Homemade mayonnaise is faster to make then you think. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

You can’t buy this kind of mayonnaise. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Yet again finishing up a manuscript with mayonnaise on my mind, and I always think of Donna’s lovely images, captured when spring light was coming through our kitchen window. I could look at these forever (and now, as I couldn’t five years ago, I can post them to Twitter). Thanks, Donna! And remember, the emulsion is less about the yolk than about the liquid.

Originally posted on May 21, 2008

Finishing up the revisions of a manuscript and going over some fat-based sauces has returned me to the mayonnaise. Like the popover, it’s the story of a great transformation. Yolk, lemon juice, salt, and oil.

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There simply isn’t anything like it when you make it yourself—you can’t buy this stuff. But I’ll bet you have everything you need to make it right now. I’ll include a recipe at the end of this post.

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Two things are critical to remember for those who have never made a mayonnaise. You need enough liquid (water or lemon juice) to maintain the emulsion, so don’t skimp on this. Second, begin adding the oil very slowly, just a couple drops of oil off the end of a spoon into the yolk while whisking, then another few drops. This establishes the emulsion. Then you can add the oil in a steadier stream.

Donna took these pictures several weeks ago using natural light in our kitchen and frankly, they’re why I wanted to post about mayonnaise. But I hope they inspire you to make your own.

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You will have taken a tasteless fluid oil and transformed it into an ethereal sauce through craftsmanship and care. Add a tablespoon of minced shallot, and maybe a little extra lemon juice for an extraordinary dipping sauce for an artichoke, or blanched and shocked cauliflower, or to put on some boiled new potatoes. It’s magical stuff. Or just put it on a BLT—it’ll be the best sandwich you’ve had in a long time.

Here’s the recipe adapted from Charcuterie:

Mayonnaise

  • 1 large organic egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon/5 grams salt
  • 1 teaspoon/5 milliliters water
  • 1 teaspoon/5 milliliters lemon juice (or 2 for a lemony mayo)
  • 1 cup/250 milliliters vegetable oil
  1. Combine the yolk, salt, water, and lemon juice in a 2.5-quart bowl. Fold a hand towel into a ring on the counter and set the bowl in this ring to hold it steady while you whisk. Using a sauce or balloon whip (whisk), stir the ingredients together.
  2. Add the oil slowly while whisking vigorously. It helps to measure out your oil into a cup that pours well in a wire-thin stream; alternatively, you can start your emulsion by drizzling the oil off a spoon, then pouring the oil after the emulsion has begun. Add a few drops of oil as you begin to whisk; when the emulsion becomes creamy, you may increase the speed with which you add the oil to a thin stream. From the beginning the mixture should be thick enough to hold its shape and look luxuriously creamy. Add the oil too quickly and it will break, that is, it will turn soupy. When all the oil is incorporated, add additional lemon juice to taste. If the mayonnaise is too thick, it can be thinned by whisking in a little water.
  3. If it breaks, put a teaspoon of water in a clean bowl and start the process over by drizzling in the broken mayonnaise while whisking.

URGENT UPDATE AND MSG TO BECKS & POSH AND RIPERT: From Shannon at momwantsacure: “Ha!! I just proved Eric Ripert and Becks & Posh WRONG!!!!! Tell them that menstruating women can make a fabulously perfect mayonnaise!”

If you liked this post on homemade mayonnaise, check out these other links:

© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved

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22 Wonderful responses to “Making Mayonnaise”

  • Tana

    Michael, what does this mean? Typo?

    “It helps to measure out your oil into a cup that pours well in a WIRE-THIS stream”…?

  • Michael Ruhlman

    wire-THIN. funny, that’s what’s written in the wordpress post but not in post. fixed, thanks.and BWL, thanks!

  • Elma

    Does this keep in the fridge at all? Or is the only for 1 meal. Thanks!

    • Andrew

      It will keep for much longer than it will last in your fridge! (I recommend a 50/50 mix of bacon fat and a neutral oil in place of the vegetable oil Ruhlman calls for.)

  • ...pat.

    Thanks for reposting this, Michael. I love the way you and Donna work together: your work is in such harmony!

  • Beth

    Mayonnaise made me a cook.

    I remember vividly being a seventeen-year-old Air Force wife, broke and far from home, but surrounded by my mother’s gift of ’70s-era women’s magazine encyclopedia-style cookbooks. I needed mayonnaise for sandwiches and didn’t want to make the three-mile round-trip walk to the base grocery, and so I found a recipe and went to it.

    It was fabulous.

    Somewhere later, I heard that mayonnaise was supposed to be one of the more difficult kitchen skills to learn, and I thought, whoa, I can do anything! And have never hesitated to experiment since.

  • Sherri

    Homemade mayonnaise simply can’t be beat. We’re planning on making some to serve with poached shrimp for our Easter appetizer, and adding sriracha to half of it for a little heat.

  • SethH

    Anything to say to those of us with food safety concerns? I keep seeing recipes that call for using pasteurized eggs or instructions on how to pasteurize the yolks myself. I’ve wanted to try this myself, because I’m actually not much of a fan of mayo but wanted to try the homemade stuff and see if I come around. It’s just that whole raw egg thing that’s keeping me from pulling the trigger.

  • BrookeS

    When it works, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, you just want to tear your hair out! I often end up adding a second egg yolk.

  • Ms. D

    Thank you for posting this. It will be my experiment for the weekend.

    My first foray to mayo-making was a disaster. Then again, that’s why cooking is a skill.

  • Wilma de Soto

    This almost the same thing I make with garlic with a mortar and pestle.

  • AGHIV

    Works beautifully every time with a KitchenAid and the whisk attachment. A handheld mixer will work in a pinch, doing it by hand is just masochistic.

  • Frederick Corriher

    Michael – Is there any way to save a mayonnaise that has gone thin (after emulsifying nicely) after I may have added too much oil? I was using the immersion blender, it thickened very nicely but then, almost in an instant, went thin just as I was adding the last bit of oil. Many thanks!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      what you have is a broken mayonnaise. you need to start over adding the broken mayo into a bowl with a teaspoon of water and whisk the old fashioned way. adding more oil to a good mayo will make it thicker not thinner.

  • Stacie Leyva

    i made mayo today after my first ever attempt at it yesterday failed miserably. i had a broken one trying the whole “everything in one jar” immersion blender technique that i tried fixing by adding an new yolk and trying again that one was doing great until i got over zealous with my last 1/4 cup of oil and in seconds it was a sloppy mess so i gave up lol. but today i tried again and was more successful but i noticed my immersion blender created a ton of heat that was transferred to the mayo as i was making it (my son noticed it actually as he was holding the cup for me since i was trying to be more careful with my oil) the mayo came out just great, hubby was excited to make his tuna sandwich with it for dinner. but is the heat a bad thing? it seems to be holding up well in the fridge

    i used 1/2 cup mild olive oil and a 1/4 cup corn oil. 1 yolk, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp water and 1/2 tsp mustard.

    what can i do about the heat buildup? should i look for another way or is it ok?