Small Batch

Buttermilk Ranch in a Jar

By • May 31, 2013 • 62 Comments

Every Friday, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Tara O'Brady from Seven Spoons makes homemade ranch dressing in just three simple steps: mix, shake, and stir.

Ranch 

I have personal rules when it comes to summer. I heartily believe all ice cream must be served in a cone, preferably sugar or waffle. Lemonade requires some pucker; if it’s too sweet, it’ll give you a headache on a hot day. Meals should be eaten outside as often as possible. And ranch dressing tastes best when shaken or stirred together in a mason jar. 

Ranch is a buttermilk- and mayonnaise-based dressing named after the ranch in Hidden Valley, California where it was first served almost 60 years ago. We don't eat it year-round in our household, but it’s in regular rotation every May through August. Ranch matches beautifully with summer produce: it's all I want drizzled on a plate of thickly sliced tomatoes, or as a cool dip for chubby field cucumbers. Grilled corn painted with ranch and dredged in grated Parmesan is addicting. Thicker versions also make a fine spread for sandwiches and hamburgers.

Salad

My homemade dressing doesn't try to emulate store-bought versions, because if that’s what you’re craving, then only the original will do. Instead, I've come up with a tangy rendition, packed with herbs and with enough body to coat greens and vegetables without overpowering them. Yogurt lightens up the mix, basil brings extra fragrance and sweetness, and paprika lends a smoky note. It has quickly become a household favorite for us -- give it a try, and you'll soon be putting it on everything. 

Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
Honey, as needed

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the shallot, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice, mayonnaise, and yogurt or sour cream. Screw on the lid and shake the jar to combine.

Ranch

Stir in most of the buttermilk. Check for consistency, and add more if needed. Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and paprika. If the dressing is too sharp, drizzle in some honey to mellow the acidity.

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Taste again, and adjust if needed. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before using so that the flavors can develop. Store any leftover dressing in the fridge and use within a couple of days.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Tara O'Brady

Jump to Comments (62)

Tags: small batch, ranch, buttermilk ranch, dressing, buttermilk, summer, how-to & diy

Comments (62)

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7 months ago Barbara Klein

This is good as sauce for Dungeness crab!!!

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7 months ago tara o'brady

Wonderful idea.

About_etsy

about 1 year ago whiskeyish

I have to tell you, this isn't ranch dressing. This isn't just an ordinary ranch, at all. This is superranch--and we're on our fifth jar of it in two months. I'm pretty much in love with it.

I added a bit of chopped onion and thickened it up (more sour cream instead of mayo, a little less buttermilk) for a dip for fresh cucumbers and broccoli. I've put it on sandwiches, I've added it to salads and brushed chicken with it before grilling. It's perfect. I'm only moderately obsessed with it now (moderately, really), and you may well have converted me from the ranch-hating side of the fence.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

That is the best review I could ever hope for. Hip, hip for Super Ranch!

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7 months ago tastysweet

whiskeyish, did you just use sour cream in lieu of mayo or just more of the sour cream as needed?

About_etsy

7 months ago whiskeyish

Hey there!

Sour cream instead of mayonnaise to use the recipe as a dip. I used the standard recipe for sandwiches and salads, as well as putting it recently--don't judge--on ears of corn, then grilling them, in an attempt to retrieve a bit of summer.

(Tara--it's still superranch. A+, for real.)

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7 months ago tara o'brady

BRILLIANT idea with the corn. I love grilled corn, and I might even suggest you then roll it in grated grana padano afterwards. No judgement. Invite me over.

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7 months ago tastysweet

Great idea with the corn. Thanks for clarifying the way you made the dressing.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Nicole Goenner


Stringio

about 1 year ago louise_leduc_kennedy

So great to see a ranch dressing with no MSG!

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about 1 year ago LLStone

I'm on my 2nd batch - this one doubled. It's so very good. My hubs said that it's better than any ranch he's ever had, ever! It's really good over all the veg, and even with some crumbled bleu cheese. Thanks - we'll be making variations of this all summer!

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Thanks to your hubs for the compliment! Happy summer to you.

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about 1 year ago SFoodGeek

Made it. Tried it. LOVED it! Thanks for reminding me how easy it is to make this fantastic dressing. Now I just wait for my veggies in the garden to ripen...or maybe I'll dip a potato chip in it! Cheers

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Hooray! Happy to hear. And you know, potato chips are always in season.

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7 months ago tastysweet

chips are always in season in our house. We only love Trader Joe's Salt and Pepper chips. Ah, soooo good. Will go out now and buy the ingredients for this dressing. Can't wait to try. Thanks for sharing.

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7 months ago tastysweet

Looks like I replied to this post a while ago, but still haven't made it. Completely forgot. Not now. Will make it and write about it.

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about 1 year ago atljim

Actually a couple of grape tomatoes or a juicy piece of homegrown tomato blended up in this dressing can add a really nice flavor as well.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Great idea! I often serve it over oven-roasted tomatoes, too.

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about 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I had cooked a stew for dinner but it didn't finish on time and it was too hot and humid for stew anyway. So I made this ranch dressing and served it with cut-up Israeli cucumbers, carrots, radishes, red pepper, asparagus, and baby artichokes. Along with a platter of Serrano ham, that was dinner. We ate out on the deck as the sun set, and enjoyed every bit of this delicious dressing. Double dipping was permitted! Thanks for sharing this with our community.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

We had quite a similar dinner a few nights ago, for very much the same reasons — it was simply too steamy to cook, or eat a hot meal. Your evening sounds perfect. I'm thrilled to hear that you gave the recipe a try, and even more so that you enjoyed it. Thank you for inviting me to contribute to Food52.

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about 1 year ago Sara Davis

I'm wondering how long this will keep in the fridge. I've never made my own ranch before (I know, I know) so curious as to how it keeps. Thanks!

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

While I'm no food scientist, I cannot definitely say in terms of safety. That said, I am personally comfortable keeping mine in the fridge for up to a week. The recipe can be halved neatly, if you have any concerns for storage.

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about 1 year ago Sara Davis

Perfect, thanks! There's a fair amount that I do by trial & error as well, so appreciate the experiential feedback. It's less about concerns over safety and more about how often I'd have to make it :)

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about 1 year ago copywolf

Just mixed up a half batch in a Ball jar - had some buttermilk I needed to use up. Really yummy. Serving it tonight drizzled over roasted asparagus. Also consider chopping up some capers and throwing them in. Thoughts?

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about 1 year ago tastysweet

I think that is a great idea to put into err asparagus. And yes to capers. Can't wait to try this.... Tomorrow. Late lunch today. Just had drinks and now dessert. No dinner.

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about 1 year ago daisybrain

Capers. Yum.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Yes to roasted asparagus! You could do sort of like sauce gribiche and have the ranch on the asparagus with chopped boiled egg and your capers. You could even fry the capers until they're crisp and add them at the end.

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about 1 year ago copywolf

Love the gribiche idea. Maybe later in the week. But just as it is on the asparagus was awesome along with sauteed fish. Thanks for an easy, elegant and versatile recipe.

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about 1 year ago tastysweet

That's a nice mason jar that is shown
Doesn't look like any I have. Where to buy?

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Hi! It's a vintage Crown jar, made in Canada, and is actually a 1/2 imperial pint size. I was making a half batch of dressing in the photos. Another look at it here.

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about 1 year ago tastysweet

Ah. Thanks. But I noticed that the one shown looks like it has a clear lid.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Sorry, but do you mean the photos shown here, or the ones shown on my site? It's the same jar; the lid is a metal screw with a glass/clear lid.

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about 1 year ago tastysweet

Ok. Here on the site it just looks like a clear glass lid, no metal.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

I think it's maybe an optical illusion, tastysweet, as there's no lid in the photos here on the site — these jars have pronounced threads, so maybe that's looking like the seam of a lid? In the last photo on my site, you see the jar with the glass lid in place, without the metal ring to secure it. Sorry for any confusion!

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about 1 year ago Sukaina

Gorgeous recipe Tara. I like to add some creme fraiche in mine and here in Dubai, we use laban instead of buttermilk. Oh heck, I just call it dressing, not ranch anymore!!

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Okay, so crème fraîche totally something I'm going to try. Thank you so much for the kind words.

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about 1 year ago Nomnomnom

Tarragon is delicious in this. Thanks for the great recipe. I made my own mayo too and it was really really good.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it! These types of dressings do lend themselves well to variation.

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about 1 year ago Nomnomnom

Would tarragon work in this in place of the basil and/or parsley? I have a heap to use up. Cheers!

Zester_003

about 1 year ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

There's no reason you can't use tarragon. But you have to recognize that there is a threshold where it stops being ranch dressing and becomes something else. Not that that something else is bad it's just different. Frankly fresh basil has already crossed that threshold for me.

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about 1 year ago Nomnomnom

Yeah, I'm definitely going for the "something else" version. Thanks!

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

If I can chime in with another "something else" version, fresh dill is lovely.

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about 1 year ago Nomnomnom

Ding ding ding! That's next on the list :)

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about 1 year ago Sam1148

One thing people forget for ranch. MSG. Yup..I know. But was in the original..and instead of chopped fresh stuff..it was mostly dried stuff---it mixes better. Personalty I use a bit of 'Cavender's Greek seasoning' to the mix--which adds the MSG element and some lemon and herb flavorings.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

It's true, the dried stuff (garlic, onion powder, herbs) in the original are a big part of what gives it the distinct flavour — and I'm a huge fan. Cool Ranch Doritos, anyone? I hoped this comes across as it was meant, as my variation on a classic, not at a try at knocking or recreating the original.

Sit2

about 1 year ago Sam1148

I wonder how well it works with powdered buttermilk?
I rarely purchase the quart of buttermilk at the supermarket---because I rarely use it until it spoils. I keep powdered buttermilk on hand though---in the freezer.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Hmm, Sam, I honestly can't say as I don't have a huge amount of experience with powdered buttermilk; I hope you report back if you give it a try. That said, I've made this with soured milk (lemon juice + milk) and it has worked well when I've not had buttermilk on hand.

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about 1 year ago thirschfeld

I have been making ranch dressing too. I am very fond of minced pickled green onions or ramps in mine.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

That sound delicious!

Stringio

about 1 year ago Allie S

What would happen if one swapped the proprotions of the yogurt and mayo? Would love to try to make a slightly lower-cal version of this! Any advice?

Zester_003

about 1 year ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Personally speaking I think yogurt has no place in ranch dressing, although a little sour cream can't hurt. But the balance is between the mayo and the buttermilk. Look at it this way, homemade is still waaaaayyyy better than the bottled stuff with all the processed ingredients that go into it. A few calories from Hellman's/Best Foods mayo won't kill you. It's going on a salad anyway, right?

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about 1 year ago daisybrain

I have used quark and that has worked nicely but you're probably not saving any calories that way.

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

The mayo not only adds body, but also seasoning and richness to the dressing; while you could use more yogurt, I think you'd have to make other adjustments to keep the flavour.

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about 1 year ago carswell

You can always use Hellmans low fat mayo. I do and can't really taste the difference between it and the full fat version.

No fat mayo is an entirely different beast and not related to anything approximating real mayo at all. Blech.

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about 1 year ago ninadora

i often use silken tofu instead of mayo, just adjust the seasonings, you might need a pinch of sugar, a squeeze of lemon and some extra salt

Zester_003

about 1 year ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

I once actually met Steve Henson the inventor of ranch dressing. Totally by accident. He and his wife were having drinks in a restaurant bar in Solvang, CA and sitting right next to me. Steve wouldn't give up his recipe but he did give me a souvenir pen. Hidden Valley Ranch itself is located off Hwy 46 west between Paso Robles and Cambria.

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about 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Love this story.

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about 1 year ago daisybrain

I have been making my own ranch for years. It so kicks ass over anything you can buy and the variations are endless. Try adding garam masala and ginger.

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about 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

That variation sounds awesome!

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

Creamy, spiced ranch would be wonderful! I've swirled it through with harissa before, and za'atar. Delicious stuff.

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about 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

My Ranch has a touch of tahini and (okay, maybe this disqualifies it as "Ranch"), a single, homemade bread and butter pickle cut into microbe-sized dice. I use MrsWheelbarrow's pickle recipe, by the way. Outstanding. ;o)

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about 1 year ago tara o'brady

I need to look up that pickle recipe!