If you’re like most people in America, odds are you have a jar (or squeeze bottle) of mayonnaise in your refrigerator right now.
Not to be confused with salad dressing, mayonnaise is,quite simply, an emulsion of egg yolks and oil with an acid such as lemon juice to brighten and add flavor. As sauces go, it’s about as simple as you get.
You might think of mayonnaise as an American condiment, but it’s far from it.
Mayonnaise likely had its roots in the town of Mahón, Spain, where it was originally known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish and maonesa (later maionesa) in Catalan. It later became popularized by the French in its current rendition and was perhaps named moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means “yolk of egg.”
Both explanations seem plausible, albeit one is a geographical explanation, and the other, somewhat culinary.
In any event, the word “mayonnaise” first made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1823 and first made it into a jar in 1907. This was followed five years later by the wife of a German immigrant whose husband’s New York City delicatessen sold her homemade mayonnaise in the small wooden containers they used for weighing their butter.
You may have heard of Mrs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Today’s style of mayonnaise (or a close relative of it) can be found in cuisines around the world and is used in a variety of different ways, from a dip and spread to an ingredient in countless fillings, salads, and prepared dishes.
So, just what is Aioli?
Aioli is quite simply a garlic mayonnaise. It’s made exactly as my recipe for mayonnaise is below, with the addition, in this case, of 2 cloves of minced/mashed fresh garlic. The other variation I’d recommend is to change the oil to extra-virgin olive oil. That’s it.
If you think about it, at this point, by adding a couple anchovy fillets, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and a few drops of Worcestershire® sauce and Tabasco®, you’ve got Caesar dressing, which is basically a flavored mayonnaise.
In today’s most trendy restaurants, chefs are creating ALL sorts of ways to glorify mayonnaise by adding stir-in ingredients to their homemade mayonnaise (again, using my basic recipe at the bottom of the page, add the ingredients below).
Some of the most popular gourmet mayonnaises include the following:
- Chipotle (Add ½ tsp. ground Chipotle and 1 TBSP ketchup.)
- Basil Pesto (Add ¼ cup Basil Pesto.)
- Curry (Add 1 TBSP Curry Powder.)
- BBQ (Add ½ Cup Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce, 2 tsp. Ground Cumin & 1 tsp. Ground Chili Powder.)
- Bacon (Puree in 2 cooked strips of bacon, including the rendered grease, with 2 to 3 drops of Liquid Smoke.)
- Sriracha (Stir in 1 to 2 TBSP Sriracha sauce.)
- White Truffle (Substitute 2 TBSP White Truffle Oil in place of the same quantity of vegetable oil.)
- Habanero (Sauté 1 Habanero pepper and 2 TBSP orange bell pepper in ¼ cup of the oil used in the mayonnaise recipe. Puree together and use all in the recipe as if it were oil alone.)
- Rosemary (Add 2 tsp. of finely minced fresh rosemary)
- Saffron (Add a few threads of saffron and 1 TBSP of honey or pure maple syrup if you like.)
Homemade Mayonnaise (Makes about 1 cup)
1 large Egg Yolk, room temperature
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
1 TBSP Lemon Juice, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil, I recommend a neutral oil, such as canola
- Place the egg yolk and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Add the lemon juice and mustard. Blend well.
- With the motor running, add the oil, drop by drop. This will take a few minutes. Don’t rush it or the mayonnaise may break, meaning the oil will separate from the egg. (Note: If your food processor has a small hole in the feed-tube pusher, pour the oil in there and let it drip through.)
- Once you’ve added the oil, sample the mayo and add more salt or lemon juice to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Stir before spreading.
Differences in Mayonnaise Around the World
In some areas of the world, you’ll find mayonnaise made just a bit differently from what you might be used to. For example:
Spain, Italy & Greece like to use olive oil in their recipes.
Japan often uses cider or rice wine vinegar.
Russian mayonnaise often uses sunflower seed oil.
Whether you enjoy mayonnaise as a spread in your favorite sandwich, as an ingredient in a salad dressing, or even all by itself as a dip for French Fries or chips, mayonnaise is one of the world’s most popular condiments enjoyed even more when you try one of these globally influenced versions.