The Art of Mayonnaise: For your heart and your hair


Dukes is to mayonnaise as Kleenex is to tissue—it sets the standard to which other brands of mayonnaise aspire. For years I’ve kept a jar in the fridge, but I never ever dared to even think about making my own (gasp!) mayonnaise. As luck would have it, we ran out of mayo just as I was beginning the chapter of Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (a life changing book if ever there was one) that includes Adler’s own philosophy on mayonnaise.

The degrading of mayonnaise from a wonderful condiment for cooked vegetables or sandwiches to an indistinguishable layer of fat has been radical and violent. Mayonnaise is a food best made at home and almost never made at home. This has robbed us of something that is both healthy and an absolute joy to eat with gusto. ~Tamar Adler

In its most basic form, mayonnaise is simply 1 cup of olive oil mixed in for every egg yolk added. Adler’s recipe builds upon this foundation and turns mayonnaise into something just shy of amazing grace. I have come to the conclusion that in all my years, I have never truly eaten mayonnaise until now:


  • 2 egg yolks, from room temperature eggs (here’s a great post on how to separate egg yolk from egg whites)
  • A tiny scrape of Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon (a squeeze) fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • A small drizzle room temperature water
  • 2 cups best olive oil around, plus more on hand

  1. Make a damp dish towel into a ring on the kitchen table, then set a big, round bottomed mixing bowl in it. Separate the yolks out by cracking the eggs over a second bowl and letting the whites fall into it through your fingers.
  2. Whisk the yolks, salt, and mustard together in the first mixing bowl. When it’s all uniform—after about 10 seconds of whisking—begin to add the oil in a very slow stream, only drop by drop.
  3. Once the mayonnaise comes together—and begins to thicken, start adding the oil more quickly.
  4. Add the water and lemon juice when it becomes difficult to whisk.
  5. Whisk in the remaining oil, adding a little more than the two cups if it all seems stable.
  6. Taste for salt. Refrigerate if not using immediately, and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Optional: Add 2 cloves of garlic pounded to a paste with salt and you will have what the Spanish call aioli.

Spread the mayo on veggies, crusty bread or whatever your heart desires.

Even better, save half the batch (minus the mustard) and apply to your tresses. The egg and olive oil will strengthen and condition while the garlic delivers sulfur, selenium, vitamins B and C, and various minerals that promote scalp health.

One recipe, two uses. The beginning is the end is the beginning.

Updated 7/2/12:

Check this vid on making homemade mayonnaise in just 2 minutes. The recipe is very similar to the one above, but a stick (immersion) blender was used. This certainly seems to take out a lot of the grunt work. Thx Leslie for recommending it!

Have you ever made your own mayonnaise? Have you ever used mayonnaise to condition your hair?