Make this garlicky sauce to pair with everything from fries to paella.

Aioli Recipe

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Debbie Wee

Total Time:
15 mins
1 cup

What is aioli?

Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise used as a spread, dip, or sauce drizzled over a soup, stew, roast, paella, pasta, or grain dish. Its origins are disputed — some people say it was created in Provence, in the South of France, while others say the original is allioli, from Spain, and still others claim this sauce was used by Ancient Romans and Egyptians.  

Mayonnaise is made by emulsifying oil into egg yolks, and adding a little vinegar or lemon juice. You whisk one or two egg yolks with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, then, very slowly add a neutral oil like grapeseed or canola, 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. You can then thin the mayonnaise to your preferred consistency with cold water.

How to make aioli

Aioli is very similar to mayonnaise, although there is another dispute over whether aioli is made with egg yolks. Some more traditional cooks maintain that aioli should be made with nothing more than garlic, lemon juice, and oil. Others still use egg yolks as the base, and essentially make a mayonnaise with garlic added to it. This recipe, from Boston chef Gordon Hamersley, uses egg yolks to help hold the emulsion. Hamersley starts with finely chopped garlic, and then adds kosher salt and uses the side of a chef's knife to mash it into a paste (the salt helps hold the pieces of garlic together as the grains assist in breaking it down into paste). It’s important to fully smash the garlic into a paste, so you don’t have chunks of raw garlic suspended in the aioli. Olive oil gives this aioli a strong, peppery flavor; use a mix of olive oil and a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed if you want a mellower flavor. The pinches of saffron and cayenne pepper lend this sauce a light yellow hue, gentle floral undertones, and a slight kick of heat. From there, serve this aioli as a dip with French fries or vegetables, drizzle it over paella, or use it on sandwiches.


  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Pinch of saffron threads (optional)

  • 1 cup olive oil

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Using the flat side of a chef's knife on a cutting board, crush garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a bowl with egg yolks, lemon juice and saffron and whisk to blend. Slowly whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until a creamy sauce forms. Season with more salt as needed and cayenne pepper.

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