Ever get a gourmet sandwich at a restaurant and wonder how they made it so flavorful? How about a basket of fries with a special dipping sauce? We’re talking about the fancy mayo we can’t get enough of – aioli. But what is aioli in the first place?
What Is Aioli?
Just like mayonnaise, aioli is an emulsion, a mixture of two ingredients that naturally don’t want to mix and are forced together. The oil never truly combines with the rest of the ingredients, but rather becomes suspended in the liquid after being vigorously whisked in, one drop at a time. In mayo’s case, that means oil and a water-based liquid, like vinegar or lemon juice, plus egg yolk.
Aioli, which means “garlic oil” in French, is a different story, yet still similar. The traditional condiment, made with olive oil, rather than mayo’s typical canola, is also an emulsion, but as you can imagine, it’s tough to get oil to combine with raw garlic alone. Since this emulsion was prone to breaking, which would leave you with greasy, unappetizing mush, people started to use egg yolk in aioli, too—the ingredient that helps keep the oil suspended.
With addition of egg yolk, aioli became more similar to mayonnaise. And over time, aioli and mayo basically became interchangeable terms. Aioli today is often just mayonnaise spiked with a lot of garlic, but it can also refer to any specially seasoned mayo.
While today’s “aioli” may not exactly be true to the original, we’re not complaining—it saves us the elbow grease, plus the flavor can still be just as heavenly – even if you start with store-bought mayonnaise.
There’s no need to spend your whole day trying to perfect an emulsion. You can simply spruce up homemade or store-bought mayonnaise with garlic, citrus juice and any other ingredients you crave in a creamy, decadent dip, sauce or spread.
Here’s a list of ingredients you can try and turn your basic mayo into a tasty aioli:
- Minced raw garlic – The classic.
- Roasted garlic – Roasting gives the garlic a subtle, buttery, almost caramelized flavor.
- Sriracha – This is what is served in most sushi restaurants.
- Wasabi Cilantro – Another spicy option with an Asian flair
- Browned Butter and Lemon – Try this on a lobster roll!
- Rosemary – A wonderfully subtle flavor
- Roasted Red Pepper – A perfect dip for veggies
- Sweet Relish – Better known as Tarter Sauce
- Lemon-Dill – A light and fresh alternative
- Chimichurri – Left overs from steak night can make a interesting aioli
- Truffle oil – Perfect for French fries
For the amounts of how much to use, it is best to work by taste. Add a little, give it a stir and give it a taste. Repeat until it acquires the taste you enjoy.
Bill Rice is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Great Family Cookbook Project, a website that helps families and individuals collect, preserve and share food memories by creating their own printed personal cookbooks. He is the author of The Wellfleet Oyster Cookbook (Available on Amazon) and the Cape Cod Cocktail Cookbook, both created using FamilyCookbookProject.com. He is also editor of the Donovan Family Cookbook, now it’s third printing and is an avid genealogist tracing his family back to the 1600’s.