Buttermilk dressing DSC8421

Buttermilk dressing

The first time I ate pizza with my New York friends, I learned that Texans have a special relationship with buttermilk dressing. When the pizza arrived, I pulled a jar out of the refrigerator, grabbed a slice of pizza and drizzled some of the creamy, tangy dressing all over it.

“What are you doing?” said my friends.

“You don’t put buttermilk dressing on your pizza?” I said.

“No! That’s disgusting!” said my friends.

I shrugged and then continued to eat my buttermilk-dressing soaked pizza. And it was good.

When it comes to buttermilk dressing, Texans don’t just stop at pizza. We, of course, put it on our salads. But we also use it as a dip for our steak fingers, onion rings, fried okra, cheese fries and leftover fried chicken, among many other things.

Buttermilk dressing has long been a popular staple in a Texan’s larder. Its presence harks back to a time when dairy was ubiquitous and cheap, so it made sense to craft a dressing out of buttermilk and eggs rather than oil, which was scarce.

Buttermilk dressing | Homesick Texan

In the 1960’s, buttermilk dressing became branded as ranch dressing, but I prefer to call it by its proper name, especially as the stuff you buy in a bottle has almost no relationship to what you can make at home. And yes, buttermilk is indeed the star.

I was reading recipes for buttermilk dressing from almost 100 years ago, and back then it was a boiled dressing made with eggs, vinegar, buttermilk, herbs and spices. In the late 1930’s, however, both vegetable oil and commercial mayonnaise became more available and so people started using those ingredients to make their buttermilk dressing instead.

I have to say that the latter method is how I’ve been making my buttermilk dressing for years as it takes minimal effort to achieve maximum flavor. But I was curious about the boiled method. My grandma has no fond memories of the boiled dressing my great-grandmother made and perhaps the use of mayonnaise indeed marks progress. That said, I decided to make a batch of buttermilk dressing the truly old-fashioned way.

In researching recipes, I discovered that Craig Claiborne (the longtime New York Times food editor and fellow Southerner) also found his mother’s boiled dressing distasteful. No matter, I decided to persevere in making a batch.

Well, after boiling together a concoction of eggs, apple-cider vinegar, mustard, cayenne, buttermilk, and butter, I was left with a thick, acidic custard that smelled so bad I had to throw open the windows and leave my apartment for a spell. (Note to self: if both your grandma and Craig Claiborne hate something, you will probably hate it, too.)

Buttermilk dressing | Homesick Texan

So indeed, progress has been made by the advent of widely available commercial mayonnaise. And thankfully, making buttermilk dressing is a snap, which means that you can have it whenever the occasion arises. So go on, what are you waiting for? You just know that slice of cold pizza sitting in your fridge needs an embellishment, and nothing makes leftovers, fried foods, or salads sing like a good dose of creamy, tangy, spicy buttermilk dressing.

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5 from 4 votes

Buttermilk dressing

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  • Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, lime juice, garlic, Serrano pepper, cilantro, chives, and cayenne. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Notes

I like my dressing on the thinner side, so if you prefer it thicker use 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. And if you don’t want it to be so spicy, feel free to omit the Serrano or substitute a jalapeno pepper instead. Also, you can use parsley instead of cilantro if you’re one of those “Cilantro tastes like soap people, I won’t be insulted.

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96 Comments

  1. I just made this with a few changes and I love it! Thank you for the recipe. I am originally from San Antonio but have lived in Virginia, Florida and now Massachusetts. Now I am just a home sick southerner lol. I also put ranch dressing on my pizza at times 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here in Sweden we have pizzas with kabab (giros from greece/Turkey) and they always put a white sauce like buttermilk dressing on after it comes out of the oven. I ca't wait to try this recipe with fish tacos. For the critical white sauce on fish tacos I use a version of the jalapeno ranch dressing they served at Chuy's in Houston. It is ranch with the addition of green chillis, cilantro and jalapenos – fantastic! I am also originally from Texas and reading your blog brings reminds me of how much I miss it…
    Dan

    1. Joan Marcus says:

      5 stars
      I love the jalapeño ranch dressing that Chuys makes as well as the one that Torchys Tacos serves but I haven’t seen a recipe for it so I was thinking maybe you can post yours! I love this Texas recipe blog as I’m a native and have found recipes here for so many dishes that my family made but never wrote down the recipe for. I’m so excited to finally find what I’ve been looking for. Thanks so much!
      Joan born and raised in Oak Cliff
      Lives in Austin area now

      1. Lisa Fain says:

        Joan–This buttermilk poblano dressing is also similar to the Chuy’s dip. You could make it with all jalapeños instead, though the poblano adds a warm layer of flavor. Glad you find the site and happy cooking!

  3. Made this last night and put it in a green salad tonight. All I can say is WOW! I will NEVER buy Ranch again. Great recipe as usual!!! Thanks!

  4. shoulihan says:

    Just want you to know how much I love your site. Being from Dallas transplanted to Maryland, I'm forever looking for recipes from Texas. You're are great!!

  5. portialee says:

    Hi there, just wondering how long this lasts in the fridge for?