Traditional Catalan Garlic and Oil Sauce (Allioli a la Catalana)


Allioli is an incredibly popular and versatile sauce that is eaten across Spain with fish, meat and vegetables. This recipe is the real thing—allioli the old-fashioned way, made with a mortar and pestle. It's perfect with the grilled meats and sausages that are at the heart of Catalan cooking. But it's not just the taste that makes this sauce so incredible; it's the process. It's hard to believe that olive oil and garlic can come together to create something so rich and buttery. It may take a lot of work, but a little goes a long way.Plus: More Grilling Recipes and Tips

1 cup


  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • Pinch of salt

  • Fresh lemon juice

  • Spanish extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.) Add the lemon juice to the garlic. Drop by drop, pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.


José's tips: It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

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