There’s a well-known moment in the film Pulp Fiction where Vincent says to Jules, “You know what they put on French fries in Holland instead of ketchup? Mayonnaise.” Hearing that line, mayo suddenly becomes strange, giving Americans reason to ask why the rest of the world is obsessed with the gloopy, white goop in ways that we simply can’t understand. Mayonnaise is acceptable as a light schmear on sandwiches or as the backbone to an egg or potato salad. But mayo on pizzas? Hot dogs? Fried chicken? Now that’s just crazy…
...unless it’s not. Mayo is mostly eggs and oil, after all. In other words, it’s delicious, spreadable fat, just like butter. Plus, mayo’s ability to liven up dry ingredients, add a blast of creaminess, or provide a counterpoint to sour and spice is nearly unmatched.
So perhaps it’s time find out what all the fuss over mayo is about. Here are nine approaches to using it that are a ways away from your average condiment comfort zone.
1. Tatsutage Fried Chicken with Spicy Yuzu Mayonnaise
Japan is pretty obsessed with mayo. Of course, their take on the stuff is a notch above the rest. Japanese kewpie mayo is known for its ultra-smooth creaminess and hint of sweetness. It makes for a fitting counterpoint to the citrusy tang of yuzu in this recipe. Get our Tatsutage Fried Chicken with Spicy Yuzu Mayonnaise recipe.
2. Grilled Corn with Cayenne, Lime, and Cotija
Move over, butter. Mayo just one-upped you as the premiere topper for corn on the cob. Not only does the sauce taste great with the kernels, it’s stickiness allows you to dredge on other killer additions, like cheese. Get our Grilled Corn with Cayenne, Lime, and Cotija recipe.
3. Smoky Grilled Shrimp with Marie Rose Sauce
Plain old shrimp cocktail is nice and all, but grilled shrimp with Marie Rose sauce is where it’s really at. The smoky flavors from the grill are matched by the dip’s turbo-charged combination of mayo, Worcestershire sauce, and tabasco. Get our Smoky Grilled Shrimp with Marie Rose Sauce recipe.
4. White Barbecue Sauce
Alabama-style white sauce is perhaps one of the South’s best kept culinary secrets. The mayonnaise-based condiment brings all the creamy, finger-licking fun you never knew you wanted in barbecued chicken, giving all those tomato-y sauces a very good run for their money. Get our White Barbecue Sauce recipe.
5. Pizza with Snow Crab, Ricotta, Shishito Peppers, and Wasabi Aïoli
Mayo on pizza could probably make any hardened Neapolitan or Sicilian scream. In Japan, however, it’s par for the course. Pair it up with other Japanese ingredients, like shishito peppers and wasabi, for an east-meets-west sort of slice. Get the recipe here.
6. Gabrielle Hamilton's Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Want to make a better grilled cheese sandwich? Slather the outsides of the bread with mayo before putting it in the pan. Not only will the slices toast to a perfect golden, you’ll get a hint of tanginess that plays well with the cheese inside. Get the recipe here.
7. Sonoran Hot Dogs with Bacon, Pico de Gallo, and Avocado
The Sonoran hot dog, which is something of a cult favorite in the Southwest and Northern Mexico, is all about excess. Between the pinto beans, avocado, jalapeño, and bacon, there’s so much going on that the squiggle of mayo on top almost seems like an afterthought. Get the recipe here.
8. Creamy Parmesan Dip
Most of us would rather not think about all the mayonnaise that goes into crudité dips, but it’s the reason they’re so incredibly delicious. This version with parmesan takes hors d'oeuvres hour to the limits of creaminess. Get the recipe here.
9. Potato Tots Bravas
Patatas bravas, the Spanish tapas dish of potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, just isn’t the same without some garlicky aioli to temper the heat. Our Americanized version swaps in some crispy tots, making the case that fried spuds and mayo do belong together, after all. Get our Potato Tots Bravas recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.