Mayonnaise: The divisive yet not so difficult to make condiment

Brian Adornetto


The mere mention of mayonnaise can trigger a strong response and, sometimes, incite intense arguments. First, come the haters. “Mayonnaise smells disgusting!” “I can’t stand the mouth feel!” It’s “slimy,” “gloppy,” or “gross-looking!” To those curmudgeons, I merely say to each his or her own. Now, I would like to speak to my fellow mayonnaise enthusiasts.

We tend to hold deep convictions concerning our preferred brand: Hellman’s (or Best, if you live west of the Rockies) for its salty egg-iness; Duke’s, the Southern favorite, for its vinegary brightness and romantic past; or the red-headed stepchild Miracle Whip “dressing” for its thinner consistency, sweet and somewhat distracting seasonings, and secret ratio of ingredients. Devotees acknowledge only one mayonnaise. The rest are not just unacceptable, but abominations.

But nothing is that black and white. Each has a place in my kitchen. Hellman’s is my mayonnaise of choice if I’m making a sandwich or ranch dressing. Duke’s offers that extra burst of flavor in my deviled eggs and pimento cheese, while Miracle Whip is the secret to my coleslaw. But when I crave remoulade, Dijonaisse, aioli, or a schmear for my garden-ripe summer tomatoes, I make my own.

This does require some technique, but, despite what you may have heard, the technique isn’t that difficult to master, and the payoff is huge. I have to warn you though: Once you’ve tasted homemade, returning to jarred mayonnaise won’t be so easy. The fresh taste and creaminess can’t be beat. With a little practice, and a few tips, you’ll be whipping up your own Sauce Mayonnaise in no time!

To stabilize the bowl while whisking, place it on top of a folded dishtowel.

To facilitate the emulsification, bring all of the ingredients and equipment, if stored in a cool place, to room temperature.

A helper drizzling the oil as you whisk will make this easier, but in lieu of that, you can use a hand-held electric mixer with the whisk attachment or immersion blender while streaming in the oil with your other hand.

While this is my “go to” recipe, I sometimes substitute cider or champagne vinegar for the white, use a combination of lemon and orange juice, or trade the canola for olive oil. So, feel free to experiment!

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 egg yolk from a large egg*
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil (or safflower, grapeseed, any other flavorless oil)

In a 1-quart bowl, whisk the egg yolk. Add the salt, mustard, sugar (if using), lemon juice, and vinegar. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

Whisking briskly, add the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten in color. Carefully increase the oil flow to a slow thin stream while constantly whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. If too much oil is dispensed at one time, stop pouring until it’s thoroughly whisked in.

Due to the fresh egg yolk, homemade mayo has a yellow tint as opposed to the pearly white color you find in a jar. It can be left at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours at the most, but will last for about 10
days in the refrigerator.

To reduce the risk of food-borne illness, use only fresh, properly refrigerated clean eggs with intact shells. Avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. Alternately, use pasteurized egg yolks.

2 thoughts on “Mayonnaise: The divisive yet not so difficult to make condiment

  1. Brian, your inclusiveness is commendable. I’m not quite so flexible. As a kid, growing up in Manhattan in the 50’s & 60’s, my sainted Irish mother always used Miracle Whip. When I became a grown up New Yorker in my own right, I couldn’t imagine using anything but Hellman’s. In 1976 I moved to Virginia Beach, discovered Duke’s, and have never looked back. I’ve moved all over the country since then, but there’s always a jar of Duke’s in the fridge and one in the pantry. I also make my own when I want something special, but I can’t imagine a commercial mayo better than Duke’s.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write, Mike. Like you, as I grew up and moved to the South, I discovered there was actually more than one brand of mayo too. While I still wouldn’t make a sandwich with Miracle Whip, I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is. As such, I view most brands as ingredients as opposed to final condiments. Though admittedly, there is also a sentimentalism in the taste of certain dishes that keeps me so…diplomatic.

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