Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes Approximately

    1½ Cups

Appears in

Jeremiah Tower Cooks

By Jeremiah Tower

Published 2002

  • About

Whereas flavored butters can be made in food processors, the closer mayonnaise gets to a machine the worse it is. A rewarding cooking and tasting experience is to make mayonnaise in a mortar or in a bowl by hand and then compare it with mayonnaises made in an electric mixer, a food processor, and a blender. Each mayonnaise tastes, feels, looks different. The hand-whisked sauce will be silkier, smoother, lighter, more delicate in taste, and will sit easier in the stomach as well.

Use a light, high-quality olive oil, and have all the ingredients at room temperature. Italian green extra virgin olive oil makes a good mayonnaise, but one that will usually be overpowering. Use it only with strongly flavored foods, such as roasted bell peppers or cold peppered steak.


  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • up to ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 to 1½ cups extra virgin light yellow olive oil


Put the yolks, salt, pepper, and half the lemon juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the oil very slowly at first, increasing the flow at the end. If the mayonnaise gets too thick to beat, add droplets of water and continue adding the oil. (The amount of oil will depend on the consistency of mayonnaise desired.) Whisk in some or all of the remaining lemon juice, depending on how much lemon taste you want, and then season the mayonnaise.


  • Green herb mayonnaise: Blanch 1 packed cup mixed herbs (tarragon, parsley, chervil, thyme, marjoram, and basil in equal proportions, for example), 6 spinach leaves, and ¼ cup watercress leaves cooked for 30 seconds in boiling water. Drain, squeeze dry, and finely chop half the herbs. Puree the other half with a tablespoon or so of water. Mix the chopped and pureed herbs into 2 cups of mayonnaise and refrigerate several hours for the flavors to develop. Particularly good on cold poached fish.
  • Chinese black bean mayonnaise: Add ¼ cup Chinese black bean puree to 1 cup mayonnaise; use for cold meats or chilled poached salmon.
  • Indian lime pickle mayonnaise: Puree 1 heaping teaspoon pickle and add it to a cup of mayonnaise; use for sandwiches.
  • Mango chutney mayonnaise: Two tablespoons of chopped chutney to 1 cup of mayonnaise. Particularly good in sandwiches.