Aioli Is Not an Unusual Mayonnaise

It seems that in trying to rebrand mayonnaise, the various fancy food outlets are insisting on calling all kinds of creamy condiments “aioli,” and I refuse to stand idly by. Aioli is not the fancy mayonnaise that some people think. Aioli is special, amazing.

This word, when unfolded, simply means “garlic and oil.” Therefore, to be a true aioli, it must contain both garlic and oil. Can egg yolks be used as an emulsifier? Of course, but not necessarily. Garlic-flavored mayonnaise is technically aioli, but not all aioli are mayonnaise.

In fact, my favorite aioli is vegan, high in garlic and nothing more. While it does require your hands to do a little work (they still need work), slowly emulsifying the neutral oil with minced garlic gives you the most garlic-garlic sauce you’ve ever tasted. I make mine very much like Chef John and I give him credit for opening my eyes to the magnificence of this seasoning in its purest form. The only real difference between mine and John’s is that I use canola oil, not olive oil, because I don’t want garlic to have any one flavor. To do it yourself, you will need:

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic (use five if small)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or olive oil if you prefer)
  • mortar and pestle

Coarsely chop the garlic, put in a mortar and sprinkle with salt on top. Mix it up for real, really well, until it looks like this:

Add lemon juice and stir. Add a teaspoon of oil, mash and stir thoroughly until it is completely mixed with the garlic. (There should be no visible “oil stain” on top.) Repeat adding a teaspoon at a time until you have added half a cup of oil. It will look a little lumpy at first, but will turn into a shiny, thick sauce over time. Drizzle over meat, dip chips in it, slap potatoes on them, or spread fried vegetables. You can of course use it in the same way as mayonnaise; it’s divine on a burger.


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