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Ranch Dressing: The Midwest Mother Sauce

Cardinal Spirits Executive Chef Dean Wirkerman uses homemade buttermilk and a combination of fresh and dried herbs. You'll never buy a bottle of ranch again!

summer salad with ranch dressing

Chef Dean Wirkerman first made buttermilk by mistake.

“I was making a panna cotta and I was using crème fraîche instead of whip cream to lighten it,” he says, but he accidentally over-mixed the crème fraîche. Instead of trashing the failed panna cotta, he just kept mixing to see what would happen.

“The little specks I was finding in the crème fraîche turned into butter. Then I kept mixing it and that butter separated completely, and this watery, milky liquid came out.”

He had achieved buttermilk.

These days, buttermilk is a by-product of the house-made butter they whip up in the Cardinal Spirits kitchen. Like any frugal chef, Wirkerman has found a use for it — buttermilk, plus Greek yogurt, plus mayonnaise, plus fresh and dried herbs, equals ranch dressing.

Cardinal Spirits' Ranch Dressing


  • 1 1/2 cups (375 grams) Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 grams) buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 grams) mayonnaise
  • 3 1/3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dill powder
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 teaspoons parsley, minced
  • 5 teaspoons dill, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons thyme, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons marjoram, minced
  • 3 1/3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 5 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 2/3 tablespoons salt, to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients, except salt, and mix thoroughly. Season with salt to taste.
  2. This dressing keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Courtesy of Executive Chef Dean Wirkerman of Cardinal Spirits.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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