Buttermilk Farro Salad Recipe

A buttermilk farro salad inspired by one I had at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon - farro with shaved radishes, zucchini, and fennel tossed with a tangy herbed buttermilk vinaigrette.

Buttermilk Farro Salad

Today a bit of an apology is in order. Some of you might recall a wheat berry salad I mentioned back in May. I had it at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon and went back two days in a row to have it for lunch. It has taken me this long to do a farro version in my own kitchen, and my regret is that three months have passed when we all could have been enjoying it. The salad? Simple enough. Plump grains and seasonal vegetables tossed with an herb-flecked buttermilk dressing. I hope I'm not over-selling it, but this salad is really good. And I have my heart set on you liking it as much as I do.

Buttermilk Farro Salad

So, this is the sort of thing that might take the place of a potato or macaroni salad at a BBQ or picnic - creamy, tangy, starchy. It travels well. Even fully dressed it travels well. For those of you interested, the dressing is cream and mayo-free. And to make the whole thing even better, you can really load it up with even more vegetables (or alternately, salad greens) than I call for. The recipe makes a good amount of extra dressing, so you have some latitude there. In this version I use paper-thin slices of baby radishes, zucchini, and fennel. I thought about shaving corn kernels into the bowl, but the corn I bought was a bit funky, so I skipped out on that. If you have farro cooked and on hand, this becomes a no-cook recipe.

Buttermilk Farro Salad

A couple notes...Instead of making a more traditional buttermilk dressing here, I made a buttermilk vinaigrette of sorts. It's tangy. Tangy enough that I normally might try to take the edge off it a bit. It's also on the thin side. Don't mess with it. Once it hits the starchy farro, the grains slurp it up, and everything balances out quite nicely. But use a good white-wine vinegar, one that tastes good - it will make a difference. Also, as far as variations go, I can't wait to try a version with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, or even a fall version with spice-roasted squash. The Clyde Common version had fennel, chives, radishes, carrots, and wild arugula. 

And if you're looking for more ways to use zucchini, here's where you can find a lot of good zucchini recipes.

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Buttermilk Farro Salad Recipe

I used semi-pearled farro here, but you can certainly substitute whole farro, wheat berries, barley, or other plump grains. I say to serve this at room temperature, but actually, I like this salad warm, room temperature, and chilled. It's good the day after, and for a couple days after that. Just revive with a splash of the leftover dressing.

2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / 240 ml buttermilk
1/4 cup / 60 ml good-quality white wine vinegar
1/4 cup / 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped thyme

7 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 medium head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin

4 cups cooked farro, cooled to room temp
chopped chives for garnish

Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

In a large bowl gently toss the radishes, zucchini, and fennel with the farro grains. Add 1 cup / 240 ml of the dressing and toss again. Let sit for ten minutes, taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Serves 8.

Prep time: 20 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Yum, this is right up my alley. I came to the conclusion this spring that the radish is the most adorable vegetable. :)


I'm always looking for ways to use up buttermilk, since typically a recipe calls for just a small amount and then I'm left with more than half a carton. You've got an intriguing combination of ingredients here -- looking forward to trying this one.

Becky and the Beanstock

gorgeous salad! I'm not sure if i like radishes enough to eat that much at one time, but it sounds as if it'd be good with all sorts of substitutions. i LOVE buttermilk dressings, so this is perfect!

heather @ chiknpastry

Your food photography and styling is impeccable! I love keeping up with your blog, it inspires me to branch out and try new things. I am also excited to make this delicious salad! There's nothing I love more than a nice hearty grain/veggie/greens salad combo. I'm curious as to how you made the radishes, etc so thinly sliced? A knife, mandolin? My hand-cut slices never seem to turn out quite so thin. I'd love to know your secret! Thanks again for sharing such inspiring, beautiful posts on delicious food with a healthful twist! --Almira HS: Thanks Almira - I used my mandoline, but you can certainly slice by hand here if you don't have one.

Healthy Republic

this salad looks so pretty! i've never tried farro before.

Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef

@Sophie: You can easily make your own buttermilk at home! This is a better option than buying those 1 liter cartons here in the states that end up half unused. Just add 1 tablespoon of acid (such as lemon juice or white wine vinegar which, tada, you already have on hand for this recipe) per one cup of skim milk and let it sit for a few minutes. :)


This is perfect! I'm training for a marathon and was just miserable at the thought of yet another bowl of pasta this tonight.

Hungry Sofia

I've been using buttermilk in a lot of desserts lately, and now that I've seen this, I think I need to branch out.


Your timing is perfect, I just bought some fresh buttermilk from a local farm. It looks like we will be having a great lunch thanks to you. Carolina

The Muse of The Day

Would yogurt be an acceptable substitute for the buttermilk? HS: Hmm. I'm actually not sure - I think using real buttermilk is key here.


I'm ready to try the slow-roasted cherry tomato variation! I have far too many of them. I'm open to suggestions as to what else I should include with them. Heidi, I always look forward to your new recipes and I can't wait for your new book to come out! HS: Thanks Monica


This is so pretty Heidi. I've been using radish a lot recently - I'm not so wild about them on their own but they add a lovely combination of fresh appearance and taste to other dishes. Buttermilk is really difficult to come by in the UK. What do people think might work as an alternative?


really intrigued by this recipe - I will save this and try it out later. Farro and Pearl Barley (As we call it here in Scotland) are pretty much the same thing right? HS: Pearl barley would be a fine substitute here Justin.

Justin Orde

Oh wow, what a great salad!

Simply Life

What a brilliant salad dressing recipe! Buttermilk is such a versatile product. :-) Mandy

Mandy - The Complete Cook Book

That looks so eloquent and appetizing at the same time! I'm not a fan of radishes, but I like all the other ingredients. :) Jenn

Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)

Oh, buttermilk in the fridge and an empty weekend ahead. Can't wait.


The buttermilk dressing sounds terrific , and i'd love the flavors in this farro salad .


Looks and sounds wonderful, Heidi! I've never heard of a buttermilk dressing like this before. I just made a batch of tarragon white wine vinegar, which I think would be amazing in this! Thanks for yet another beautiful recipe full of healthy ingredients.

Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

Looks beautiful.. I love those mini radishes! By the way - the link given is for 6-seed soda bread..


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