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Aioli, Mayonnaise — What’s the difference?

French fries, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables and fish — they all go great with aioli. So what’s the difference between aioli and mayonnaise? Not a lot. With the exception of garlic, they share the same ingredients and the same process.

If you can make aioli, you can make mayonnaise. And, once you’ve had a fried egg sandwich or deviled eggs made with homemade mayonnaise, you’ll wonder what you ever saw in the grocery store version.

Making either isn’t hard. The biggest mistake that people make with aioli and mayonnaise is not being patient enough when adding the oil. When the recipe says, a few drops at a time, it really does mean a few drops at a time. Aioli and mayonnaise depend on emulsions. Adding the oil too rapidly breaks the emulsion and you will end up with a runny, curdled sauce. It will still make a nice salad dressing with the addition of some vinegar and herbs, but it won’t be aioli or mayonnaise. Alternatively, you can start again and add your broken aioli or mayonnaise little by little to the new batch once the emulsion is established.

So, how do you ensure success? Because mayonnaise isn’t cooked you’ll want to use antibiotic-free eggs. Make sure the egg yolks and the oils are at room temperature. Using a straight sided bowl can make mixing easier; so can putting a damp towel under the bowl to hold it in place. If your kitchen is cool, you might also want to warm the mixing bowl with warm water and dry it thoroughly before beginning. A measuring cup with a spout makes adding oils easier. The most crucial time for the emulsion is at the beginning of mixing. If you are patient with adding the oil at the outset, you can get away with more generous additions later on.

Garlic Aioli

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T canola oil
  • dash salt
  • dash white pepper

Mash the garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt, using the flat side of a chef’s knife. Whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Add the oils a few drops at a time to the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate.


  • ½ c light olive oil
  • ½ c canola oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 T white wine vinegar

Whisk the egg yolks until thick in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. When the mixture is smooth and thickened, begin adding the oil a few drops at a time. Do not add more oil until the previous addition is incorporated. Once the mayonnaise is thick, you can add the oil in a slow steady trickle until it is all incorporated. Add vinegar and adjust seasonings if necessary. Refrigerate.

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