. Dressing can be stored in the fridge up to the expiration date of the sour cream or buttermilk (whichever comes first).

 

Jalapeno Lime Ranch Dressing


The Tex-Mex flavors of this ranch dressing really wakes up the classic version. Drizzle on tacos or fajitas, use as a sauce for grilled meats or vegetables, or as a dip for quesadillas. Keep it on the thick side by using a little less buttermilk, and use in place of sour cream on nachos for an added kick.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • ¼ cup cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 TBSP finely diced jalapeno, to taste*
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated or finely minced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a glass measuring cup, bowl, or jar, starting with just 1 TBSP jalapeno, and adding more to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the consistency by adding more buttermilk as needed. Dressing can be used immediately, but is best after sitting in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend. Dressing can be stored in the fridge up to the expiration date of the sour cream or buttermilk (whichever comes first).

Notes

*Most of the heat from the jalapeno is stored in the seeds and veins inside the pepper. For a milder heat, remove the seeds and veins thoroughly. For more heat, leave the veins, or some of the seeds, in.

Sun Dried Tomato Ranch Dressing


Sun dried tomatoes and dill add a simple twist on the classic buttermilk ranch dressing. Use it in any way you would use regular ranch, or smother it on sandwiches or wraps for an extra pop of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • ¼ cup cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP fresh chives, finely chopped
  • ½ TBSP fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated or finely minced (about ½ tsp.)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in a glass measuring cup, bowl, or jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the consistency by adding more buttermilk as needed. Dressing can be used immediately, but is best after sitting in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend. Dressing can be stored in the fridge up to the expiration date of the sour cream or buttermilk (whichever comes first).

 

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Dressing Tips

  • Never be afraid to add or subtract. When making changes, taste often, and follow your stomach.
  • If raw garlic has too much bite, try using a small pinch of granulated garlic instead, or use roasted garlic in place of fresh.
  • When tasting your dressing, use a leaf of lettuce or a carrot, not just a spoon. This will give you a better idea of how it will taste with other foods. You may find it needs a bit more salt or vinegar to stand up to other flavors.
Photo Credits: Willow Arlen
Willow Arlen
Willow Arlen is a writer, photographer, and lover of food. She enjoys salads and desserts equally, and believes food doesn’t have to be complicated to be good. Her favorite thing in the whole world is getting together with friends around the table, hence the name of her blog: Will Cook For Friends.

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