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I Tried 12 Brands of Mayonnaise — and These 5 Are the Best

These spreads are worth your bread.

9/7/2024
9 minutos de lectura
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No question about it — sooner or later, we all reach for the mayo. The classic condiment is an expected spread for sandwiches and burgers, a delicious dip for grilled artichokes and fries, and even a creamy alternative to oil in baking. It’s also a key component in some dressings, dips, salads, and of course, deviled eggs. Despite its simple ingredients, there are dozens of mayos on the market and even more opinions on which spreads are worth your bread. Turns out, with good reason. 

Presumably, the intention of store-bought mayo is to get a shelf-stable version that’s as close to the nuanced flavors and spectacularly creamy texture of the homemade kind. From-scratch mayo has a refrigerated shelf life of up to two weeks, while store-bought bottles contain additives that keep them safe to eat for months after they’re opened and refrigerated. 

Not surprisingly, the additives in store-bought mayonnaises affect the flavor and texture, as do other ingredients. While all mayonnaises have a base of eggs, oil, and some type of acid, there’s still room for variation. For example, most major brands use soybean oil, but some premium brands use sunflower or avocado oil. Also, some leverage vinegar to give the condiment its tangy character, while others use lemon juice, lime juice, or both, not to mention additions like mustard, sugar, paprika, or even yeast. 

Regardless of style and ingredients, the notion of what makes for “the best” mayonnaise remains subjective — and highly debated. For those of us raised on store-bought mass-market mayonnaise (and honestly, who wasn’t?), the familiar, perhaps even nostalgic, flavors of Best Foods, Hellman’s, or Duke’s may be exactly what make a mayo desirable. If you were somehow reared on fresh mayo, your preferred flavor profile is probably different.

For this reason, I kept my personal preferences in check as best I could as I set out to explore which store-bought mayos just taste the best, plain and simple. 

The Tasters

For this test, like so many others, I recruited my “junior editor” daughter to taste with me. As the editor of cooking website GFF Magazine for the past 10 years, I’ve cajoled her into sampling anything and everything that comes into our kitchen. Now 18 years old, she’s not just highly opinionated, picky, and culinarily savvy, she, like me, prefers to eat her restaurant fries with mayo — at least when aioli isn’t available, which is more often than not. 

The Methodology

Mayo is a little like vodka; the minute you add mixers — or in the case of mayonnaise, spices or other ingredients — it’s harder to identify its flavors and textural nuances. So for the purpose of this exploration, I kept things as pure as possible by tasting each mayo solo and then as a dip with French fries. 

Also important was that the test was blind to avoid unconscious bias; it’s easy to be influenced by pretty label designs or nostalgia. So, I numbered each of the 12 store-bought mayos. Then I scooped generous blobs of the spreads into their corresponding ramekins — all at room temperature since cold temperature can dampen flavor — and hid the branded containers. I filled a pitcher with water and got out a glass and a spit bucket. Yes, really. 

Now the fun part. After popping a big batch of frozen crinkle-cut French fries into the oven, I tasted my way through the brands, relying on the tactics I use when wine-tasting for magazines: I put a heaping teaspoonful of mayo into my mouth, sloshed it around to completely coat my palate, let it linger so the flavors and textures spread over my tastebuds, contemplated the flavor profile and arc of the experience across the palate, spit it all out, made notes, thoroughly rinsed my mouth with water, and moved to the next mayo blob. My daughter was not remotely down for mouthwashing with scoops of mayo, so she watched my “wine-tasting” portion, wildly amused if not a little grossed out, and then joined me for the French-fry-dipping portion of the program. 

By the time I sloshed through all 12 options, the fries were ready, so my daughter and I went through the mayonnaise brands again, savoring a dab of each one on the tip of a thin, crispy-coated strip of golden potato in a real-life context. At the end of it all, the following five mayos — in no particular order — stood out from the creamy egg-based crowd.

Kewpie Mayonnaise

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Beloved by chefs, Japan’s 100-plus-year-old brand makes its mayo with egg yolks only, resulting in the creamiest texture, a more saturated yellow color, and a distinctly eggy overtone. Its delicate taste is characterized by a pleasing pop of tangy acid in the front palate — from a unique combo of red wine vinegar and rice vinegar — and a yin-yang of sweetness and umami from the additions of sugar and yeast extract. Use it to elevate egg salad, potato salad, burgers, and spicy tuna, or as a luscious French-fry dip — with a dash of Sriracha if desired. 

Primal Kitchen

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The hands-down winner for the purest ingredients — avocado oil, organic certified humane eggs and egg yolks, organic vinegar, sea salt, and organic rosemary extract, the end! — also scores points for its punchy, bright vinegar-and-salt-kissed character. Avocado oil seems to melt away cleaner on the tongue and there’s a whisper of rosemary on the finish. This top rated mayonnaise’s strong flavor makes it great as a dip for artichokes or an addition to Caesar-type salad dressings. 

Duke’s 

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The super-creamy, light yellow, flavor-forward staple of the South leads with citrusy tang and finishes with sweet paprika notes, resulting in a one-two punch that’s perfect for sandwiches and potato salads alike. Its unique flavor profile can be attributed to the addition of cider vinegar, a higher percentage of egg yolks, and lack of added sugar. Use it to invigorate pimento cheese, coleslaw, tomato sandwiches, and BLTs.

Best Foods Real Mayonnaise / Hellman’s

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Caveat: Since I grew up on this slick white-sheened stuff, it’s my security-blanket mayonnaise. That said, during my comparison tasting, my appreciation for Best Foods — the brand of the West; Hellman’s is its extremely similar counterpart in the East — renewed. Unlike mayos with blatantly identifiable flavor components, this one tastes like itself: mildly vinegar-tangy and inoffensive with a barely sweet uplift and neutrality that makes it a little black dress of mayos. Its perfect for salads, baking, and sandwiches.

Sir Kensington’s Classic Mayonnaise

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Gently citrusy with a hint of sweet, this white-colored relative newbie scores points for more than its somewhat neutral flavor. The use of sunflower oil rather than the usual soy results in a smooth finish that dissipates on the palate, leaving less of a greasy residue. The brand also uses certified humane cage-free eggs and non-GMO oils, layering a feel-good vibe on top of its taste-good character. Slather it on the usual mayo suspects and reach for it if anyone at your table is allergic to soy.

PHOTO CREDIT:
Photography: Paul Quitoriano
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez