Creamy Buttermilk Dressing and a Buttermilk Story

Occasionally I have buttermilk left over from a recipe–and look for ways to use it up. Here’s a solution. This homemade dressing has plenty of zip and zing for a fresh lettuce salad.

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing on Lettuce Greens - IMG_2782

Buttermilk, buttermilk. What do you do with leftover buttermilk? Although I try to avoid it, sometimes a partial container of an ingredient is left over. My friend, Alice, forwarded this recipe idea along to me. This makes a creamy, smooth salad dressing.

Homemade salad dressings are quite simple to make. I’m not crazy about store-bought low-fat salad dressings. But at home it’s possible to make some pretty tasty concoctions. Cultured buttermilk from a grocery store is low-fat and makes a good start for a dressing.

Alice had some buttermilk left-over. She tried a couple of dressing recipes and eventually poured everything together. It turned out great! This dressing gets zing from garlic cloves, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Just stir the ingredients together and chill. Then use with any variety of lettuce or cabbage. Here are the ingredients for my dressing and salad.

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing Ingredients and Salad Ingredients - IMG_2760


What is REAL “buttermilk”? And a buttermilk story–a trip down memory lane.

Buttermilk in grocery stores today is quite different from “real” buttermilk. Not a bad thing, either; just some interesting trivia. Buttermilk today is usually low-fat, cultured milk. It’s made by inoculating milk with the Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria which ferments the milk sugar-lactose–to lactic acid and clabbers the protein making a thick curd and sour or tart flavor. It’s great for baking and cooking.

Originally buttermilk was the left-over milk after churning the cream to make butter. It was often made from sour milk and also had a tart flavor.

When I was a little girl, my mother–who grew up on a farm–went the country every week and purchased gallons of milk from a dairy farmer. She’d pasteurize the milk on the stove to kill harmful bacteria. Then in the refrigerator, the rich cream would separate out and come to the top of the jar. She’d use this cream to make delicious creamed vegetables–peas, corn–ice cream or we’d use it on cereal in the morning. (How unhealthy is this?)

She’d also churn butter. I remember taking a turn with the butter churner–which had wooden beaters–and churning as fast as I could until the cream separated out to make butter. I guess she added the “buttermilk” back to the milk container–I don’t remember drinking it separately. My mother is in her 90’s, so I guess the rich cream in her diet didn’t totally cause heart disease. But I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone today.

You can’t make butter these days from milk from a grocery store. The milk is homogenized so that the cream is emulsified in the milk and won’t separate out. But the trips into the countryside are a fond family memory.

Anyway, enjoy this buttermilk dressing!

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


    • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 4 Tbsp mayonnaise
    • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced

1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cottage cheese (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 scallions, white and green parts minced (optional)

  1. Whisk all ingredients together and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve with lettuce

Original Recipe from Alice Carroll

On a trip to the Shenandoah Valley this past March, we took my 92-year-old mother for a ride in the countryside. Sadly, she didn’t remember the dairy farm. However, it brought back lots of memories–and photo opportunities–for my brother and I. Here are some photos from around Briery Branch, a very scenic part of the country in Virginia.

Waterfall and Dam at Briery Branch - 2 - IMG_2515

This is not the same dairy farm; but a similar one.

Farm at Briery Branch - IMG_2518

There are lots of old-order Mennonites in this part of the country. They are parallel to old-order Amish in outward appearance. These friendly horses were looking for supper; perhaps they belonged to a Mennonite family. My brother is enjoying the horses and wishing he had a carrot (to feed the horses).

Galen and Horses - IMG_2527

A trip down memory lane. Headed to the mountains–George Washington National Forest.

Briery Branch - IMG_2519_1

And the horses were behind a fence!

Horses ad Briery Branch - IMG_2525

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