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. Don’t get us wrong, 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.
That’s why it’s particularly perfect for giving new life to leftover turkey (which tends to get a little dry and gamey after a few days in the fridge, even if it was beautifully moist when first cooked).
What Is Aioli?
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.
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 and 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.
How Do You Make Aioli?
Here’s one easy way to make aioli; it’s not necessarily an aioli recipe, but more of a set of general guidelines to get you going. While hand whisking may create the best thick, creamy texture, using a food processor or an immersion blender is infinitely easier. And while using all olive oil is traditional, the flavor can be quite strong (not to mention the fact that it can be expensive), so we like to cut it with a cheaper, neutral oil like grapeseed.
Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Stack and Snap Food Processor, $49.99 on Amazon
The easiest tool for making aioli.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 egg or 1 egg yolk (preferably organic and pasture-raised)
- 1 cup oil (we like a 50/50 mix of extra virgin olive oil and grapeseed or vegetable oil, but measured into separate cups)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
- Fresh lemon juice to taste
- Salt, to taste
Here’s how to make easy food processor aioli:
1. Place the egg or egg yolk, garlic, and Dijon into the food processor (with the blade attachment). Blend for about 10 seconds.
2. With the food processor running, begin to add the grapeseed or vegetable oil a few drips at a time. Pause in between drips to allow it to emulsify, and gradually work up to pouring the oil in a thin, slow stream until it’s all incorporated.
3. With the food processor still running, add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until incorporated. If you add the olive oil first, it can become bitter, which is why we add it after the neutral vegetable or grapeseed oil. Pause the food processor to scrape down the sides as needed.
4. When all of the oil is incorporated and you have a smooth, thick aioli, add the lemon juice and salt to taste. You can also add other seasonings like cracked pepper, powdered spices, or minced herbs at this point.
5. Allow the aioli to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and mellow. Store in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to three days.
For a slacker solution, simply fold the garlic, mustard, and herbs into good-quality store-bought mayonnaise (you may not need any extra salt since mayo is already pretty salty). This is also a good way to jazz up store-bought vegan mayo, though if you want to make a homemade vegan aioli, that’s also an option; this vegan aioli recipe uses aquafaba for a rich, creamy texture.
Flavored Aioli Recipes
Try some of our aioli recipes, either completely from scratch or by adapting the flavors to the store-bought mayo method:
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.
No mustard in this variety. Instead, crushed, pureed hot chiles pack the heat into this garlicky mayonnaise. Get our Calabrian Chile Aioli recipe.
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.
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.
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.