I’m going to be a little unconventional and start my “how to make mayonnaise” post with a complaint: I can’t tell you how much I hate mayo. And this is an ever-present hatred, one I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I recall one particular event, when I was six years old; my family went on a picnic to a park called Coyote Point, a cute little waterfront recreation spot here in the Bay Area. My mom, a true 70s convenience food gourmet, had packed a mayonnaise-laden lunch, complete with potato salad, macaroni salad, and mayo-spread sandwiches. I cried and cried because I thought I was going to starve to death that day. That’s how much I despised this weird white stuff – I would have died before eating even a bite of it.
Thankfully I didn’t die of starvation at the tender, but precocious, age of six. I eventually picked apart a sandwich and carefully wiped every bit of mayonnaise from the cold cuts with a napkin. As I got older, I would instead spread butter on my sandwiches or eat them bone-dry, opening me up to much ridicule from friends. Still, no amount of teasing would get me to eat mayo.
My hatred of mayonnaise lasted until last year, when I got tired of shelling out $4 a jar for Best Foods mayo – my husband survives almost solely on sandwiches, so we go through quite a bit in our house. Store-bought mayonnaise isn’t only expensive, it’s filled with sugar and all sorts of weird additives that I personally find reprehensible (not to mention the dreaded-ly vague ingredient “natural flavors). So I set out make my own.
Having never had homemade mayo before, I was shocked at how different the flavor and texture were. The stuff I was making tasted nothing like the white mass-produced glop I was served as a child. Homemade mayo is light and fluffy, silky and creamy. There’s no icky greasy taste, no bizarrely stiff body.
A lot of people are intimidated by learning how to make mayonnaise at home. I imagine the fear comes from having to emulsify the ingredients, a process that can occasionally lead even the most tenured chef astray. Sometimes mayo will break while you’re beating it – that’s just a fact of life. Maybe you did something wrong, maybe you weren’t consistent in your whisking, or maybe someone three houses over sneezed while watching Jerry Springer reruns on a stolen cable signal. Who knows. Who cares.
In Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, he explains the best way to go about making mayonnaise at home, and what to do if it breaks. If you lose control of your mayo and find it in a runny, inconsolable state, get a new bowl, add another teaspoon of water and a bit more egg yolk, and slowly pour in the broken mayonnaise and whisk until it’s gotten ahold of itself.
The following mayonnaise recipe is both simple and standard. The process is easy if you just give it a chance. And trust me, it’s worth it.
How to Make Mayonnaise
A simple, basic mayonnaise recipe
Yield: about 2 cups
- 1 egg yolk, from a large egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 cup (8 ounces) of vegetable oil
- Keep in an airtight container in the fridge. Fresh mayo should keep well for up to a week.
- Combine the egg yolk, water, salt, pepper and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk until they are well combined.
- While whisking the egg mixture, add a few drops of oil to get the emulsion setup. Add a few more drops, and then a few more, all the while keep beating. Once you’ve got a good emulsion going, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil while whisking constantly. The finished product should be thick enough to cling to your tasting spoon.
- Homemade mayonnaise keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge. Store for up to a week.
Mayonnaise variations are endless. Try adding the following or experiment to create your own mayonnaise recipe:
- Curry powder
- Wasabi powder
If you like learning how to make mayonnaise, check out these other recipes: