The difference between Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a homemade aioli is like comparing boxed macaroni with powdered cheese to a homemade macaroni casserole with cheddar, crusty on top and gooey inside. Store-bought mayonnaise is great for sandwiches or in tuna or pasta salads, but when you need this condiment to take center stage as a sauce, you want something more dreamy, more transportive. Aioli lifts your crab cakes, asparagus, deviled eggs, and fries to another level of heaven. As a sauce or dip, aioli can transform your meal — not merely moisturize it.

Aioli (ay-OH-lee) is a strongly flavored garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France, according to The New Food Lover’s Companion. Often also containing mustard, it’s a popular accompaniment for fish, meats, and vegetables. Check out our Top 25 Condiments: Ranked! for more ideas.

A basic aioli recipe can take a lot of whisking muscle and can be a disaster if you add the oil incorrectly. Luckily today, we have gadgets like immersion blenders and food processors. And if you add the oil in drip-by-drip and in a thin stream while mixing instead of adding the oil too fast or all at once, you won’t break the emulsion.

When aioli was first on record as a sauce in the 1800s, it was simply pulverized garlic and olive oil, crushed and emulsified into a puree in a mortar in pestle. Today, we often add an egg yolk or whole egg to better bind the ingredients. And then we add spices and herbs. It’s worthwhile to take the time to make aioli in dishes where it will get attention. Here’s how to make aioli; it’s not necessarily an aioli recipe, but more of a set of general guidelines to get you going.

  1. First, gather your ingredients, starting with one egg or one egg yolk for every cup of oil. It’s best to use half grape seed or vegetable oil and half extra virgin olive oil. One or two cloves of garlic, fresh lemon juice, and salt to taste.
  2. Then, decide how you’re going to mix and emulsify it: by hand whisking, immersion blender, or food processor. A food processor is the easiest way. And of course, the the hardest way, hand-whisking, creates the best thick, creamy texture. Let’s go with the easiest way for now.
  3. Next, toss your egg yolk and garlic into the food processor with blade attachment, and turn it on. Once blended, pour the grape seed or vegetable oil in first while the processor is mixing through the hole in the top. Do this very slowly, a few drips at a time, pausing between drippy pours for it to mix, gradually pouring a thin stream. Once that oil is mixed in, gradually, slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil into the food processor while it’s on as well. If you pour the olive oil in first, it can turn bitter. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides as needed and continue mixing.
  4. Finally, add your lemon juice, salt, pepper, and any other spices or flavorings, to taste. Let set for 30 minutes. Store your leftovers in the refrigerator for two days.

For a slacker solution, fold the garlic, mustard, and herbs into good-quality store-bought mayonnaise. Ever wondered about mayo, aioli, and hollandaise: what’s the difference? Wonder no more. In the meantime, try some of our aioli recipes:

1. Basic Aioli

Once you learn the basics of making aioli, you can tweak the flavor however you want. This starter recipe keeps it simple with just garlic and mustard. Get our Basic Aioli recipe.

2. Fall Herb Aioli

Fresh thyme leaves and sage leaves remind you of the time that those other leaves float through the air to cause a satisfying autumnal crunch. Try this kind of aioli with sweet potato chips or fries. Get our Fall Herb Aioli recipe.

3. Green Garlic Aioli

Browse your farmers’ market between March and May for green garlic, which is garlic before the bulb has had a chance to develop. It looks similar to a thick scallion and has the typical strong garlic scent but milder flavor. Get our Green Garlic Aioli recipe.

4. Calabrian Chile Aioli

No mustard in this variety. Instead, crushed, pureed hot chiles pack the heat into this garlicky mayonnaise. Get our Calabrian Chile recipe.

5. Quick Aioli

In this case, the aioli is quick because you aren’t creating the mayonnaise yourself. Buy a jar of mayonnaise or use the one you already have. Add the garlic, lemon, mustard, and then the twist: cayenne and cilantro. Get our Quick Aioli recipe.

6. Sweet Paprika Aioli

A little smoky, a little sweet, this kind of aioli would be great used as a dip or on a sandwich. Get our Sweet Paprika Aioli recipe.

7. Roasted Garlic Aioli

When you roast the garlic first, your aioli will have a sweet, slightly caramelized warmth compared to the more aggressive garlic zing when it’s raw. Get our Roasted Garlic Aioli recipe.

— All photos are by Chowhound.


Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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