Homemade ranch dressing is infinitely better than store-bought: It’s free of artificial ingredients — especially if you make your own mayonnaise — and the flavor is much fresher and brighter. It’s also endlessly versatile, and you can mix in other ingredients as you see fit. (I’ve included a few below.) The one thing to keep in mind is that the big secret to ranch dressing is buttermilk powder, which you can find in the baking section of your supermarket. Nothing else delivers that characteristic buttermilk tang, and it works as a thickener to boot.
Real Ranch Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup buttermilk powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh chives or parsley (optional)
1. Put the mayonnaise, buttermilk, and buttermilk powder in a medium jar with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle with a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Add the chives or parsley if you like, put on the lid, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or so.
2. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then use immediately or store in the refrigerator for a few days. (It will keep longer if you don’t add the fresh herbs.)
Chile Ranch Dressing: Add 2 teaspoons chili powder to the mixture.
Curry Ranch Dressing: Add 1 tablespoon curry powder to the mixture.
Parmesan Ranch Dressing: Add 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture and cut back on the salt.
“Bleu” Ranch Dressing: Add ¼ cup finely crumbled blue cheese to the jar.
Mark Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything.