How to Make Mayonnaise

It's easy to make mayonnaise at home, and use it for anything from a dip to a marinade to a finishing sauce.

Of course you can just buy mayonnaise — we all know that. And, we have a lot of opinions about what kind to buy. But if you want to customize the flavor or texture to your tastes, you’ll want to make it yourself. Learning how to make mayonnaise is easy - here's how.

What is mayonnaise made of?

Mayonnaise is an emulsion, the suspension of one liquid in another when the two cannot form a homogeneous mixture. It’s a standoff between liquid and fat, the best kind of kitchen alchemy. You start with one or two egg yolks, plus a teaspoon of an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Then, very (very!) slowly add oil, drop by drop, mixing constantly so the emulsion holds. You can do this in a bowl with a whisk, or in a blender or food processor. Mustard or powdered mustard added to the egg yolks helps stabilize the emulsion, but adding the oil slowly is key. Thin the mayonnaise to the perfect consistency with cold water, and it's ready to use.

Homemade mayonnaise

Brent Hofacker / Getty Images

Mayonnaise is very easy to make, but beginning cooks might be intimidated. Part of that is because we have all had mayonnaise break on us, usually when we get impatient or clumsy and add the oil too quickly and break the emulsion. If that happens, take a deep breath, and start over — this time, using the broken mayonnaise in place of the oil you were trying to use the first time around. It will hold the emulsion better this time. If you keep running into trouble, try this foolproof method of making mayonnaise with slow-cooked egg yolks. 

How to cook with mayonnaise

Once you make your mayonnaise, there are so many ways to use it. Mix in garlic paste, saffron, fresh herbs, citrus zest, anchovies, or chile sauce to transform it into aioli or whatever sauce you need for the moment. "When it's made fresh," says Chicago chef Paul Virant, "plain mayonnaise is a great little sauce," a savory complement to grilled chicken, pork or asparagus. For added punch, Virant suggests adding finely grated fresh horseradish and Sriracha chile-garlic sauce to the food processor before adding the oil.

After you've seasoned mayonnaise, use it on sandwiches, burgers, a green salad, or as the dressing for a crab salad or chicken salad. Swipe it on the bread for grilled cheese before griddling it for a toasty, crunchy finish. Brush it on savory baked goods or pastries before baking as an egg wash. Drizzle it over paella, arroz con cosas, or fideuà. Use it as the base for a dip for fried pickles, French fries, with chilled seafood, or a combination of fries and lobster. Slather it on salmon or chicken before searing or baking them. Mix it into mashed potatoes to keep the texture soft and silky. Use it as a marinade for asparagus before grilling, or brush it on grilled corn after it comes off the grill. And make it the secret to a golden brown roast turkey. This kind of versatility is part of why you'll want to keep making and customizing your own mayonnaise — the options are endless.

3 recipes featuring homemade mayonnaise

Tuna Burgers with Ginger-Lemon Mayonnaise

Thai Tuna Burgers with Ginger-Lemon Mayonnaise
© Tina Rupp

A ginger-lemon mayonnaise keep the flavors in this burger light. The mayonnaise can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

King Oyster Mushroom "BLT" with Basil Mayonnaise

King Oyster Mushroom "BLT" with Basil Mayonnaise
© Con Poulos

Chef Richard Landau skips packaged vegan bacon in favor of king oyster mushrooms, also known as king trumpets or royal trumpets. These have a firm, meaty texture and flavor that can mimic bacon on a BLT. While the texture of king oysters is unique, other thinly sliced wild mushrooms, like shiitake, would also be tasty on this sandwich.

Crisp Crab Cakes with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Crisp Crab Cakes with Chipotle Mayonnaise
© Seth Smoot

These light and simple crab cakes are bound with fish, not cracker crumbs, for a deep seafood flavor, and served with a deeply flavorful chipotle mayonnaise.

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