Friday Recipe: Aioli!

Growing up in the US, I always thought of mayonaise as that revolting sweet bland white goo that you mix with tuna in tuna salad. I absolutely hate the stuff – it’s disgusting.

So when I started learning to cook, and I saw recipes that used aioli, I avoided them. After all, aioli is just homemade mayo, right? Until a couple of years ago, when I was at Ming Tsai’s restaurant, and they served a really fantastic carpaccio which was drizzled with a garlic aioli. I didn’t know what it was – but it was fantastic, so I asked the waiter what the sauce was. I was shocked to find out it was aioli! So I broke down, and started trying to make it myself. And what a revelation: it’s absolutely fantastic stuff.

It’s extremely easy to make; it takes about 2 minutes to whip a batch together! It’s versatile – you can use it with anything from a simple salad to a steak! And it’s easy to play with – you can change it around by adding in different
flavors, to make it suit all sorts of different dishes.

I’ll start with the master recipe, and then run through a bunch of my favorite variations.


  • One large clove of garlic.
  • One (light) teaspoon of dijon mustard.
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar.
  • 2 egg yolks.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.
  • One generous pinch salt.


    1. Crush the garlic, mince it, and then put it into a food processor or blender. ( Either one is fine, just like the blendtec vs vitamix debate )
    2. Add the vinegar, mustard, and salt to the food processor/blender, and pulse it to get them to combine.
    3. Add the egg yolks – pulse quickly to combine.
    4. Turn on the machine, and then slowly drizzle in the oil. You add the oil slowly enough so that you never see any loose oil in the machine – it should be getting emulsified into the egg mixture immediately.
    5. When you’ve added all of the oil, turn the machine off. That’s it: you’re done. You’ve got aioli!

Some nice variations:

        • Sun-dried tomato and paprika: this one is a fantastic topping for a good burger. Mince up some sun-dried tomato, and put it into the aioli along with a good tablespoon of smoked spanish paprika, and fold that in.
        • Tartar sauce: for the best tartar sauce you’ve ever had to go with fried fish, about a tablespoon each of minced onion, carrot, and celery, and about 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste.
        • Salad dressing: if you like thousand island dressing, this will knock your socks off. Get some good quality pickles. Mince up about a tablespoon of pickle, plus a half tablespoon of red onion, mix it with about a tablespoon of tomato paste, and then fold that into the aioli.
        • Steak sauce: get a nice berber spice blend, and fold in a generous tablespoon. (Berber is, roughly, a blend of chili pepper, garlic and onion powders, cardamom, black pepper, and fenugreek.)

This stuff makes me really regret how long I delayed in learning to make it. Unfortunately, my distaste for mayo growing up is really strong. It’s taken time for me to learn to use it. I’ve got such an instinct for thinking that anything mayo-like is gross. I still have a reflex to avoid it, even when I know how good it is. I keep surprising myself by making it for my wife, and then being shocked when I taste it. Don’t be like me: start enjoying this stuff now!

14 thoughts on “Friday Recipe: Aioli!

    1. MarkCC Post author

      I think that to be properly called an aioli, it really needs to have garlic, or some other related member of the onion family. (You can, for instance, use a shallot instead of garlic, which can be really nice.)

      1. Ingvar

        The name “aioli” means, roughly, “garlic and oil”, so, yes, I’d argue that the garlic is necessary. The eggs aren’t, if you use fresh garlic (instead of frozen or “lazy”), as the garlic and mustard is more than plenty to act as a binder for the oil. I would leave the vinegar out, if you go egg-free, though.

  1. Christina Pikas

    For the salad dressing – dill pickles? Also, I thought tartar sauce usually had some pickle in it?

    1. MarkCC Post author

      For the salad dressing, yes, dill pickles. (Actually, in my opinion as a snotty NY jewish boy, the *only* pickles are naturally brined dill pickles. If it’s not a slow-brined sour pickle, it’s not really a pickle. Those sugared things are an abomination!)

      Tartar sauce traditionally does have pickles in it. But when I wanted to make some, I didn’t have any pickles in the house. And it came out *so* good without them that I don’t see any reason to mess with it!

      1. Ingvar

        I would additionally fling some finely chopper caper into the tartar sauce.

        In fact, my home-made tartar sauce is “mayo, chopper dill pickled, chopper caper, a few twists of the five-pepper blend grinder; leave in fridge for at least 2 hours” (no, can’t give you the amounts, because I have never measured).

  2. becca

    “the *only* pickles are naturally brined dill pickles. If it’s not a slow-brined sour pickle, it’s not really a pickle. Those sugared things are an abomination!”
    This is not snotty opinion. This is FACT. Between this comment and the recipe, you may be my new condiment hero.

    1. quim

      The spelling “aioli” got into English from French, that’s how the French pronounce “all-i-oli”. And the original recipe (the “true” all-i-oli) has only two ingredients: all (garlic) and oli (oil). It is much more difficult to emulsify without the egg yolks, though.

      1. Reinier Post

        Without garlic, it’s called mayonaise. At least that’s how we make that stuff (except that we use sunflower oil).

  3. chezjake

    Oh, yes!

    And now, make some where you substitute a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice and a teaspoon of grated orange zest for the vinegar, cut the mustard by half, and add just a bit of your favorite moderately hot red pepper (crushed red pepper flakes are fine). We are just now approaching the local (northeast US) fresh asparagus season, where the foregoing sauce is at it’s best. Enjoy!

    1. MarkCC Post author

      Not long – it’s made from raw eggs, so I wouldn’t keep it for more than a few days.

  4. Andrew

    No, Miracle Whip is the revolting sweet white stuff that you put in tuna salad. Mayo is the delicious white stuff that you put in tuna salad.


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