Homemade Mayo is easy to make and tastes so much better than store bought.
We all have our favorite brand of Mayonnaise. All you have to do is look at some of the comments on my blog post - What Mayonnaise Tastes Best to see how people react when it comes to this staple. And please go over and leave your comments.
Whether it's Hellman's, Kraft's Real Mayonnaise or one of the many other commercial brands available, there is no comparison when it comes to homemade. The color is a pale yellow compared to commercial white and the flavor is richer, deeper and just better than any commercial brand.
Now I will give you a basic recipe for mayonnaise but I would rather you play around with the ingredients until you get your mayo to taste the way you like it and the consistency you prefer. All you need to make mayonnaise is egg yolk and oil, but most people add at least vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper for additional flavor.
Think of mayonnaise as a neutral spread to which you can add almost any sort of flavoring, depending on what you’re serving it with. You might leave it plain for a chicken salad sandwich spread, or maybe you’ll stir in some minced chipotles in adobo for a Mexican kick. How about garlic or maybe lemon zest and dill to go with salmon? The possibilities are really only limited by your creativity and palate.
COOKING TIP: I just learned the secret to keep the manyonnaise from breaking (emulsion separating). Melissa Clark wrote an article in the New York Times where she describes adding a teaspoon of water to the recipe "helps create a stronger and more stable emulsion."
My origional recipe suggests using 1 teaspoon of vinegar to do something similar but can result in the mayo being too tart. In the recipe below, you can use vinegar or water. Why this works gets way too scientific for me. Here's how my friend Peter Hertzmann describes the process of using water and mustard (another good ingredient to use) and you'll see why I leave it for the experts.
A small dab of mustard along with the water is also helpful. The final mayonnaise consists of millions of very tiny droplets of oil dispersed in water (the continuous phase). To keep the oil droplets from coalescing, the lecithin in the yolk and the mucilage in the mustard is the surfactant that separates the oil and water. The surfactant coats the oil droplets with a layer of special molecules where one side is attracted to the dispersed phase (the oil) and one side to the continuous phase (the water). The whisk is used to shear the oil into smaller and smaller droplets. Just stirring with a whisk is not sufficient, it must be used rapidly.
See what I mean?
Basic Mayonnaise To scale this recipe up or down, the ratio is one yolk to 3/4 - 1 cup oil but in my experience I find if you make a larger batch, it is much easier to break the mayo.
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- a heavy pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- a few grinds of black pepper (use white if you don’t want black specks in your mayonnaise)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vinegar or 1 teaspoon cold water
- 3/4 to 1 cup neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional) - adds flavor and helps with the emulsion
How to Make Homemade Mayonnaise
- Mix yolk, salt, sugar and pepper together until well blended and yolk lightens in color.
- Mix in the vinegar, lemon juice and water (Dimon mustard if using)
- While whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil very slowly. Begin with just a drop or two at a time. Once you have added about half the oil, you can add it in a very thin stream. Keep whisking the entire time you are adding the oil.
When finished, the mayonnaise will not be as thick as store bought mayonnaise. Let it sit, refrigerated, for at least half an hour. Stir, and taste for seasoning. If necessary, whisk in a pinch more salt, sugar or another teaspoon or so of vinegar. Wait before tasting because it takes awhile for the salt to dissolve into all of the oil.
Note that raw egg yolk is used as the emulsifier. As with all raw eggs, there is some risk of salmonella contamination. The USDA advises that the elderly, very young and those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw eggs. Use the freshest eggs possible or substitute pasteurized eggs.
If you own a food processor, I have a great video by Chef Todd Mohr on my Caesar Salad Recipe web page. The video is at the end of the post. Besides showing you how to make a great Caesar Salad, Chef Todd shows you how to make a basic mayonnaise using a food processor. His video describes how to make mayonnaise without a recipe and I highly recommend you check it out.
You can also make mayonnaise in a blender, immersion blender, stand mixer, or by hand using a balloon whisk. The procedure is the same:
- Blender Mayo - If you do not own a food processor, using a blender is the next best way to make a cup or so of mayonnaise. Put egg yolk, salt, sugar, pepper and vinegar in the blender container. Put on the lid, taking out the plastic plug in the center. Turn the blender on medium speed. Once the egg yolk is light in color, begin adding the oil, a couple of drops at a time. Once half the oil is incorporated, add it in a thin stream. You might need to scrape the blender container one or two times with a rubber spatula to make sure that all the ingredients are emulsified.
- Immersion Blender Mayo - A good method to make mayonnaise very quickly since the powerful blades of an immersion blender emulsify the oil and vinegar almost instantly. Put all the mayonnaise ingredients In a tall, narrow container, such as a straight-sided beaker. Insert the immersion blender right down to the bottom of the beaker. Turn it on high, and very slowly raise it to the top of the beaker. Instant mayonnaise.
- Stand Mixer Mayo - Use this method to make large quantities of mayonnaise. You will probably need at least four yolks since stand mixers are designed so that the attachments don’t touch the bottom or sides of the bowl. Put egg yolk, salt, sugar, pepper and vinegar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whip attachment, whip egg yolk mixture on medium-high speed until light in color. Add the oil, a drop at a time, until you have incorporated half. Then, add the rest of the oil in a thin stream.
- Balloon Whisk Mayo - Since you control the whisk, this is a good method to use if you just want a small amount of mayonnaise. You can whisk in all directions, making sure that even ¼ cup worth of mayonnaise is nicely emulsified. Do use handmade mayonnaise right after making, since the emulsion is not quite as stable. There is no way for a human arm to break the fat into droplets as small as a mechanical device can (unless you have a bionic arm).
- Put egg yolk, salt, sugar, pepper and vinegar in a large metal or glass bowl. Use a bowl that is much bigger than you think you will need to give you plenty of room to whisk. Whisk yolk mixture until light in color. Add the oil, a drop or two at a time. Whisk each addition of oil until it is emulsified before adding more.
Plain Mayonnaise? Not Very Exciting…
As I mentioned earlier, you can make endless mayonnaise variations by either adding in ingredients during the initial blending or by stirring in ingredients after the fact. In general, stir in ingredients with texture—capers, fresh herbs, chopped pickle or onion, etc—after you make the base mayonnaise. There are two reasons for this: a) you want these ingredients to stay “chunky,” and they certainly won’t if you use a food processor, blender or immersion blender to make your mayonnaise. b) you don’t want any “chunky” ingredients to interfere with your emulsion.
Here are some ideas for mayonnaise additions. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Consider it a jumping off point for your own ideas.
Ingredients to add with the yolks
- Curry powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Old Bay or Crab Boil
- Chili powder
- Any flavor of mustard that you like
- Your favorite hot sauce
- Soy sauce
- Reconstituted wasabi powder
- Lemon juice (substitute for vinegar)
- Flavored salts, such as smoked salt or truffle salt
- Garlic paste
- Finely minced (or Microplaned) lemon zest
Ingredients to Mix Into Finished Mayonnaise
- Relish or finely chopped pickles
- Fresh or dried herbs:
- fennel fronds
- Minced onion
- Minced roasted garlic
- Green peppercorns
- Chopped peppers or chilies
- Prepared horseradish
Do I Have to Use Plain Oil? Boring!
You can use any type of oil that you’d like. Using a neutral vegetable oil will allow any other ingredients to shine as it takes a background position, but feel free to experiment with using a peppery extra virgin olive oil or even one of the flavored oils that are available now, such as lemon or hot pepper.
You do not only have to use one type of oil, either. Experiment with using different proportions of neutral oil to flavored oil. Use oils with a very assertive flavor, such as toasted sesame oil, as an accent only.
What About Aioli? Isn’t That Just Like Mayonnaise?
Traditionally, aioli is made with minced garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Many chefs in restaurants serve “garlic aioli” as a dipping sauce, but if they only stirred some minced garlic into some mayonnaise, it’s just a flavored mayo. Aioli sounds more “classy” than mayonnaise, so many chefs use the term on their menus, even if they aren’t making it with pricey extra virgin olive oil.
To make a classic aioli, use 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of minced fresh garlic to one cup of extra virgin olive oil. You can season it with a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper.