Tender lettuces with kefir ranch dressing. (Photo by Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Tender lettuces with kefir ranch dressing. (Photo by Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

How to ranch-dress a salad and keep things light

Of course, “healthfulness” goes out the window if you dip Buffalo wings into the dressing.

By Ellie Krieger / The Washington Post

Nothing does the trick of making raw or blanched vegetables irresistibly delicious quite the way a drizzle or dip of creamy ranch dressing does. That’s why this ranch redo is so game-changing. It not only compels you to crunch crudites and pile greens onto your plate but does so in a more healthful way.

Instead of the typical mayonnaise or sour-cream foundation, this recipe calls for just a little mayo to add body and silkiness to a base of kefir, a probiotic-rich cultured milk product that is creamy, pleasantly tangy and pourable — kind of like a drinkable yogurt. Because the bounty of good bacteria in kefir digests much of the milk’s lactose, those who are lactose intolerant typically do not have an issue with it.

I also love to sip kefir plain or blend it with fruit into smoothies. I prefer the tart-balancing richness of the full-fat variety, but low-fat kefir is also available if you prefer.

For this dressing, besides a little mayo, the kefir is whisked with a touch of lemon juice and the classic ranch seasonings of onion, garlic and herbs. I used only chives to keep it streamlined, but if you have some parsley, dill or cilantro on hand, it would be a nice addition.

The dressing is as versatile as any ranch dressing, ready to be used for dipping or for tossing. Here, it gives tender lettuce leaves a creamy, flavorful coating for a simple yet utterly craveable spring salad.

Tender lettuces with kefir ranch dressing

This ranch dressing is creamy, delightfully tangy and packed with classic garlic and herb flavor, just like you’d expect. But it is much more healthful than the typical ranch because it uses the pourable, cultured milk product called kefir as its primary base ingredient instead of the usual mayonnaise and sour cream.

Make ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days.

⅓ cup plain, full-fat kefir, well shaken

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder (granulated garlic)

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

2 medium heads tender lettuces, such as butter or bibb, leaves torn

Whisk together the kefir, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, onion powder, granulated garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then stir in the chives.

Just before serving, gently toss the lettuce with the dressing until coated evenly.

Makes 4 servings (makes about ½ cup dressing). Nutrition per serving: 70 calories, 2 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 210 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar.

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