Upgrade Your Store-Bought Ranch With A Splash Of Buttermilk

Ranch dressing is sort of a controversial condiment: Some people love the creamy dressing on everything from chicken tenders to pizza while other foodies think the sauce is quite grotesque on even a salad. If you're part of the loyal fanbase, you might wonder why the ranch at some restaurants tastes better than store-bought bottles. The answer is usually buttermilk, which also functions as a secret ingredient to elevate the bottle of dressing that's already in the back of your fridge.

Buttermilk is thicker than other milks with a sour, tangy flavor that enhances the taste and texture of ranch dressing. Many store-bought ranch brands contain some buttermilk already — along with a variety of oils and thickeners so the addition of more liquidy buttermilk will thin it out. Buttermilk tastes sour on its own, but that acidity will blend well with the sugar and other seasonings in the bottle for elevated and balanced flavors. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, combine regular milk and vinegar for a similar consistency and acidic flavor.

Start with a splash of buttermilk to improve ranch dressing

To add buttermilk to your store-bought ranch, start with a splash. The consistency and flavors vary from brand to brand, so you want to use a little more for thicker dressings whereas thinner varieties will benefit from less buttermilk. Squirt the amount of ranch dressing you want into a bowl, add a splash of buttermilk, then whisk. Not pleased with the consistency or flavor? Add a bit more buttermilk and continue the process. And if you use too much, use a teaspoon or so of cornstarch to thicken it up again. 

Don't stop with buttermilk if you want to add more flavor. Whisk in a dash or two of hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes to add some heat, sprinkle in dried herbs if the store-bought ranch lacks flavor, or add cheese. By chance that you buy a new carton of buttermilk to improve your ranch, keep in mind that it only lasts for two weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you don't use it all, consider Tasting Table's buttermilk ranch dressing recipe (it'll be even better than the improved store-bought dressing), or try these ways to use leftover buttermilk.