The simple ingredients in this Japanese mayo are just the beginning and yeah, one of them is MSG.
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Store-bought mayonnaise is a polarizing food. Folks in the Southern states will swear by their Duke's Mayo as a matter of civic pride, while many Midwesterners would never be caught without their blue-lidded jar of Hellman's. There is even the smaller but no less vocal Miracle Whip contingent, the eggless mayo lovers, and various other smaller regional spreads that get mad love. 

For chefs or passionate home cooks, making your own has long been the preferred way to mayo. A quick blender mayo is easy to make and endlessly customizable, from garlicky aïolis to luxurious truffled versions, and everything in between. But there is one store-bought mayo that nearly every professional chef and in-the-know food lover keeps in their chill chest: Kewpie. This Japanese brand has long been the secret weapon of the mayonnaise arsenal for those in the know. But what makes it so special?

Kewpie Mayo
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Kewpie is made with egg yolks so it's richer.

For starters, Kewpie mayonnaise — which is made with egg yolks and not whole eggs — has a richer, more velvety texture than regular store-bought mayo. It is not surprising, since they use a high proportion of yolks, which give it an egg-forward flavor. Most home recipes for mayonnaise also begin with just yolks, so this makes Kewpie feels a bit more special. And, it never has that weirdly clumpy or curdled look that you can get from other jarred mayos, making it easy to use as a garnish or condiment straight from the bottle, enhanced by the squeeze lid that gives you perfect thin squiggles on top of your dishes.

Kewpie has simple ingredients.

Kewpie is made of egg yolks, canola oil, salt, vinegar, and seasonings. This small ingredient list keeps the flavor pure. Unlike most store-bought mayonnaise, there is no sugar in the product; any sweetness comes naturally from the egg yolks and the blend of vinegars, rice, apple cider, red wine, and distilled, which provide both acid and a hint of sweetness that is missing from American mayos that use sugar and white distilled vinegar in their mix. There are no extra additives or preservatives, but the distinctive squeeze bottle helps keep air out, so Kewpie has a long shelf-life in your refrigerator once opened.

Kewpie has MSG — and that's a very good thing.

MSG is the singular difference between Kewpie and American brands, and chefs are here for it. Despite what you might have been led to believe, MSG is a totally naturally occurring salt that is not a horrible chemical and is not going to make you feel sick. The claims that it can give you headaches or gastric distress have long been disproven; they were essentially a hoax. MSG is naturally present in ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, edible seaweed, and fermented foods, and is a big part of why they are all so delicious. It is also a part of why Kewpie has that "it factor" that chefs love. MSG brings umami, that fabulous savory fifth taste, to the mayo party in a way that no other store-bought mayonnaise can touch. It is why you will see chefs like Stephanie Izard unapologetically squirting it over her dishes at her award-winning restaurants and on her cooking at home social media videos. David Chang could probably do a TED talk on the stuff. The flavor boost provided by the MSG in Kewpie is that little something extra it brings to the flavor party. 

Try it for yourself. Squeeze a bit on top of your next grain bowl, poke bowl, or tomato salad for an extra-creamy flavorful garnish. Spread it on the outside of your bread for a grilled cheese that is all kinds of next-level. Your potato salad and tuna salad will thank you for sure, and nothing is better on a burger. And as a dip for fries or tots? You will never go back to ketchup.

Make sure you're getting Japanese Kewpie.

You can source Kewpie at more and more local and chain markets all the time, or buy directly online from their official online store. Please note, Kewpie made for the Japanese market is what you want to buy. They do make a product for the U.S., for which they swapped out the MSG for yeast extract. It's perfectly good, but not quite the same. Get the real deal and get ready to join the Kewpie nation. You don't have to give up your old mayo, but give yourself the option to love two at once.