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Cape Flavors

Make your own mayo

By Denise Clemons | Mar 31, 2014
Photo by: Jack Clemons Shown (clockwise from top) are homemade mayo, tartar sauce, and remoulade.

Have you ever made your own mayonnaise? This is a question I was recently asked and my initial response needs to be amended. At the time, I glibly answered that the process was straightforward and the results worth the effort. That’s still correct. However, after some experimentation with purported shortcuts, I should say the recipe is simple but the execution requires some skill.

The first step to homemade mayonnaise is understanding the science behind creating an emulsion or a mixture of one liquid suspended in another. In this case, we’re combining egg yolks, which contain the emulsifier lecithin, with oil. To help the process work, you can’t overwhelm the egg with oil, or the two liquids won’t combine. Instead, the oil is drizzled in one drop at a time until the mixture is stable.

Once the sauce begins to thicken, the oil can be whisked in more quickly, and seasonings such as mustard powder and vinegar can be added for both their bright flavors and additional emulsifying properties. A pinch of cayenne and some salt finish the mayonnaise ingredient list; note there are no preservatives or stabilizers or unpronounceable additives like those found in commercial mayo.

This process as described is all done with a bowl and a balloon whisk. However, an internet search will offer any number of websites suggesting the same results can be achieved with a blender, food processor or immersion blender with a whip attachment. My efforts to produce mayonnaise with an appliance failed miserably.

I first tried the immersion blender approach, which insisted all the ingredients could be placed in a glass measuring cup and within a minute of blending, perfect mayonnaise would appear. My version resulted in an oily yellow liquid that never successfully thickened.

The next attempt at using technology was the tabletop blender, where I started by mixing together the yolks, mustard powder and lemon juice. Following instructions, I removed the cover of the blender and kept it running at a slow speed while adding the oil a few drops at a time. Unlike the online promise of instant emulsification, I managed to spray oily egg yolks all over the kitchen counter, cabinets and floor, not to mention my face and neck.

For me, the only technique that ensured success was the manual whisking and meticulously slow addition of oil. And, it’s essential to choose the right oil. Although olive oil is best from a health standpoint, don’t select extra virgin, or the flavor will be overpowering. Here’s where a lighter olive oil, safflower oil or canola oil work best.

Another trick I uncovered was the addition of a teaspoon of water to the yolks before starting to add the oil. This will open up the lecithin matrix in the yolks and create more space between the fat molecules in the oil, helping them separate and increase the opportunity for the emulsion to form.

Finally, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you begin mixing anything with anything. Now that you’ve created a bowl of fluffy mayonnaise, you have the basis for any number of delicious sauces. In the photo, there’s a bowl of tartar sauce and one of remoulade sauce next to the bowl of plain mayo. Remember, these will only last a few days in the refrigerator; no more than three days is the safest rule of thumb.

I’ve included a recipe for handmade homemade mayonnaise, as well as how to flavor the mayo to create a spicy remoulade and crisp tartar sauce. Happy whisking!

Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
1/2 t dry mustard
1/4 t salt
pinch of cayenne
1 t water
1/2 t lemon juice
1 C light olive oil
1 t vinegar
1 t lemon juice
salt, to taste


Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Place the egg yolks, mustard, salt, cayenne, water and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined and smooth. While continuing to whisk, start adding the oil by drizzling it from the tip of a spoon, one drop at a time. Whisk completely to incorporate each drop and begin the emulsion. Continue adding the oil as slowly as possible, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and become glossy as you add the oil. Once you have added the first 1/2 C of oil, add the vinegar, whisking to combine. Slowly add another 1/4 C of oil, whisking constantly. Add the lemon juice and incorporate the final 1/4 C of oil. Season, to taste. Keeps under refrigeration for 3 days. Yield: 1 C mayonnaise.

Remoulade Sauce

1 C mayonnaise
1 T chopped capers
2 t grainy mustard
1 t parsley
1/2 t tarragon
1/4 t paprika


Combine ingredients in a small serving bowl. Stir to combine. Serve as a dipping sauce or garnish for boiled or fried shrimp, chicken or fish filets.

Tartar Sauce

1 C mayonnaise
1/4 C sour cream
1/4 t mustard powder
1 minced shallot
2 T finely minced pickle


Combine ingredients in a small serving bowl. Stir to combine. Serve as a garnish for fish.

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