Show me a jar of mayonnaise and I’ll show you who you really are.
Or refuse to go anywhere near mayonnaise—no way, no how—that works, too. Most of our editorial team just happened to be out of the country for this, our most divisive taste test yet. For some, this was tragic: “Please don’t do the mayo taste test when I’m gone!” Others had the opposite request: “Please do the mayo taste test when I’m gone.”
But that’s the easy part. Because even after you do away with the mayo haters and the homemade loyalists, people still can’t agree: Which brand is best?
I grew up in a Hellmann’s household, assuming for most of my life that everyone liked this best. (It’s The Pioneer Woman’s favorite, apparently.) Then I moved to North Carolina and was converted to the Southern favorite, which Chef Sean Brock describes as “like a religion”: Duke’s.
And these are just the two big names. Is either of them actually best? Would there be a Seabiscuit to steal the crown? We had to find out.
Each mayonnaise was tasted blind—with a French fry. I know, unheard of here in the United States, but beloved elsewhere and, if I may, really very good. Try it. More importantly: If you, too, ever need to lure people to a mayo taste test, “Do you want some French fries?” goes over a lot better than, “Do you want some, uh, mayo?”
Here they are, from least to most favorite:
This mayo was the palest of the bunch. But it wasn’t the color that turned people off. It was the flavor. Or the lack thereof: “bland,” “subdued,” “flat,” “boring.” One person questioned whether there were “chemicals.” The ingredient list is pretty unremarkable, though there is “calcium disodium EDTA,” which, the label explains, is “to protect flavor.” The irony. (For what it’s worth, others, including the winner, contain this too.)
This notorious Kraft product has been around since 1933 and self-identifies as a middle ground between mayo and salad dressing. “Not mayo,” the website explains. “Better than mayo.” Whatever you say, MW! Some people were into it. Most weren’t. One taste tester likened it to relish. Most disliked its distinct sweetness. One ranked this as their favorite, proudly proclaiming, “I love mayo!” Hm.
Claims to source “the finest certified humane, free-range eggs, smooth natural oils, and aromatic seasonings.” SK’s has a whole line of mayos, from avocado oil to chipotle to vegan. We went with classic. It stood out visually for its specks and spots of black pepper. It was also the only competitor to use sunflower oil (most use soybean). Some applauded its flavor, from “nice fat/acid balance” to “nice, bright flavor.” Others criticized its greasy, “slimy” consistency.
This mayo stood out for its punchy flavor. “Whoa!” one taste tester wrote. “Tangy, almost as if there are anchovies in here.” Others echoed this: “sour,” “very sour,” “too sour,” “vinegar.” But for some, this was just right: “Tastes the most like mayo,” one said. “Okay, this tastes like mayo! Mm!” another said. (For what it’s worth, all of these are mayos. Unless we want to get into the Miracle Whip debate again. To which I say: The comment section is below.)
“Lemony! Vibrant! Custardy!” one person said. “Why is this starting to taste like the icing on toaster strudel?” Others did not pick up on this. But most had strong feelings about its flavors. The good: “kinda spicy,” “citrusy,” “bright,” “100%.” And the bad: “no!” “did not like,” “hate, globby,” and, the worst, “not a mayo fan for exactly this reason.”
This iconic Japanese product describes itself as “the ‘egg yolk type,’ which contains egg yolk instead of whole egg.” It was noticeably yellower than the rest, with a silky, smooth, loose consistency. Several pointed out its “eggy” flavor. One even described it as “the most eggy,” which I hope would make Kewpie happy. A couple taste testers remarked upon its “mustardy” flavor and, indeed, mustard flour (or ground mustard) is one of the ingredients.
This mainstream favorite has an ivory color and supremely fluffy texture. Its flavor got people all riled up: “Tastes badass,” wrote one. Many were inspired to guess: “This is clearly Miracle Whip,” said one. “And it’s good.” Sorry, friend. Others got it right: “Oh, you’re very classic and safe. I’d say you’re Hellmann’s.” And: “I bet this is classic Hellmann’s. This is the best.”
Or is it? Duke’s takes the cake. (Psst: Did you know that mayo makes amazing chocolate cake?) Several remarked upon its acidic, “citrusy” brightness, likely thanks to the cider vinegar. One admired its “prettiest color.” Another, its “balanced flavor.” One even described it as “buttery,” which I’ll always count as a compliment. “I would make this my go-to mayo,” said one. And maybe you will, too, if you can find it. While Duke’s can be tough to track down outside the South, there is, lucky for us, the internet. You can even set up a monthly subscription.
Are you a mayo lover or hater? Are you devoted to a certain brand? Share all your thoughts and feelings in the comments.