Making Mayonnaise At Home

Mayonnaise is one of the last store bought staples. No one even thinks of making it. When I first told my wife that I never wanted to buy it from the store again, she recoiled in horror.

Mayonnaise is one the most commonly used sauces in the kitchen (along with its sister, aioli). Surprisingly, most home cooks, and even some chefs, just don’t know how to make it.

There is a lot of misconception around mayonnaise – how difficult it is to make, how it comes together, and how long it will last. But, homemade mayonnaise can be elevated from a filler that simply makes your bread less dry on a sandwich to a sauce you want to highlight alongside any dish (with roasted carrots, or potatoes, fish, or eggs – mayonnaise goes with everything!). The flavor is really exceptional – and just can’t be compared to the store bought kind.

Hopefully with the help of the recipes below, you will be able to restore mayonnaise to its rightful place at your table.

Basic Mayonnaise Anatomy

Ingredient prep
Mayonnaise really is one of the simplest sauces to make and it is also one of the quickest (no, really!). It’s a cold emulsified sauce consisting of egg yolks and oil blended together and flavored with something acidic (like lemon or vinegar), salt, pepper and mustard. That’s the most basic recipe, but there are endless variations. I’ve included several ideas to get you started below.

Food Science

Mayonnaise is an emulsion, which is a mixture of two or more ingredients that shouldn’t combine, such as oil and vinegar. Egg yolks contain lecithin, which is a group of compounds containing phospholipids. Lecithin can be looked at as the glue which binds the oil and vinegar together to form an emulsion. This is known as a permanent emulsion.

A simple salad dressing consisting of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar is a temporary emulsion. This means that if the oil and vinegar are mixed together they will, to the human eye, appear to combine into one liquid. But after a few seconds, the liquids start to separate as they are not compatible without another component to bind them together. Mustard is also an emulsifier, when a small amount is added to a mayonnaise it helps to strengthen the emulsion along with the egg yolks.

Most professional kitchens will use a blender to make mayonnaise, and that is the way I suggest you start. You can do it by hand and get a little bit of a lighter sauce, but if you put the blender and hand whipped versions next to each other, it would be very difficult to tell the difference (and your wrist will thank you).

I usually use a combination of vegetable oil or sunflower oil (or any other neutral flavored oil) along with olive oil, so the mayonnaise has a less pronounced olive oil flavor. Olive oil has a very distinct flavor, and mayonnaise with 100% olive oil can be quite strong.

The only rule you need to remember when adding oil to the egg yolk base mixture is to add it slowly in a steady stream. This will keep the emulsion from “breaking” or turning into that curdled mess that you might have seen or experienced.

I’ve included a base recipe and four variations below. All of the recipes below will make about 2 pints. Don’t forget. Practice makes perfect!

Simple Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • squeeze of lemon, or 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1.5 cups oil (preferably vegetable oil or a neutral flavored oil)

How-To

Thickened mayonnaise

Combine the egg yolks, mustard, salt, and lemon in a blender, (not a food processor) and blend for 10 seconds, until pureed. Slowly drizzle oil at a steady rate with the blender on until it’s completely incorporated. As you pour, you will see the mayonnaise thicken and take on a creamy consistency. That’s it!

Mayonnaise Variations

Difficulty Level: Easy

Tarragon Mayonnaise

Fresh, soft herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, cilantro, chervil, mint, tarragon, dill, and even arugula make fantastic mayo. Simply add the herb (only use a single herb so you can actually taste the flavor) to the egg yolks, mustard, lemon or vinegar, salt and water and blend to a purée. Slowly drizzle oil at a steady rate with the blender on until it’s all incorporated and you will have a vibrant green herb mayonnaise.

You can adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and an acidic ingredient of your choice. There is no need to blanch and shock the herbs in boiling water to help them keep their color. All that does is take away the chlorophyll, the pigment in green herbs and veg that makes them green, and more importantly it takes away flavor and nutrients. The herbs won’t oxidize, as they will be coated in oil that will produce a vivid green color. If you’re looking for flavor and not color, you can also make a basic mayo and stir in finely chopped herbs at the end for a different appearance and slightly different flavor.

Tarragon in blender

Herb mayonnaise works well in many different dishes. Toss fresh pasta tossed in basil mayonnaise, put chive mayonnaise on or into scrambled eggs, try tarragon or dill mayonnaise with cured or smoked fish, and add any herb mayonnaise to a salad or cold meats. Be sure to experiment to see what works best for you and what pairs best with the food you’ll be serving.

Adjusting the texture of is also very easy. If your mayonnaise turns out too thick, just thin it down with some cold water.

Ingredients

  • Cup of tarragon or a full handful
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • Squeeze of lemon or vinegar
  • White pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup olive oil

Oyster Mayonnaise

This mayonnaise works well as a dip for deep fried oysters or as a base for many fish dishes.

Tarragon mayo. Anchovy mayo. Oyster mayo. Beet mayo. Learn how to make them all at home. Tweet This

Simply puree all the ingredients other than the oil, then slowly and steadily drizzle oil into the running blender until combined. This mayonnaise benefits from being passed through a sieve.

Ingredients

  • 8 small fresh oysters (Kumamoto work well)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • white pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil (or lemon oil if you can get it)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

Anchovy Mayonnaise

This mayonnaise works surprisingly well with lamb. Spread sparingly onto a plate underneath slices of lamb leg for a great flavor combination. Go easy on the salt when making this, as tinned (British for canned) anchovies are usually high in salt.

Puree all the ingredients other than the oil, then slowly and steadily drizzle oil into the running blender until combined.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 tinned anchovy fillets
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon or vinegar
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup olive oil

Beet Mayonnaise

This mayo turns out bright red and works well with pork, as well as a variety of vegetable dishes. It’s also fun to play with plating with this mayonnaise as the color is so vibrant.

Pour oil slowly & smoothly

Puree all the ingredients other than the oil, then slowly and steadily drizzle oil into the running blender until combined.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup roasted beet purée
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

Now you should be able to create whatever flavor combination you like. As long as the basic principles are followed, you will have a perfect mayonnaise every time. Remember to add the oil slowly and make sure the emulsion is seasoned correctly. Don’t be afraid to use salt – it really does make a huge difference in flavor.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve mastered mayonnaise, you have the ability to create other cold classic sauces. Tartare, rémoulade, gribiche, sauce verte, aioli, and many other sauces come from the simple mayonnaise.