Buttermilk Ranch – It’s a love / hate thing

Buttermilk Ranch – It’s a love / hate thing

…you know you do.


Back just shy of 1950, there was this guy named Steve Henson. He was up in Alaska somewhere working, doing the bush people thing and cooking for his fellow bush people workers. It was during that mystical time he began developing a buttermilk based salad dressing (I’m assuming to put on their fireweed Caesars…or willow bark chop salads… or moose fodder carpaccio … .. . the whole mental image of bush people in Alaska sitting around a campfire, eating a honkin’ bowl of salad is just kinda funny.). He and his wife later moved to California, and opened a Dude Ranch called Hidden Valley. His formulated buttermilk dressing became the house dressing of the ranch.

It was so unique, so flavorful, everybody wanted the recipe. He began packaging up the mix and selling it…. Although to do that, the mix had to be diluted with non-food items (fillers, stabilizers, anti-clumping agents).

The popularity grew and people couldn’t get enough. By the late 60’s, Ranch dressing had displaced all of the old salad standbys – Green Goddess, Catalina, French and Russian – and had become the dressing of choice (just behind 1000 Island). Soon, you didn’t even have to mix your own anymore – It came pre-bottled… with even more fillers… and stabilizers… and emulsifiers. …and I quit buying it.

For me, Ranch dressing was always a dry mix. Jane would buy the little seasoning packs (and if you sprang for a buck more… you could get the swifty glass cruet / shaker to make it in), and turn to process over to us kids to make. Shake, shake shake – you’ve got dressing. It was the one thing guaranteed we couldn’t mess up.


Since we have a couple of things coming up with Ranch dressing as the base, I figured we should get back to the basics, and whip up a bottle of our own, thick, luscious, savory, ranch dressing….. without all those non-food stuffs in it. Generally speaking, all mix your own ranch style dressings are a tad watery… regardless of the thickness of your buttermilk. To combat that.. I’ve chosen to use something a little unorthodox – Powdered Egg Whites to aid in thickening as opposed to starch or xanthan gum. The powdered whites are pasteurized so there’s no need to worry… and you aren’t left with that odd uncooked flavor that starches impart – nor the slicker-y sliminess that xanthan gum can bring to the party.


Plate Fodder Ranch-ish Dressing

Makes 1 Bottle


1 Cup Whole, Cultured Buttermilk

1 Cup Heavy-Bodied Mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning (Traditionally, the herb seasoning is just Thyme and Oregano – but the rosemary and marjoram in Italian seasoning rounds out the flavor a bit)

1 Teaspoon Onion Powder

2 Teaspoons Dried Parsley

1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Dry Mustard

1 Teaspoon Salt

2 Teaspoons Powdered Egg Whites

Tools of the Trade:

Small Blender – I like the “Bullet” type units


Measuring spoons and cups

Storage bottle


Place all the ingredients in the blender thingy – blitz it all up for a good solid 2 minutes.

Decant into a bottle and chill thoroughly before serving.

Once made, your dressing should keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


5 thoughts on “Buttermilk Ranch – It’s a love / hate thing

    1. it REALLY is. I say it can last a couple of weeks in the fridge… but honestly since I use it in a lot of things, I’m making it every 5 days or so.

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