5 Ingredients or Fewer

Milk "Mayonnaise" (Maionese de Leite)

February  5, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 1 cup
Author Notes

On a trip to Spain about a decade ago, I encountered a pillowy white condiment that no matter how I describe here won't sound nearly as exciting as it was at that moment: the sauce was a mayonnaise made with milk and oil and not a trace of egg. It was silkier and lighter than regular mayonnaise, more like a glossy Italian meringue that tasted like olive-oil-whipped cream. I put it on my mental "story ideas" list, where it lived for the next ten years. Just a few days ago, I heard that David Leite, the founder of Leite's Culinaria, had a recipe for the sauce in his book, "The New Portuguese Table." Like a good(ish) sport, I sucked it up and made David's recipe. Four times. (I'll save you the painful details: don't go off-road here, use an immersion blender or a blender, like he says.) And on that fourth try, I had something reveletory: sauce that had the texture of buttercream and the clear flavor of an infusion. There was fragrance from garlic, tang from lemon juice, and silkiness from the butterfat emulsifying with the oil.

David learned the recipe from Ilda Vinagre, a chef in Portugal (who, in turn, had learned it from a cook in Brazil). Following Ilda's lead, David likes to mix in green olives; ginger; sun-dried tomatoes; and smoked paprika. I'm happy with it plain.

And although I wish I were less of a procrastinator, I'm happy that David wrote about the mayonnaise first. For one thing, I would have never figured out the technique. And for another, Leite means milk. And Mr. Milk should own the milk mayonnaise story. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 1/3 cup very cold whole milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • About 3/4 cup vegetable oil, or 1/2 cup vegetable oil plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  1. Combine the milk, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Using a handheld blender (or a blender), buzz on high for 30 seconds until frothy. With the motor running on high, slowly pour in the oil a few drops at a time, and gradually increase this to a fine thread, moving the blender up and down, until the mixture thickens lusciously and resembles a soft mayonnaise. You may need more or less oil. Season with salt to taste. The mayonnaise will last up to 1 week in the fridge.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • louisez
  • Fiamma Swainston
    Fiamma Swainston
  • Scribbles
  • AntoniaJames
  • dymnyno
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

33 Reviews

Rachel October 18, 2021
On an island at a beach house, this made the best dressing for leftover grilled shrimp salad sandwiches, with slices of cucumber on toasted homemade sourdough challah. If we succeed in catching any fish, this sauce will go on top. Thank you for the excellent recipe. BTW, no whole milk in the house so I used a calibrated mix of 2% and heavy cream. I used peanut oil and olive oil. No bitterness.
louisez July 25, 2016
I'm grateful for this recipe. I've been making it (in a food processor) with non-dairy milk for a vegan version. It makes a great salad dressing, especially with the addition of herbs (parsley, basil, chives, a bit of tarragon). Thanks!
nilly September 16, 2013
I will try this soon with grapeseed oil which is quite neutral and should work
Amanda H. September 16, 2013
Yes -- let us know how it goes!
Fiamma S. August 5, 2013
Ate something quite like this in the Middle East...more of a Garlic Puree...absoluetly delish...I used 3 plump garlic cloves!
Christina August 3, 2013
I have just made this. Delicious and so easy. Definitely less temperamental than making ordinary mayo.
Amanda H. September 16, 2013
Glad you liked it.
Scribbles October 7, 2012
Rainy late afternoon here in NC and I was pursuing the 'contest winners' section when I came upon this recipe. I'm not a big mayo person but I keep a canola oil version around for my husband - better nutritionally than regular mayo....all this to say I am excited to find this recipe and will try it this week. My husband is a big fan of the 'creamy' dressings and, from the comments, this sounds like the perfect base.
mboerner September 22, 2012
This recipe solves the problem of raw egg yolk in mayonnaise (which might have E-Coli).
Nancyjenkins June 2, 2011
I have to be the last person to comment on this. I've been thinking about trying this for a year and finally took the plunge. As a 100% olive oil maven, I have banned vegetable oil from my kitchen so it was 100% olive oil or nothing. Also vinegar because the lemons didn't make it home from the shop. And. . . I made it in the food processor, having first tired a stick blender and then an electric hand beater. It is a wonderful sauce, mine a little green because I was using a fresh Spanish olive oil (Castillo de Canenas) and, yes, it was a little bitter, but not unpleasantly so--intriguingly so! Next time I'll try it with some of my own oil from the 2009 harvest. Don't agree with the person who recommended "fresh" oil--this is one of those places where you can comfortably use oil from a previous season, and it will be the better for it.
Sorry to go on at such length, but it's a fine and intriguing recipe. Thanks, David Leite, and thanks, Amanda!
Amanda H. June 5, 2011
Didn't know it would work in a food processor. Thanks, Nancy!
AntoniaJames May 27, 2010
Wondering what brand of olive oil those of you who've made this have used. I'm going to try this, but am concerned about the problem of bitterness mentioned here. (I use a good California oil, but it has slightly peppery notes . . . . ) Thanks so much. ;o)
dymnyno May 27, 2010
I used my own olive oil which is a "field blend" of about 4 different kinds of olives. I think that it is important to use a California oil because it is fresh and it doesn't have to travel. Heat and light are the oils worst enemies. Also, olive oil does not get better with age. This advice is for Antonia James because I know she lives in CA and there are a lot of local oils for you to try. (coincidentally, a lot of wineries also make olive oil).
Amanda H. May 28, 2010
I use Frantoia Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
dymnyno April 6, 2010
Am I the last Food52er to "discover" this recipe! I used all olive oil...fresh...no bitterness. I added tarragon (my favorite herb) and the tarragon mayonnaise turned out perfectly. I can hardly wait to try it with other herbs. It tasted great just plain too. Thanks Amanda!
TiggyBee September 28, 2010
No, I think I am!! This stuff looks and sounds amazing!!
Allison C. March 11, 2010
I've made this many times, but variations (I think it was cilantro that I tried from David Leite's book). Personally, I hate mayonnaise--it's a huge point of contention in the family, as my husband eats mounds of it (homemade only) with almost everything--but the milk "mayo" is something I enjoy, so I'd say that Mr. Leite has brokered a truce in the house, for which I thank him. I've also cooked many other dishes from his NEW PORTUGUESE TABLE book, and everything I've tried has been really fabulous so far. Well written, tasty food, makes a foreign cuisine accessible. Amanda, I'm glad you featured this recipe and his book in this post.
Agnes February 28, 2010
I made this and it tasted slightly bitter. I think that is because (I now recall) olive oil should not go in the blender. I think the recipe would be improved if the vegetable oil were blended in, and then the olive oil whisked in. (I believe there is a cook's illustrated recipe for (regular) mayo that gives those instructions.)
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
You can also use all vegetable oil, which would emphasize the garlic and citrus more.
Agnes March 1, 2010
Tried it this way, and it doesn't work--I couldn't whisk fast enough to emulsify the olive oil properly and it didn't thicken the way it should've--still served it--chilled it in the freezer to thicken, and it was ok, a lot better than the thicker, bitter, olive oil in blender version. But I'm left thinking it shd. be made with all veg. oil, as Amanda suggests in her reply.
melissav March 1, 2010
It may be the type of olive oil. I used a different type of olive oil the second time I made this and it was a little bitter whereas the first time there was no hint of bitterness.
Flotch February 26, 2010
I loved how this turned into such a velvety mix. So easy and versatile. I used lime juice since lemons are not easily available in Bombay and it still turned out pretty good. Thanks Amanda.
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
Thanks for your message -- great to know that it works with other citrus and on other continents!
melissav February 22, 2010
I'm not a huge mayo fan (shocking, I know) but this recipe intrigued me. I made it last night and since I ate a few spoonfuls right from the bowl (which I would never ever do with "real" mayo), I think it is safe to say that I'm a milk mayo fan! It was really delicious. I mixed some with a little anchovy paste, salted capers, and Piment d'Espelette and served it on top of a piece of seared fish. Divine!
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
Divine, indeed.
queenie_nyc February 17, 2010
I made this over the weekend and have been eating it on EVERYTHING. Thanks so much, Amanda! (I also blogged it! http://queenietakesmanhattan.blogspot.com/2010/02/milky-way.html)
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
Hey, that's cool -- thanks!
EBeier February 11, 2010
This is a great recipe--how can any of us not love a recipe whose ingredients are all likely in your fridge or pantry rightthissecond and that (as long as you have a blender or an immersion blender) takes about 45 seconds to prepare? It's the kind of thing you taste right off your finger or the blender beaters and then think of a whole bunch of things you'd like to try it with. After finishing my finger snack, I used it to sauce some leftover chicken, and then as a sort of English salad cream on bibb lettuce. Both were tasty as could be. It could be used on anything you'd use old-fashioned boiled dressing on, and would make a great base for a blue cheese dressing, a matrix for chicken or shrimp salad, or--with a stuffed cup of minced herbs thrown in--a crudite dip.
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
E.B. -- I hadn't thought of the English salad cream connection. Of course! The texture is so much like that.
liamoran February 11, 2010
I avoided this recipe since the day you posted it...I am not good at making homemade mayonnaise. I couldn't fall asleep last night because I was thinking about it. (This is a true story!) I got up, read through the recipe and promised myself I would make it this morning. I finally got to use my immersion blender that I received as a Christmas gift! The mayonnaise is divine! For brunch I had boiled eggs, a smear of milk mayonnaise and a dash of smoked paprika. And then I went on a five mile run.
Amanda H. February 11, 2010
How great! And love how you used it -- will try that, too.
Dawn H. February 5, 2010
Doesn't the lemon juice curdle the milk, and make it sour?
Amanda H. February 6, 2010
I think it helps coagulate the milk solids so they emulsify with the oil. And it doesn't taste sour -- in fact, it's pleasantly tangy.