You can get pretty good mayonnaise at the store, so you may be wondering: why bother making your own at home? Because making a batch of homemade mayonnaise is one of those magical kitchen moments. It’s never short of thrilling to be at the helm of the transformation from humble eggs and oil to that luxurious mound of pearly glop.
If you own a food processor or blender, you should make mayonnaise at least once. It’s a quick, cheap thrill, and it’s good for your ego to boot, because it’s so easy. It takes longer to wash the food processor than to do the actual mayo-making.
And yes, your homemade mayonnaise will beat what you can get from the store. I used to think mayonnaise was gross, but now I dip my fries in it, drag artichoke leaves though it, and slather it on sandwiches.
WHAT IS MAYONNAISE EXACTLY?
Mayonnaise is a cold emulsion. An emulsion is a suspension of two things that don’t normally go together, i.e. oil and a water-based liquid. (Two examples of emulsions in your everyday life? Lipstick and asphalt. Sexy!)
If you do it right, you can emulsify a basic oil-and-vinegar dressing, but it’s tricky, and it tends to separate with time. Mayonnaise is not only easier to emulsify, but much more interesting. Egg yolks are the magical ingredient that bind everything together.
You can make mayonnaise by hand, certainly, but making it in a food processor or blender is faster, easier, and more foolproof.
TIPS AND FAQS FOR MAKING HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE
What oil should I use to make homemade mayonnaise?
Oil is by far the number one ingredient, percentage-wise, in mayonnaise. Accordingly, your mayonnaise will taste like the oil you use in it. When in doubt, taste the oil you plan to use, and think if that’s how you want one or more cups of homemade mayonnaise to taste.
Classically, neutral-tasting oils are the top choice for mayonnaise, because they won’t overwhelm the flavor profile. Vegetable, grapeseed, and canola oil are a few examples.
If you prefer a less-refined oil, extra-virgin olive oil might be your choice, but keep two things in mind: olive oil has a strong flavor, and it might not be the flavor you want in, say, a tartar sauce.
More importantly, if you are using a food processor or blender, the quick action of the blades can make olive oil taste bitter. One solution is to use half neutral oil in the appliance, and then once you have a good emulsion, remove the mayonnaise and whisk in the balance of olive oil.
A little egg goes a long way!
Egg yolks are high in lecithin. Lecithin makes pulling off an emulsion much more reachable for mortals like you and me, because it surrounds the fat and liquid molecules and helps them stay suspended, rather than curdling.
Some mayonnaise recipes call for using a whole egg. I used to poo-poo this whole-egg thing, but now I think it helps make a more foolproof mayonnaise without affecting flavor. It’s up to you.
Just remember: the yolk is the emulsifier, and the egg white is along for the ride, adding a marginal but useful buffer of liquid.
What yolk-to-oil ratio should I use for homemade mayonnaise?
A handy ratio: one egg yolk will emulsify up to one cup of oil. (This isn’t written in stone, but it makes a great mayonnaise!) The more oil you add, the stiffer your mayonnaise will be. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Should all my ingredients be the same temperature?
There’s an ongoing myth that having all of your ingredients at the same temperature (in this case, room temperature) is important for homemade mayonnaise. But with blender or food processor mayo, it’s not a problem if your eggs are straight from the fridge.
Phew! Chalk one up for us poor planners.
What about raw eggs and salmonella?
Raw eggs can carry salmonella, though they are much less likely to carry it than chicken meat.
Salmonella thrives more on the outside of eggshells than inside the egg itself. To stay safe, minimize contact between the egg and the shell. If you are using a yolk only, separate the egg using your clean hands and not the egg shell.
I like to use very fresh farm eggs for mayonnaise. This is my tradeoff for living in a rural community with terrible grocery stores—I can’t swing a cat without hitting an egg raised humanely by someone I trust.
To be extra safe, you can buy pasteurized in-shell eggs at the grocery store, or pasteurize your own with this sous vide method.
In any case, those who are pregnant, very young, very old, or have compromised immune systems may want to think twice before eating mayonnaise made with unpasteurized eggs.
Mustard is important, too!
Mustard seeds contain the compound mucilage, which absorbs water and aids in the emulsification process. In mayonnaise, I prefer prepared mustard, usually Dijon, over ground dry mustard. Why? I like the flavor a little better. Use whatever you have handy. Either will work.
Note that you don’t have to add mustard for your mayonnaise to emulsify. But come on, mustard rules! A lil’ dab of it gives mayonnaise an appealing edge.
MAYO IN A FOOD PROCESSOR
You can make mayonnaise in either a food processor or a blender. Early blender cookbooks are chock-full of mayonnaise recipes, and the same goes for early food processor cookbooks.
If you’re using a food processor, look to see that the insert for the feed tube has a tiny hole in it. Turn on the machine and pour the oil into the insert, and it will drip it into the machine at the perfect rate for a good emulsion. (Really, it does the thinking for you.)
You need to start with a large enough volume of ingredients for the food processor blades to catch them, so a one-egg mayonnaise in a very large food processor (like 11-cup capacity) might not work right. I can do a great one-egg mayonnaise in my 7-cup food processor, but would probably double the recipe for a large-capacity food processor.
MAYO IN A BLENDER (OR WITH AN IMMERSION BLENDER)
With a blender, you’ll need to control the rate at which you add the oil. Err on the side of slower, but not too slow. Over-blending your mayo can cause it to break. Blend it just until you see that glorious opalescent yellow-white mayonnaise form, and then stop.
Similar to the food processor, if you have a large-capacity blender, you may need to double the amounts in order for the mayonnaise to come together properly.
If you have an immersion blender, you can make mayonnaise using the tall, cylindrical beaker that came with it. Add the egg, acid, and mustard; then lower the immersion blender to the bottom of the beaker. Add the oil all at once, and turn on the immersion blender.
It seems like it wouldn’t work, but it does, because the immersion blender pulls the oil into the yolk bit by bit. Cool, huh? Keep in mind, this oil-all-at-once method works only with immersion blenders.
HOW TO SAVE A BROKEN MAYONNAISE
The two crucial ingredients of mayonnaise are egg yolks and oil. If you plopped them together artlessly in a bowl and mixed them a little, the result would be a thin, greasy mess dotted with specks of yolk.
But if you whisk whisk whisk the yolk while adding the oil in a gradual stream, the egg yolk suspends tiny particles of oil and creates what appears to the naked eye as a homogenous mixture.
However, if you add the oil too fast or don’t whisk enough, your mayonnaise can break. A broken mayonnaise is when the creamy emulsion becomes runny and greasy, because it’s no longer emulsified.
What does this mean to you? Making mayonnaise by hand with a bowl and a whisk is possible, yes, but with the aid of a food processor or blender, it’s faster and practically fail-safe. (Plus, here’s a tip: a few teaspoons of water added to the yolk makes a homemade mayo less likely to break!)
If your emulsion is off, your mayonnaise might separate in the refrigerator. Or maybe your emulsion didn’t work from the get-go, and you have a greasy mess.
You can fix it! First, try blending (or whisking) a few dabs of very hot water into the broken mayo.
If that does not work, start with a fresh egg (single yolk or whole egg) and emulsify the broken mayonnaise into it the same way you did with the oil.
STORING HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE
Homemade mayonnaise (or anything made with it) should keep for a week, or even a little longer, in the refrigerator. Keep it tightly covered in a container, and don’t double-dip.
FAVORITE RECIPES THAT USE MAYONNAISE:
How To Make Mayonnaise in a Blender or Food Processor
There’s not much of a difference between whole-egg mayos and yolk-only ones, so I prefer to use the whole egg.
If you're using a large-capacity blender or food processor, double the recipe (otherwise there won't be enough liquid to blend properly).
- 1 whole egg or 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water, if using only an egg yolk
- 1 cup neutral oil (like vegetable, grapeseed, or canola)
- A dew dashes of Tabasco, optional
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional; I don’t bother)
1 Pulse the egg, mustard, vinegar, and water: In a blender or food processor, combine the egg, mustard, vinegar, and water (if using). Pulse a few times so it’s mixed but not aerated.
2 While the machine is on, slowly pour in the oil: Have the oil ready in a glass measuring cup. Turn on the blender or food processor and add the oil in a thin stream (if you are using a food processor, the food tube insert will dribble it in for you).
At first it will look like a yellow disaster, but press on. Soon you’ll have a pearly, creamy mixture that gets thicker the more oil you add.
3 Scrape out the mayonnaise and season: Once all the oil is added, turn off the machine and scrape out the mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and optional Tabasco. (I like to taste the mayonnaise on a carrot stick or piece of lettuce to get a better idea of what it’ll be like on other food, which is how you will eat it.)
Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.
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