Homemade mayonnaise beats store-bought mayonnaise any day. You'll never want Hellman's ever again once you tried this mayo recipe made with lemon, knowledge, love and pinch of black pepper. Perfect, basic and nearly impossible to mess up.
If you have never tried making a homemade mayonnaise recipe before or, you tried a bad recipe that didn't work, then understandably, you might be a touch nervous.
I'm here to teach you all there is to know about making your own mayo at home. Safely, easily and confidently.
The best part of making homemade mayonnaise is that you control what goes into it. This means that you can make your mayo the way you prefer. Everything from consistency, to flavour and colour, can be easily adjusted.
There are plenty of homemade mayonnaise recipes out there to choose from but, this one has been my favourite since the day I first made it.
It's slightly different from your standard classic mayonnaise recipe, yet, it's classy, and used in top restaurants and hotels across the globe.
I like my mayo to be not too thick. It should be light, yet rich, luxurious, and with a nice citrus kick.
These attributes combined make the perfect mayonnaise. You can use it for anything from dressing a crab salad to making a chicken mayo sandwich, and the results will be amazing.
In order to make mayo perfect every time without fail, it helps to understand the basic science behind mayo and other emulsions.
This way you will have full control over any mayonnaise recipe no matter what goes into it.
So, why does water and oil emulsify into a stable mix we call mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise is part of a group of "sauces" called emulsions. This is when a recipe calls for two ingredients that don't like mixing together. Then through the help of a third ingredient, these all come together and form a happy "relationship" in order to give us a stable sauce.
In all emulsion recipes, this will require a water element and a fat element brought together by something called a surfactant. Surfactants are basically just molecules that can be friends with water and oil both at the same time. Almost like Switzerland if you know what I mean.
A common household surfactant is the fairy liquid you use to clean dishes. In things like peanut butter, you might see something called lecithin on the ingredients list, or, in mayonnaise, you will see egg yolk.
Egg yolks also contain lecithin and have the ability to emulsify a huge amount of water and oil.
Technically, you could make 20 litres of emulsified sauce with just a single egg. It won't resemble mayo as it will be extremely runny but, still, you get the point.
It has the potential to do so. Which is important information when we get to talking about fixing a broken mayonnaise later in this article.
When we mix the egg yolk with vinegar, lemon juice or even water, the lecithin disperses in the liquid. When we then add oil(very slowly), while vigorously whisking, the lecithin starts to bind half of itself to the oil, and the other half to the water part.
If done correctly this process results in a stable emulsion we call mayonnaise.
Other common emulsions include chocolate ganache, mustard salad dressings, hollandaise sauce or white wine butter sauce(beurre blanc). There are many others and many ways to achieve an emulsion which we won't get into here as the subject is vast.
The most important part you need to remember is the following. An emulsion is oil droplets dispersed in water. And not the other way around.
With vegan mayo, we also have oil droplets dispersed in a liquid. Here, the emulsion is kept together by lecithin found in chickpeas rather than in egg.
The recipe for that is further down.
The ingredients for this mayo recipe is very straight forward, and most of these, will already be in your pantry or fridge.
- Eggs - Lots of recipes including this one uses raw egg yolk. If you are avoiding raw egg, you can easily buy pasteurised egg yolk in cartons. You can find it fridge section with other eggs or egg products. This way, you will also save the time and effort it takes to separate eggs, and won't be left with egg whites you need to use up for something else.
- Neutral oil - The main oil has to be something without taste or smell. Or if it has, it has to be very subtle in flavour. I use either sunflower or canola oil but, you can also use groundnut oil or avocado oil.
- Olive oil - We only use a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil. This brings nuance to the flavour and using a small amount prevents the mayonnaise from being bitter. Something often associated in mayonnaise with olive oil.
- Dijon mustard - I prefer using smooth dijon mustard but you can use a semi-grainy or any other version you like. Mustard also contains lecithin and hence, further helps the emulsification of oil and water.
- Lemon juice and zest - Lemon is a bit softer than vinegar and also gives a nice aroma and flavour that vinegar lacks in traditional mayo recipes. We use the juice and the zest for maximum freshness and flavour. Lemoniness is all in the zest.
- Seasoning - Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If you want to use white pepper then that's fine too but I like the little black specs in the final mayo.
Of course, you can make variations of homemade mayonnaise by altering the ingredients and we will get to that in a bit.
How to make it
Below are 8 pictures and detailed steps on making mayo at home. In reality, it's even more simple and boils down to only two stages. Mixing non-oil ingredients together and then adding oil slowly while vigorously blending or whisking.
- Place all the ingredients apart from the oil and pepper into a bowl, jug or blender.
- Mix or blend until homogenous.
- Slowly add oil while whisking or blending vigorously.
- When all the oil is added, the mix should be velvety smooth and be able to hold its own shape.
- Season with freshly cracked black pepper.
- Taste for salt and balance. Adjusting if needed.
- Place into a suitable container or use straight away.
- Store homemade mayonnaise in the fridge for up to a week sealed airtight.
You can flavour your mayo or adjust the consistency any way you like by doing the following:
- Add vegetable or herb pureé - I like adding potato pureé or other root vegetable pureé to mayo when it fits the purpose. Make sure it's without butter or fats that solidify when cooled. Herb puree is when things get really interesting and you can make fantastic mayo when using a concentrated herb puree in conjunction with oil made from the same herb. It might be way too much work and technically challenging for the home cook but, if you are a professional then you should definitely consider this approach.
- Baked or fresh garlic - We all know aioli. Classic aioli has no egg. It's loaded with garlic, which makes one of the most delicious mayo versions you can think of and also makes you vampire-proof. You can shamelessly add crushed garlic or baked garlic to this mayo recipe and end up with a very good aioli alternative. Perfect for doing the Spanish thing and dipping a crusty piece of bread into it. Also delicious with Italian fritto misto or English fish and chips.
- Change the oil - Because oil is the main component of mayonnaise, it makes sense to use the oil as a flavouring when possible. Anyone can buy truffle oil, or pumpkin seed oil. Using a touch of these instead of olive oil is amazing with simple things like oven-roasted potatoes, French fries or for a seemingly healthier version, baked sweet potato fries. Especially delicious when sprinkled with some finely grated Parmesan cheese.
- Different citrus or acid - Classic Mayonnaise recipes use vinegar as an acid component. You can substitute this as I did in this recipe for lemon juice or any other type of citrus. Think Lime mayo, Yuzu mayo or use other interesting kinds of vinegar like apple cider, fruit vinegar or even very sour kombucha makes great mayo.
- Make it Spicy - The simplest way would be to add very finely chopped hot chillies. Otherwise, you can either use a chilli oil instead of regular oil. Add a hot sauce like sriracha or even use a dollop of massaman curry or adjika paste.
How to make vegan Mayonnaise
You can easily make vegan mayo by following the following recipe:
- 50g (3 ½ tbsp) aquafaba(liquid in a tin of cooked chickpeas)
- 15g (1 tbsp) lemon juice + ½ tsp lemon zest
- 15g (1 tbsp) smooth dijon mustard
- 2g (½ tsp) fine sea salt
- 175g (¾ cup) neutral oil
- 25g (2 tbsp) olive or truffle oil
- Freshly ground black or white pepper to taste
- Add all the ingredients apart from the oils and pepper into a bowl or blender.
- Mix until well combined.
- Slowly stream in the oils while vigorously whisking or blending.
- Once all the oil is added and the mayo is stable, add the pepper, mix through and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
How to use mayo
Mayonnaise is probably the most popular sauce along with ketchup. Uses go well beyond dipping sauce. So, let's take a look at what you can use your homemade mayonnaise for :
- Base for salad dressing - If you want to make a quick dressing for a salmon salad or a cheat Caesar dressing for a Caesar salad then having a pot of homemade mayonnaise in your fridge is a true friend in need. You can add almost any flavouring to mayo and then adjust the consistency with a bit of cream, water, juice or whatever you fancy. Think Mary rose sauce for the 70's classic prawn cocktail. It's mayonnaise with ketchup and a bit of brandy. Very retro, but delicious if you like mayonnaise-based sauces.
- Straight-up dressing for salad - The most famous being potato salad. It's popular in Russia and Iran and known as salad Olivier/Olivieh. I like adding a bit of liquid smoke to mayo when making potato salad for a barbecue party.
- Savoury layer cake filling - In many Eastern European cuisines, you will find layered dishes consisting of meat or fish, vegetables and mayo all layered like a cake. These are extremely retro but homely and delicious in their own way. One of the famous Russian dishes is "herring under a fur coat". Herring, potato, onion, beetroot and carrot are layered and served at special occasions like New Year, or any second Saturday that calls for a celebration. Another example is "liver cake". You make meat crêpes from calves liver and then layer with fried carrot, chopped dill and mayo. To the average Westerner, these might seem strange but, believe me, if you like mayo then these types of dishes are made for you.
- In marinades - Add a few dollops to yoghurt based marinades for chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Marinade the meat overnight and grill the following day over hot coals or on the stove in a hot skillet.
- To pan-fry with - Do yourself a favour and try toasting bread spread with mayo instead of butter. It's very delicious and it makes sense. Seeing that most of the mayo is oil.
- As a face cream - Just kidding. Don't try that)
How to fix a broken mayonnaise
At one point or another everyone inevitably stands in front of a bowl of broken mayo. This means the sauce has split and the emulsion either never became an emulsion or lost its stability.
This mainly happens when the oil droplets are not evenly dispersed. Caused by adding the oil too quickly while at the same time not mixing the sauce vigorously enough.
What happens is, the oil start grouping together, as they are packed in too tightly and no water is separating the tiny droplets. The lecithin starts having a hard time keeping hold of both the water and oil. Resulting in a broken emulsion.
Not to worry. This is Easily fixable. But, two things to remember.
- An emulsion is an oil dispersed in water. And, not the other way around.
- One egg has the ability to emulsify 20 litres of sauce.
What does this mean?
We don't need to add any more eggs as, it won't help anyway. Because this recipe has enough egg in it to make 100 litres of emulsion. We also need to wait a little bit until the mayo has almost completely split, and most of the oil is floating on top.
All you need to fix this mess is a little bit of water and the following steps:
- Use a clean bowl or blender jug and add a tablespoon of water to it.
- Scoop off and reserve the oil in your broken mayo.
- Extremely slowly start adding back the solid semi-emulsified bit of the broken sauce while vigorously whisking or blending.
- Once that is added in, continue the vigorousness while adding in the rest of the oil you scooped off.
- Your mayo should now be back together and in a stable relationship. If not, consult and repeat)
Frequently asked questions
If you use fresh eggs then 1 week. If you use pasteurised eggs then it can last for up to 3 weeks stored airtight. Always store mayonnaise in the fridge at a temperature between 2-8C or 35F-46F.
Some store-bought mayo can be frozen without ill effect but, homemade is without extra stabilisers so, it won't work. The emulsion will split but, you can bring it back together as I explained above.
If you use pasteurised eggs then the risk to get anything nasty from the eggs like salmonella is none. If you use fresh eggs then make sure they are good quality and clean to minimise the risk.
Children, pregnant woman, and the elderly should automatically avoid eating mayonnaise made with unpasteurised eggs.
Using only olive oil will make your mayo very bitter. It also makes it more prone to splitting. A little bit of olive oil like I use in this recipe is perfect and won't cause any problems or bitterness.
You might have a mustard allergy or simply don't like mustard. You can easily leave the mustard out of this recipe or any other mayonnaise recipe for that matter.
The mayo in this recipe is not too thick, and you can add another 50ml of oil to thicken it even more.
Most emulsions will thicken the more oil you add. To a point where it will split and break. If your mayo is thin because of the latter. Then, I have explained the simple steps you can take to fix a broken mayo in the previous section.
If you want to stabilise a mayo professionally, then add ½g or a tiny pinch of xanthan gum to the initial stage, followed by blending in the oil as instructed.
Yes, provided that you don't add any sugars like honey. This recipe and also the vegan version are both Keto mayo.
Other recipes you might like
If you like making your own sauces at home instead of buying store-bought versions, then you will find the following recipes helpful:
Useful equipment for this recipe
High Speed Blender
Small Kilner jars
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