Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise & Twenty Variations

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If mayonnaise has a season, it is definitely summer. I use more mayonnaise in summer than in the other three seasons combined. Where would pasta and potato salads be without mayonnaise? Or a grilled hamburger? Or grilled vegetables?

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I can’t imagine these and a host of other dishes without mayonnaise or one of its endless variations. Imagine summer without garlicky Aioli and dill pickle-laden Tartar Sauce. Not possible. And where would our Northwest seafood soups be without the requisite swirl of roasted red bell pepper and garlic mayonnaise, otherwise known as Rouille?

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The truth is, I can’t be without mayonnaise. It’s an absolute necessity in the Otherworldly Kitchen. And even though I keep a jar of ubiquitous Best Foods mayo in the frig for emergencies, homemade is infinitely better.

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So much better in fact that family members will notice the difference in your standard potato or macaroni salad, which they have eaten without farefare or praise for years.

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They will suddenly light up and ask you for the recipe. And of course, you will graciously comply. But unless they make the mayonnaise, their salad cannot compare to yours.

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The best part is that once you master the basic mayonnaise technique, which is really quite simple, you can create endless flavor riffs, turning  your mayonnaise-based standbys into spectacular new dishes. Are you ready?

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Mayonnaise Tips & Tricks

  • All ingredients should be at room temperature, otherwise emulsification may be hindered.
  • Adding a teaspoon of water to the yolks before drizzling in the oil creates a stronger and more stable emulsion. This is because a little water broadens the space between the fat droplets, thus helping to keep them separate. If the oil droplets merge and evenly disperse in the oil, the mayonnaise will split. Lemon juice or vinegar can accomplish the same thing. A dollop of mustard also helps to hold the emulsion.
  • To my palate, olive oil is too assertive to be used as the base oil for mayonnaise. If you want a light olive oil flavor, mix olive oil in a 1 to 5, 6, or 7 ratio with flavorless oil. (For example, for 1½ cups total oil, try 1¼ cup flavorless oil and ¼ cup fruity olive oil.)
  • When making Processor Mayonnaise, with the machine running, pour the oil into the feed tube. The feed tube has a tiny hole at the bottom which regulates the flow of oil perfectly. No guesswork for you.
  • You can control the thickness of your mayonnaise by moderating the amount of oil you add. The lesser amount of oil specified creates a thin mayonnaise; the greater amount of oil creates a very thick mayonnaise.
  • To rescue split mayonnaise, begin again with a fresh egg yolk (or even a tablespoon of mustard) and slowly drizzle the split mixture into the yolk while whisking continuously.
  • Mayonnaise can be thinned with a small amount of warm water, cream, sour cream, or yogurt. Start with a tablespoon and keep adding and incorporating until you get the consistency you want.
  • If you plan to use a processor to make your mayonnaise (highly recommend), you need a smallish processor (7-9 cup capacity).

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Basic Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade mayonnaise is not difficult to make. And it’s so much better than anything you can purchase in the grocery store.

2-3 tablespoons wine or cider vinegar, or lemon juice
1-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
2 large, very fresh egg yolks or 1 large, very fresh egg, cool room temperature

1-1½ cups vegetable oil, in a measuring cup with a pouring spout or in a squeeze bottle (a mixture of salad oil and olive oil if desired)

Traditional Whisk Method

1. Blend the vinegar or lemon juice with salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl (preferably one with a smaller base than top edge) large enough to accommodate a bulbous or balloon whisk. (A balloon whisk has multiple wires for quickly adding aerating and adding volume. You could also use an electric whisk, such as this one.)
2. Add the egg yolks and whisk until very thick and sticky.
3. Begin adding the oil, drop-by-drop, whisking constantly all the while. When the mayonnaise begins to thicken, you can add the oil at a SLIGHTLY faster pace, not too fast though. Each addition should be thoroughly incorporated and invisible before adding the next.
4. Continue until all the oil is added; 1 cup oil will produce a thinner sauce than 1½ cups oil—it’s your choice. Don’t overbeat.

NOTE   Overbeating with an electric whisk can cause heating, which may cause the emulsion to break.

5. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more vinegar or lemon juice if necessary.
6. Mayonnaise should be stored, covered, in the warmest part of the refrigerator. It will keep for about 1 week.

Makes 1-1½ cups.

Super-Fast Processor Method

This method takes under a minute and produces consistently great results. One cup of oil produces a mayonnaise with a light texture, while 1½ cups of oil produces a mayonnaise that is exceedingly thick.

1. In a smallish processor (7-9 cup capacity), fitted with the steel blade, process the vinegar or lemon juice with salt, pepper, and mustard until well combined.
2. Add 1 whole egg, and process to incorporate.
3. With the machine running, drizzle the oil through the open feed tube, until all the oil is incorporated. (The easiest way to do this is to pour the oil into the feed tube insert with the machine running. When all of it has dripped into the developing mayonnaise, fill the insert with the remaining oil.)
4. Continue until all the oil is added; 1 cup oil will produce a thinner sauce than 1½ cups oil—it’s your choice. Don’t over process.

NOTE   Overbeating with a processor can cause heating, which may cause the emulsion to break.

5. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more vinegar or lemon juice if necessary.

6. Mayonnaise should be stored, covered, in the warmest part of the refrigerator. It will keep for about 1 week.

Makes 1-1½ cups.

Variations

Each of the following variations calls for adding minced, pureed, or mashed flavoring ingredients AFTER making the mayonnaise. This method gives you the greatest control over the flavor and texture of the mayonnaise. But of course, it necessitates an additional, separate step.

If time is of the essence and you actually prefer a thinner mayonnaise (such as for dressing a potato or macaroni salad), you can first puree the additional ingredients in the processor and then proceed with the Basic Homemade Mayonnaise recipe. Your resulting mayonnaise will be thinner than if you had incorporated the additional ingredients after making the mayonnaise. For either process though, be sure that the additional ingredients are as dry as possible before adding.

In general, ¼-½ cup of additional ingredients is the maximum amount you can add to Basic Homemade Mayonnaise and still retain some thickness to the mayonnaise.

Avocado Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add finely grated zest of 1 lime and ½ cup mashed and strained avocado. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Basil Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 4-6 tablespoons fresh minced basil.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1 canned, pureed chipotle chile in adobo sauce. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 canned, pureed chipotle chile in adobo sauce and 2 tablespoons pureed roasted red pepper. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Cilantro Lime Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2-4 tablespoons minced cilantro and 1 clove minced garlic. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Curry Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1 tablespoon curry paste and 1 clove minced garlic. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Dill Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill, ½ teaspoon anchovy paste, and 1 clove minced garlic.

Dill Pickle Caper Mayonnaise (Tartar Sauce)

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles, 2 tablespoons minced capers,  1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, and 1 clove minced garlic. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Dill Pickle & Herb Mayonnaise (Sauce Gribiche)

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles, 2 tablespoons minced capers, 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives.

Dill Pickle Caper Mayonnaise with Anchovies (Remoulade)

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles, 2 tablespoons minced capers, 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, 2 mashed anchovies, and 1 clove minced garlic. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Garlic Mayonnaise (Aioli)

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 cloves minced garlic and extra drops of lemon juice.

Garlic Rosemary Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary, and extra drops of lemon juice.

Ginger Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1-2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger and 1 clove minced garlic. Use lime juice instead of vinegar.

Green Goddess Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, 1½ teaspoon minced fresh tarragon and 1½ teaspoons minced fresh dill.

Green Onion Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 4-6 tablespoons minced green onion, 4 tablespoons minced parsley, and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Horseradish Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish.

Pesto Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 1-3 tablespoons pesto.

Roasted Red Pepper & Garlic Mayonnaise (Rouille)

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add ¼ cup pureed roasted red pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic and extra drops of lemon juice.

Wasabi Ginger Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add 2 gloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon wasabi paste, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Watercress Mayonnaise

To Basic Homemade Mayonnaise, add ½ cup minced watercress and 1 tablespoon minced green onion. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Additional Inspiration

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Copy­right 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. Susan, I made some mayo last night using the feed tube for the oil for the first time and the batch turned out perfectly! Used it all up immediately in a potato salad and a pea salad we were making for a party. Thanks again for that tip. My food processor that has given me inconsistent results with mayo is a smaller one that’s ancient but functional. That may be what I get for buying a new work bowl instead of a new processor when the plastic wore out. Sometimes when I’m making a recipe that starts with a too-small quantity of cool ingredients I tip the food processor up a little to the side, holding the top and feed tube in place, so the liquid splashes around and contacts the blade better. Certainly it’s not a manufacturer-recommended technique, but if you try it you will see how that works. I needed to do that on this recipe on step one when only the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper were in the processor.
    Mary (Fit and Fed)´s last blog post ..Summer Chickpea Salad with ApricotsMy Profile

    • Mary, so glad it worked for you. I would have never thought to tip the processor to the side to get the eggs going. My new smaller processor works perfectly though with even a 1 egg batch of mayo. So easy too! Heading over to check out your Chickpea Salad. :-)

  2. I’ve had inconsistent results with homemade food processor mayo so I’ll pin this for your tips and tricks. I should try again with some of the really good free range eggs I get from a hobby farmer. I was not aware of there being a tiny hole at the bottom of the feed tube, thanks for teaching me about that! I read on a different blog that an immersion blender gives more consistent results than a food processor and the blogger who posted that tip wasn’t able to make mayo consistently until she got one. I don’t have an immersion blender, but it made me feel better to hear that I wasn’t the only blogger having trouble making mayo despite multiple attempts. What kind of oil to use is the other problem. I agree with you that all olive oil is too assertive, even though in general I try to use EVOO in recipes when I can. I’ve used mostly canola with a little olive oil in mayo in the past, but I’m using less canola, maybe I’d try grapeseed oil in this. I often just make tofu mayo with boxed silken tofu– that always works for me and avoids the question of what kind of oil to use. And adding tofu is an alternate way of saving split regular mayo, thickens it right up.
    Mary (Fit and Fed)´s last blog post ..Peach Lassi with PistachiosMy Profile

    • Thank you for your thoughtful points, Mary! I had a couple of disasters with processor mayonnaise as well and spent a few days wondering why the process I always used no longer worked. The egg sat on the bottom of the processor and didn’t get beaten sufficiently. Then it dawned on me that I had purchased larger processors for the kitchen and retired the smaller one that I had used for years. It was beat, so I ran out an bought a 7-9 cup processor and VOILA, perfect mayonnaise. I really like the smaller processor for everyday cooking tasks. It’s just right for dishes serving 2-6. Your tofu suggestion is interesting. I can’t wait to try it. Do let us know how the immersion blender works for you. I was going to try that and didn’t get to it. Best…Susan

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