Green Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Hot take: I’m not that into green goddess dressing. But I don’t think it’s her fault. I fully support the goddess’s components in most other forms. Anchovies bump up the flavor of almost any sauce. Tarragon and chives are all I want to put on anything from about May to August. I am the only person in my house who likes mayonnaise and I still manage to use up a value-sized jar before the expiration date. On paper, I should love it. It’s creamy yet bracingly fresh, hugs the bumps of a crispy lettuce leaf and as much radish real estate as I can dunk in it.

I think my issue is really that, when I eat something dressed in green goddess, what I think I’m gonna taste is a greener, herbier, less flat version of store-bought ranch dressing. And that’s just not who she is. She’s her own vibe, her own person, and I need to let her live. I need to be the change.

Luckily I’ve been kicking around an old recipe for an herby buttermilk dressing that I always stopped just short of calling ranch. This past Easter, I hauled it back out for a spin: literally, I threw it all in the blender instead of shaking it up in a jar. I used a ton of fresh dill, because it’s what I had, and as much parsley as my near-forgotten, aging bunch would yield. I upped the yogurt and the buttermilk and let the mayo take a backseat. To amp up the green without overwhelming guests with herbs, I threw in a fistful of spinach, knowing it would affect only the color but not really the flavor. We hosted 15 this year for Easter, which meant the meal was an epic, sort of intentionally retro luncheon buffet situation. The green salad, which I ordinarily like to pre-dress, was instead a sprawling platter of trimmed, raw spring vegetables, the prettiest whole salad leaves I could find, and a bowl of this dressing nestled alongside for clinging to everything.

This dressing turns me into a radish hound, a carrot fanatic, a snap pea queen. I will dip anything in it, slather it over and under anything. It’s brought me back to a certain corner of my roots, to my Grandma Jean, who would, in addition to and especially in the absence of a green salad, minimally prep whatever good, raw vegetables were around and serve them alongside a pickled jar of something from the cellar for a relish tray at supper. For her four boys and her one girl and her very tall husband from whom we all seem to get our height, and indeed, for all of us grandkids in later years.

This dressing suddenly reminded me of those relish trays, especially on nights when a green salad is out of reach for one reason or another (we’re out of lettuce, I’m out of time, etc). I always have carrots around, and usually radishes or celery. When I buy snap peas, I always buy too many so those need finishing. We’ve always got bread & butter pickles and usually cornichons or some other dilly thing. Arrange it haphazardly on a plate that looks clean and it’s ready for munching. There, vegetables, check.


  • I think the parsley and dill are pretty classic and make for a year-round condiment. In the past I’ve advocated for basil in creamy dressing, and I still do, particularly in the warmer months. If you’ve got it, use it, but don’t go out and buy it just for this. Of course, any other fresh, soft green herbs are nice as well.

  • Without the spinach, you’ll still get a pretty, barely-spring-green color out of this, so I suppose it’s technically optional. I like the vibrance it lends, though, and it also helps thin out the dressing just slightly due to its water content.

  • Yes, you’ll want to get out the blender, but the tradeoff is that you need to do zero chopping and dirty zero knives or cutting boards. Throw the whole garlic clove in there. Put in some or all of the herb stems. Leave finesse at the door because this is all getting blitzed to hell anyway.

  • There is hot sauce in here, but so little that its effect is less heat than it is dimension. It and the garlic and mustard make the soft, creamy, herby flavors really pop. Two teaspoons may feel like a lot to some people, but I promise, the end result is merely an addictive hum.


Green Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes about 3 cups

1 cup buttermilk, shaken well

1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

1 cup spinach leaves, packed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup fresh dill, loosely packed

1/2 cup fresh parsley, loosely packed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons hot sauce (or more to taste)

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine everything in a blender and blend well until smooth, and until the greens have broken down and color the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning and blend again if needed. Keeps up to 2 weeks tightly covered in a jar in the fridge.

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