How to win over a mayo hater
August 24th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
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No one is agnostic when it comes to mayonnaise. Ketchup, mustard, relish - people may have their brand or recipe preferences, but rarely do those condiments elicit anything like the passionate partisanship or disgust that mayo does.

Go on - stroll up to a klatsch of co-workers or into the midst of a bar throng and say "mayonnaise." A few folks will just think you're being weird (and granted, you are), but take note of who physically recoils at the mention and who starts waxing rhapsodic about their favorite brand or recipe.

The store-bought stuff is tied to regional identity in the same way that the words "pop" and "soda," barbecue methods or standard hot dog toppings are. Some expat southerners will smuggle Duke's back above the Mason-Dixon line, pining for the piquant kiss that the creamier, sweet Hellmann's (or "Best Foods" as it's called west of the Rockies) doesn't quite deliver. Those brands certainly have their supporters, but a devotee of Blue Plate may insist that a proper shrimp remoulade cannot be made without the Louisiana standard. It's best not to argue.

Kraft Real Mayonnaise has its advocates, especially when pitted against its audacious sister brand Miracle Whip sandwich spread - which must be mentioned, though it's categorically NOT mayo as it contains less than the Food and Drug Administration's standard of 65 percent vegetable oil by weight in order to bear the name "mayonnaise." Japanophiles may fancy MSG-laced Kewpie on their pizza (it's a thing) and health-conscious eaters across the nation flock to Hain or Hollywood safflower mayonnaise.

A smaller, but still vocal bunch swears by the homemade version. It is indeed almost comically easy to whisk up at home, and we'll get to that in a bit.

In many areas of the country, mayonnaise is not merely a sandwich lubricant, but rather serves as the cement binding the baroque salads, creamy dips and viscous casseroles upon which family dinners, block parties, church suppers and society itself are anchored.

Mayo haters would rather that it did not. They are legion, and they claim talk show host Jimmy Fallon, food world personality Rachael Ray and President Barack Obama among their number. The most revulsed of them will shudder, gag, weep or possibly flee at the sound of the word or the sight of a wobbling spoonful. Others will simply avoid the stuff at all costs. They join "I Hate Mayonnaise" Facebook groups, invoke bodily fluid metaphors and call it "salmonella pudding."

That'd be in reference to the raw egg yolk and oil emulsion at the heart of every mayonnaise. That's all it is, really. There's no Satan spleen or ghost vomit, just egg, oil, water, salt, and some vinegar, lemon juice, pepper or other seasonings if you feel like getting all fancy pants about it.

While some dishes, like a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on white bread, or homemade pimento cheese, simply scream out for a store-bought mayonnaise, it's worth even the most avid mayo-naysayer's while to give the homemade stuff a whirl just once.

To make it by hand, bring one very fresh, pasteurized egg yolk and a cup of oil (could be vegetable, olive, peanut, canola, safflower or a combo of your favorites) to room temperature. Wash a mixing bowl in warm water and dry it out. Slide the egg yolk into the bowl, add a scant teaspoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of water, and whisk that all together.

Then, while whisking, add a couple of drops - and only a couple of drops - into the mix and keep whisking. Use a spoon or a squeeze bottle if that steadies your flow. What you're trying to achieve is an emulsion, or a combination of two liquids that don't especially wish to play nicely together. The force of the whisking and the slow introduction of the oil allows the yolk's water, the added water and the oil to bind, with the lecithin in the egg yolk acting as the matchmaker. Hooray for science!

Keep whisking away, adding a few drops of oil at a time until the mixture starts to thicken. Then the oil can be added at a steadier stream, as can a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar or even a pinch of mustard powder or prepared mustard.

When it gets to your desired thickness, don't feel obligated to use up all the oil. Just stop, stick in a spoon and give your creation a taste.

Could it convert a lifelong loather? It just may(o) indeed.

A bit more on homemade mayonnaise:

– Don't feel like whisking? An immersion blender or mixer will do the trick, and it's also a great fit for a blender or food processor. Just periodically stop the machine and scrape the blades to make sure all ingredients are melding at the same pace.

– If the emulsion separates, don't fret. Put a teaspoon of very hot water in a bowl and whisk in your broken mixture bit by bit. That should fix things.

– Make sure to refrigerate any unused mayonnaise and use it up within a week - a day or two if you haven't used lemon juice or vinegar in the mixture. You can always just make more.

– Once you've got the hang of it, try adding freshly chopped herbs (dill and tarragon work well), cayenne pepper, curry spices or different vinegars to make your own signature condiment.

– Yup, there are vegan versions for the egg-eschewing.

– And just for fun, here are a few classic recipes from the excellent people at The Gutenberg Project. Volunteers digitize and archive books in the public domain, and they've got quite a sizable cookery section. Enjoy this slathering of mayo techniques from the 1800s.

Domestic French Cookery, 4th ed. (1836), by Sulpice Barué

The sauce Mayonnaise is made as follows:— Put into a small tureen the yolks of two beaten eggs, a little salt and Cayenne pepper, and a very little vinegar. Stir and mix it well; then add (a drop at a time) two table-spoonfuls of sweet-oil, stirring all the while. When it is well mixed, stir in gradually some more vinegar. To stir and mix it thoroughly will require a quarter of an hour. It will then be very delicate.

The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton - 1861

MAYONNAISE, a Sauce or Salad-Dressing for cold Chicken, Meat, and other cold Dishes.

INGREDIENTS.—The yolks of 2 eggs, 6 tablespoonfuls of salad-oil, 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, salt and white pepper to taste, 1 tablespoonful of white stock (recipe below), 2 tablespoonfuls of cream.

Mode.—Put the yolks of the eggs into a basin, with a seasoning of pepper and salt; have ready the above quantities of oil and vinegar, in separate vessels; add them very gradually to the eggs; continue stirring and rubbing the mixture with a wooden spoon, as herein consists the secret of having a nice smooth sauce. It cannot be stirred too frequently, and it should be made in a very cool place, or, if ice is at hand, it should be mixed over it. When the vinegar and oil are well incorporated with the eggs, add the stock and cream, stirring all the time, and it will then be ready for use.

Note.—In mixing the oil and vinegar with the eggs, put in first a few drops of oil, and then a few drops of vinegar, never adding a large quantity of either at one time. By this means, you can be more certain of the sauce not curdling. Patience and practice, let us add, are two essentials for making this sauce good.


(To be Used in the Preparation of White Soups.)

INGREDIENTS.—4 lbs. of knuckle of veal, any poultry trimmings, 4 slices of lean ham, 1 carrot, 2 onions, 1 head of celery, 12 white peppercorns, 1 oz. of salt, 1 blade of mace, 1 oz. butter, 4 quarts of water.

Mode.—Cut up the veal, and put it with the bones and trimmings of poultry, and the ham, into the stewpan, which has been rubbed with the butter. Moisten with 1/2 a pint of water, and simmer till the gravy begins to flow. Then add the 4 quarts of water and the remainder of the ingredients; simmer for 5 hours. After skimming and straining it carefully through a very fine hair sieve, it will be ready for use.

The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887), by Mrs. F.L. Gillette.

Put the yolks of four fresh raw eggs, with two hard-boiled ones, into a cold bowl. Rub these as smooth as possible before introducing the oil; a good measure of oil is a tablespoonful to each yolk of raw egg. All the art consists in introducing the oil by degrees, a few drops at a time. You can never make a good salad without taking plenty of time. When the oil is well mixed, and assumes the appearance of jelly, put in two heaping teaspoonfuls of dry table salt, one of pepper and one of made mustard. Never put in salt and pepper before this stage of the process, because the salt and pepper would coagulate the albumen of the eggs, and you could not get the dressing smooth. Two tablespoonfuls of vinegar added gradually.

The Mayonnaise should be the thickness of thick cream when finished, but if it looks like curdling when mixing it, set in the ice-box or in a cold place for about forty minutes or an hour, then mix it again. It is a good idea to place it in a pan of cracked ice while mixing.

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Filed under: Condiment • Eggs • How To • Ingredients • Make • Mayonnaise • Staples • Techniques & Tips

soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Michelle

    Vegenaise! Even my non-vegan boyfriend loves the stuff!

    August 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Sidony

      I like it too! And I'm not vegan, but a vegan friend introduced me to it. I can't stand regular mayo, but the vegan stuff tastes okay.

      July 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
  2. bookworm

    Great article. Mayo covers a broad range of tastes, to me its never been bad. The best thing mentioned here is the gutenburg project. thanks for this knowledge. I'm going to make a mayo, peanutbutter, mustard, bacon and left over french fry with dill pickle and fresh tomato sandwich and see what treasures I can find in this gutenberg thing. Yum!

    August 31, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  3. chana

    seriously regina no one cares stfu!.... anywho yall shd try corn on the cob with mayo spread on it with parmasean cheese and chili powder on it yummmy!

    August 26, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  4. Jean at

    I love good store-bought mayonnaise. Yes, making homemade is very easy; but I prefer Hellmann's/Best Foods. Would love to try Duke's, but for some reason I've not thought of it those times I've been in "Duke's Territory." I think Miracle Whip is disgusting and have actually converted some friends who where loyal to the Miracle Whip of their childhoods to Hellmann's/Best Foods.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  5. Mark Larezzo

    Both Mayo and Ketchup are nasty. I do not use them on anything.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  6. Jdizz

    No Bueno

    August 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  7. jj

    Wow, with all the problems in the world, you have to talk about mayo? How about the starving children in Somalia, "Eatocracy?"

    August 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Sgt. Hulka@jj

      Sometimes it's fun not to be serious all the time. Lighten up, Francis.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Special Education Teacher@jj

      This is the food section. In the food section, we talk about,

      Any questions?

      August 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      For the record, we've talked a lot about starving children in Somalia, the U.S. and plenty of places around the world. Sometimes we also talk about condiments.

      September 5, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  8. mightaswellbe

    I was poisoned as a young child by a baloney sandwich. Yea, maybe it was the baloney but I doubt it. I have never been able to stomach mayo ( or MW) since then.

    I'd rather suck the snot out of dead dogs nose than eat that 'white death in a jar' called Mayo (or MW).

    If my wife proceeds me in death, then some time between the funeral home toting her out the door and the hears driving away from the curb that jar of Mayo will be in the trash.

    Mustard, the elixir of the gods. I use it on ALL sandwiches.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • stud

      dog snot or any other is rather savory and makes for a great sandwich spread. Use it as a base for salad dressing and all your guests will be excited. Careful not to use snot from a cold though, because you wouldn't want to spread those germs.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Bozo

      Jezus, when does school start up again?

      August 31, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  9. James Bucannon

    You can tell the type of culture and upbringing someone has simply by determining if they consume mayo. People of class and taste will not touch the stuff, while those raised in trailer parks and other parts of the South consume it like the last supper.

    Mayo has no place on the table of those with a refined pallet.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • ZRS

      Yes, but they might be able to spell "palate" correctly.

      And you do know that mayonnaise is a standard French preparation and that basis for a lot of their classical sauces, right?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • JonQ

      Ahh James... You no doubt wipe your butt with a silk napkin. No need for toilet paper as your excrement smells like a flower shop right?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Spelling Nazi@ZRS

      Maybe James is talking about a pallet made of a higher quality. Maybe he believes Mayo doesn't deserve a pallet made of, say, mahogany.

      Give him the benefit of the dolt, uh, doubt.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Mitchell Down Under

      Agreed. American "cuisine" is melting pot sludge. And you can flush Mexican food right along with it. Bleck!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Jamie C. Baker

      Strange... so all that time I thought I was being raised in a $400,000 home in Connecticut, I was actually in a trailer park?

      August 25, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • VeryAmused

      You are so ignorant that you do not comprehend how many so-called "gourmet" dishes that you feel SO superior ordering that are actually based on mayonnaise!
      Clueless, Arrogant pricks such as yourself are quite entertaining!

      August 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
      • There's a Troll in Patroller

        So are trolls.

        August 4, 2014 at 6:31 am |
  10. Sue

    There are 3 foods I will never eat. Never. Ever. Mayo is number 1 on that list. I've tried, really, I've tried. For some reason that escapes me, every salad, condiment, sauce, you name it, contains this vile, artery-clogging glop. My friends call me a picky eater because I won't eat anything with mayo. It isn't the salad, sauce, whatever that I detest, just the mayo. *Gags and shudders with revulsion*

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  11. Don

    I love mayo. I can't imagine potato salad, mac salad, coleslaw or a turkey sandwich without it. I'm not overweight and I watch my diet but mayo is a guilty pleasure I enjoy once in awhile like chicken wings and cheeseburgers.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  12. Jorge

    Mayonnnaise? WHY???? Why infest a good meal with a nasty, bacteria-prone emulsion of second-rate food industry oils, modified food "products" and food processing chemicals? I love my coronaries and carotids, thank you. Regina probably thinks that the Cracker Barrel is Haute Cuisine.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  13. Margaret

    Paragraph #11 starts "Then, while whisking, add a couple of drops – and only a couple of drops – into the mix and keep whisking."

    Two drops of WHAT???

    August 25, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Alton Brown

      Oil. It's an emulsion.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Anthrogirl

      I was asking the same question too.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  14. JMK

    My family has always eaten JFG brand mayonnaise. The company is based in Knoxville, TN and also sells coffee. We haven't been able to find it lately, but I swear its the best. Green pea salad, cole slaw, tartar sauce, tomato sandwiches, you name it, its better with JFG than with any other mayo.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Julie

      JFG is absolutely the best! They will sell it directly or you can buy it from Amazon. Ihave had it shipped either to me or my children in several different states for quite a while.

      July 13, 2014 at 11:32 am |
  15. Meg

    Nothing better than a ham sandwich dripping with mayo–I'm one of those people at Subway who says "More Mayo!" like it's a cowbell.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  16. Iruka

    Everyone has their food preferences, but for me, the most annoying thing about mayonnaise is that if it is "usually" included (on certain burgers, for instance,) you won't have great success in ordering the item "without." I had a burger at Ruby Tuesday once come back to me THREE times, after specifying "no mayo" each time.....once, the hostess tried to tell me that "mustard + mayo" would be okay. No, mixing mayo with something does not make it go away. Finally, I just gave up & scraped as much of the mayo off the burger as possible. Didn't go back there for about 6 months, and as a rule, I try not to order anything which has mayo or any sort of mayo-combo on it.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Jorge

      If I'd have been you I would have called the manager to complain, there's no excuse for such poor service at any eatery, even if it IS Ruby Tuesday.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Ronco@Iruka

      So wait, you mean to tell me you went to Ruby Tuesdays on purpose and then actually went BACK? Why are you a glutton for punishment? why oh why would you ever eat there????

      August 25, 2011 at 9:39 am |
      • Bozo

        Because their triple prime burger is to DIE for!

        August 31, 2011 at 7:27 am |
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