The Spicy Secret Ingredient Your Mayo Needs For Better, Bolder Sandwiches

If you're looking to spice up your lunch but want to branch out from tabasco sauce, Calabrian chilis have been an especially hot ingredient lately. Celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay love Calabrian chilis, often choosing them over other spicy peppers for his dishes on Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay." Despite being a fancy ingredient that often finds its ways into complex Italian pasta dishes, Calabrian chili paste is easy to find and you can use it to make your very own spicy mayonnaise.


Calabrian chilis go great with the condiment, a rather opposite ingredient. Tangy, smooth mayo and subtly powerful hot peppers combine to create a creamy, spicy orange condiment that can keep a sandwich from being too dry and too dull. You can add Calabrian chili paste to homemade mayo if you're making it, or mix it with store-bought stuff, and consider tossing in some lemon juice to give it some extra brightness. Or toss in some vinegar and garlic, and you've essentially created an aioli. Calabrian chili peppers can have quite a kick, but the mayonnaise tempers it without drowning the flavors out.

There are many ways to make a spicy mayo

Hailing from the Calabria region in Southern Italy (it's considered the "toe" of Italy's boot shape), this particular kind of capsicum annuum tastes uniquely smoky, fruity, and a little sweet, compared to the more veggie taste of jalapeños or citrus-flavored habaneros. Sriracha mayonnaise is popular too, and some folks recommend it as a substitute, but sriracha is commonly made from red jalapeños, which are slightly more sweet than their green counterparts — so you'll be working with an earthier, sweeter mayo instead of a smokier one. Another common hot sauce added to mayonnaise (and quite common in general) is tabasco sauce: Mexican tabasco peppers are similarly smoky but have a more intense heat, which will heat up the sandwich.


You don't need to add a lot of crushed peppers into your usual mayonnaise recipe. Foodie influencer Owen Han has made mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of Calabrian chilis for every ¼ cup of mayo. If you want something slightly milder, other recipes will recommend half a tablespoon for the same amount, but Calabrian enthusiasts will point out that the pepper's spiciness is more of a slow warmth than a sharp, intense kick.

Good sandwiches for Calabrian mayo

Since that spiciness is tempered by the mayo itself, any kind of spicy mayo should work fine with any sandwich that includes regular mayonnaise. Naturally, your mayonnaise mixed with Calabrian chili hot sauce can go on an Italian sandwich with deli meats like soppressata or prosciutto. Many of these cured Italian porks are slightly spiced themselves without being too spicy, so the tastes will mix without being overpowering. That said, if you get 'nduja, that's a much hotter Italian meat that's made with Calabrian chilis, so the flavors will naturally mix so long as you stay wary of your own spice tolerance. 


For a more substantial lunch, a BLT with a fried egg has a mix of salty, savory flavors that aren't especially strong, so using a hotter mayo allows you to add that tempered Calabrian heat into the mix. A more traditional fried chicken sandwich also works fine, too. In all these cases, there's a savory or umami ingredient that plays decently with regular, smooth mayonnaise, but really gets highlighted when you toss in some spice. It's hard to go wrong when choosing a sandwich to spread it on.