Well Dressed | Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing

Light and tangy, this Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing isn't anything like that bottle of shelf-stable ranch-style condiment with which so many drench so many foods. It's not a facsimile of it, either. But it's better. No gloppy, slimy, cloyingly sweet artificially preserved and flavored dressings are welcome at my table. I prefer fresh and real, to dress-up the fresh, real vegetables they'll enhance.

ENHANCE. Not overcome. Not smother. Not drown. Enhance.

If you're looking for something closer to the ranch you'll find in grocery stores, and even homemade ranch-style dressings, you'll probably want to look further. Likely, the addition of a healthy dose of mayonnaise is where to start. Believe me. I have not one thing against mayonnaise. In fact I love mayonnaise so much, I make it AND buy it and I use different brands for different foods. Hellmann's in the chicken salad. Duke's in the egg salad. Blue Plate in the potato salad. Homemade on the tomato sandwich.

But not in this dressing. Nope. It's a tad more delicate and refined than a glob of saturated fat (not that there's anything wrong with that). Oh it's not fat-free. Buttermilk is naturally lowfat (see more about buttermilk, below) but this recipe includes full-fat dairy as well, which experts have finally begun to tell us actually helps with weight loss, along with a host of other healthy benefits. So GET THE FULL FAT. You're welcome.

Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing
Yield | approximately 1½ pints
Supplies |  1 quart jar with lid
Ingredients |
1 pint buttermilk
8oz sour cream, full fat
Fine zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
½  garlic clove, minced finely
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1½ teaspoons fresh dill
1½ teaspoons minced parsley
½- 1 teaspoon onion salt, to taste
½- 1 teaspoon white pepper, to taste

Optional: fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients in order in a screw-top jar. Shake vigorously until well blended. Really shake. Shake it up. Like this.

Taste, and correct seasonings, adding fine sea salt if/as needed. 

Kitchen Hint: When using both lemon zest and juice, zest the whole lemon first, setting aside the amount the recipe requires. Wrap remaining zest in a small pocket of aluminum foil and tuck it into the freezer to store for a month or so. Then cut and squeeze the lemon. Even when a recipe calls for only lemon juice, I zest the lemon and store the zest-- it's powdered gold. The zest, where the essential oils are found, has a milder, sweeter flavor than the acidic juice. 

About Buttermilk....... As mentioned above, buttermilk is traditionally the byproduct of butter-making, and as such, is naturally lowfat. Cultured buttermilk, sold in America, is created by fermenting pasteurized lowfat or skim milk to create lactic acid, which gives the milk it's acidic sour note. 
"What we call old-fashioned, or churned, buttermilk is very different from cultured buttermilk. It is the thin, slightly acidic liquid left over after churning butter from full-cream milk. It is drunk or used in soups and sauces in northern Europe and South Asia but is not available commercially in the United States." Cary Frye, Fine Cooking

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing (Not) Fried Green Tomatoes to serve with this dressing alongside. A healthier version of the popular southern starter, perfect for tomatoes that hop off the vine a little too soon.  

Further along, we'll tackle a few ways to hack this dressing to create other favorites, like Blue Cheese Dressing, Green Goddess Dressing, and others. It's summer and that's what we do. We eat field-fresh vegetables and we dress 'em up right. 

If you've got a little time to spare, enjoy this excellent Southern Foodways Alliance spotlight on charming dairy farmer and buttermilk believer Earl Cruze of Cruze Farm Dairy. I sure would like a little of that buttermilk!


  1. Leave it to you to take an ordinary basic you buy from the grocer and turn it in to a tasty homemade gourmet condiment. The first time I made homemade blue cheese dressing I was floored by how much better it was then the bottle. Not sure why I never made homemade buttermilk (my kids use to put it on everything when they were little). I'm going to try it now. As for the fried green tomatoes I can't wait to see your baked version.

    1. Hey doll! It's great to "see" you. I've loved buttermilk since I was knee-high to a grasshopper but it's definitely a Southern thing, for sure. Just posted the (Not) Fried Green Tomatoes. I really just recently developed that recipe but for the life of me I can't imagine why it took me so long. Thank you for dropping by, love!


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