When you aren’t using dairy or some sort of premade salad dressing in your daily life, figuring out what to top things with or dip things in can be a little tough. Now let me tell you how great aioli is. First off, let me tell you what aioli is. It’s essentially mayonnaise, but better. My version that we’ve been using a lot of lately uses lime juice instead of lemon juice, however they’re both good, and in many cases, lemon is preferable.
Here’s my loose recipe.
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, grated on microplane, or run through garlic press
2-3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1-1.5 cups neutral oil
salt, to taste
Now let me get down to business on a few things.
How do I make it?
Well, there are many different ways, and chances are, I’ve tried most of them. When making something that depends on an emulsion (that is, sticking fat molecules to water molecules to form a thick consistency), you have to be careful about the addition of your oil. That is, in most cases. And sometimes you’ll end up with a slight failure – that is, runny aioli. It’ll still taste great. But here’s how it goes. Your egg needs to be room temp. I pull my egg out of the fridge and put it in a cup with some warm water. Then I get everything else together, get set up, and by the time everything else is done, the chill has come off the egg and I’m ready to roll. The egg yolk is the key to developing and subsequently holding a stable emulsion. You can use just the egg yolk, but I don’t see the point in going to the effort of separating it unless I have a specific need for the white somewhere else.
*By hand, in a bowl – This is by far the most time consuming method that I’ve tried, but it’s a classic, and it works. It also requires minimal equipment. You need a bowl and a whisk. Combine everything but oil, then whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in a fine stream of oil. This can get tricky if you’re like me and only have 2 hands. I also tend to get little flecks of half-emulsified aioli all over the counter when I use this method.
*Using a stand mixer or electric handheld mixer – Basically, follow instructions for whisking by hand, but use machinery to your advantage. I have done this with my Kitchenaid stand mixer a few times and have had success, however please note that if you either add too much oil (and not enough additional liquid), it’s possible to overbeat it and end up with a very stiff and slightly rubbery end product. This can be fixed by adding more liquid, but definitely be aware that this is a possibility
*Using a blender – frustrating. The problem is, the ideal consistency for this is just a hair tighter than flowing, which means that it doesn’t mix properly in a blender. I have used a blender to start it, then followed up by hand with a whisk and bowl, but that means a lot of dishes for what amounts to a tiny condiment that can be just as easily produced with far fewer. I wouldn’t waste my time.
*With an immersion/stick blender – This is by far my favorite method. Some people have fancy immersion blenders that have whisk attachments. I don’t. Mine is a pretty ghetto hand-me-down that works like a champ. With this method (at least using the blade attachment, I can’t comment on the effectiveness of a whisk attachment), you do not need to stream in the oil, although I often do at this point because it saves time. Here’s how it goes – put all the non-oil ingredients in a jar, get your bottle of oil out, get your stick blender running in the jar, then just stream the oil in until it’s all blended, moving the blender up and down to ensure there are no pockets of oil. Conversely, you can put everything in and just run the blender also, and that’ll work. I’m not entirely sure why it’s so effective, but it is, and it’s the fastest, and the only things you have to clean is the spoon from your mustard and the immersion blender. It’s a win-win-win. I have also never had runny aioli using this method, for what it’s worth. But not everyone has an immersion blender, even though they should.
Why make your own mayonnaise/aioli?
The stuff at the store contains LOTS of stuff. Like…. well… lots. Hellmann’s contains relatively few, but still has “spices” in the ingredients list. “What spices?” you may ask, well that’s a good question. Not really sure. Also, the oils they use in pretty much any type of mayonnaise (even olive oil mayo, look it up) are pretty awful. Canola oil is chemically separated and also GMO, unless specifically noted otherwise. Same for soybean oil and corn oil. They’re cheap and relatively flavorless, which is why they’re used to may mayonnaise. Most people either don’t know better or don’t care. I do. So if I for some reason don’t have the time/interest in making my own mayo, I buy Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise for $6+/2 cups. It doesn’t taste as good as homemade, and the oils they use in it (although organic and from non-gmo sources) are still pretty bad for you.
Yuck! Raw eggs!?
Yep. Homemade mayo contains raw eggs. That’s pretty much how it is. I have never gotten sick from eating homemade mayonnaise, and I am careful to follow reasonable food handling rules. I don’t see it as appreciably different from eating something with a meringue or a runny fried egg. But… if eating raw eggs really freaks you out, you can buy pasteurized eggs from the grocery store. They are expensive though, and you usually can’t get organic/cage free/pastured. So I did an experiment. I read somewhere that with a sous vide setup, one can slowly bring eggs up to 135 degrees, hold them there for 75 minutes, and they will be pasteurized. This kills all of the pathogens in the eggs and makes them safe for the elderly or otherwise immunocompromised folks to eat. Holding at 135 does not affect the egg’s ability to create or hold emulsions. So I pasteurized a few eggs, and ya know what? It worked! The whites developed a cloudiness, but they were still liquid and worked just as well as raw eggs in aioli.
How long does it keep?
I have successfully kept homemade mayo/aioli in the fridge for more than 2 weeks. I don’t recommend this, and would suggest that anything past 5-6 days is at your own risk.
What kind of oil should I use?
This is a subject that I have done some extensive research on. As a rule, unless 100% necessary for the success of a recipe, I do not use oils that have been chemically produced, like canola, corn, or soy oil (also, the pesticide/gmo thing). That leaves you with a somewhat limited field of acceptable oils that one may consider reasonable or palatable in something as transparent flavorwise as mayo or aioli. Extra virgin olive oil is downright yucky. Light olive oil is usually not actually olive oil. I wouldn’t necessarily bother with that either. I have used hazelnut oil (fine, but I didn’t love it) as well. So far, there are 2 contenders for my heart in the neutral oil arena. Sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil. Now here’s the problem. One can get expeller pressed sunflower seed oil for $4 from Trader Joes. It’s great, however the omega content is nearly 100% omega 6, which is not all that good for you, although better than chemically separated oils that are also high O6. I have used 2 different types of avocado oil. La Tourganelle is fine, but it’s fairly expensive and has a much stronger flavor than the less expensive and more neutral tasting Chosen Foods avocado oil that I have found at Costco for $10. This is currently my oil of choice, and I’ve been using it to cook pretty much everything.
When do you eat aioli?
All the time! Some of my favorite ways are to dip meatballs in it, spread it on top of hamburgers, put a dollop on slices of sweet potato, thin it out with some extra lemon or lime juice and drizzle on top of lettuce wraps, or mix it with hot sauce and dip baked squash fries in it.