How-To & Diy

How to Make Mayonnaise (or Aioli) Without a Recipe

September 16, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Assistant Editor Kenzi Wilbur really likes mayonnaise. Here's how she makes it, without a recipe, and with just a few ingredients.  

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So you want to make some mayonnaise. Maybe you're making slap fries, or fancy burgers, or better, you've just roasted a chicken and you're feeling a little decadent.  

The first step? Don't look at a recipe. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, and a few ingredients we're betting you have on hand already. 

This isn't the only method out there -- some people use immersion blenders and food processors and blenders -- but we do it by hand, because we're old school, and also because we're too lazy to take out our appliances. Our biceps look better than theirs do, anyway. 

How to Make Aioli Without a Recipe 

1. Put 1 egg yolk into a bowl. But before you start whisking like a mad person, a bit of science: most think (including food science greats like Ruhlman and McGee) that adding liquid at this stage is essential to properly emulsifying an aioli. If you're a traditionalist and you'd like a bit of extra security, add about 2 teaspoons of liquid (like lemon juice, water, or a combination of both) now. You can also choose to add your flavorings now, like a minced garlic clove to throw this thing into aioli territory, or a teaspoon of mustard. 

If you want to go rogue, take a page out of Suzanne Goin's book, and add nothing. As proof this will work, consider exhibits a) this Genius recipe, and b) the fact that when we asked her about it, she said she's been doing it this way for 20 years. Who knew this would be so adventurous? It's a choose-your-own ending aioli. 

Let's proceed. 

2. Measure out a cup of neutral oil like grapeseed, and begin whisking it in extremely slowly -- at first, just drop by drop. After about a 1/4 cup of painstakingly. Slow. Adding, the aioli should begin to emulsify. Once it does, you can start adding the oil in a thin stream, still whisking constantly. 

3. After you whisk in the rest of the oil, your arm will likely be tired. Take a break, and if you haven't added it already, figure out what you'd like to flavor your mayonnaise with. You have options: mash garlic into a paste with salt and stir that in, add some more lemon juice, go wild and fold Sriracha in to taste. At this point, it's your blank canvas. 

If you're not busy slathering it on things already, here are a few options. We'd recommend all, at once:  

Potato Salad
Roast Chicken
Deviled Eggs

Photos by James Ransom  

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • robmino
  • soupcon
  • allison969
  • kim
  • staceyann
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


robmino January 3, 2021
How do you make the egg yolk safe to eat raw?
soupcon March 30, 2014
Immersion blender or cuisinart are my choices. The hole in the small pusher in the cuisinart was designed just for making mayonnaise so use it to dribble the oil in. Bacaonaise is my favourite. Made in 1/4 cup batches with liquid and warm but not hot bacon fat (don't want to cook the egg) is nirvana.
allison969 September 17, 2013
I made it by hand once -- let's just put it this way: it didn't do my carpal tunnel any favors --but I can say I did it!
kim September 16, 2013
You could slather this on an old shoe and I'd eat it.
Kenzi W. September 17, 2013
Ha, right?
staceyann September 16, 2013
You can also make this with an immersion blender in 30 seconds. The only tricky part is you need is a cylindrical container that just fits the immersion blender. However, once you've made it this way, you'll be converted for life. Perfect, painless mayo every time. And it's best with avocado oil, IMO.
Kim @. September 17, 2013
awesome. I need to try this. and I would like an immersion blender. and cylindrical cotainer. Is it Christmas yet??
glutton&wife September 17, 2013
A Mason jar is the perfect size. And it really is a 30-second operation at that point.
thefarelady October 18, 2013
Immersion blenders usually come with a cylindrical container. I use the immersion blender method and it turns out gorgeous and fluffy.
Valerie S. September 16, 2013
what does it look like when it "begins to emulsify"?
Kenzi W. September 16, 2013
It'll start to thicken considerably -- and you'll no longer be able to identify singular ingredients.
Loves F. September 16, 2013
I've only ever made milk mayo (from Food 52), which is so easy. Definitely going to try this soon!
ChefJune September 16, 2013
Technically, mayonnaise and aioli are not exactly the same thing. If you're eschewing tradition completely, then okay, acknowledge it. Both are easy to do, but not identical.
Kenzi W. September 16, 2013
It's true, and you're totally right! We address that in step one when we mention starting with a garlic clove in the mix.
Marian B. September 16, 2013
I resolve to finally try this!
aargersi September 16, 2013
mustard and mint
Kenzi W. September 16, 2013
I like your style.