Aioli Is Not 'Fancy Mayonnaise'

Photo: Claire Lower

It seems that, in an attempt to rebrand mayonnaise, various hip food establishments insist on calling all sorts of creamy condiments “aioli”. I refuse to stand idly by, letting this go unchecked. Aioli is not, as some would have you believe “fancy mayo”. Aioli is its own, very specific thing, and it is amazing.

Cheese Mayo Is The Condiment You Need To Make

When it comes to burgers, I prefer to keep things simple. A thin, smashed patty; a good melty cheese; maybe a little onion, tomato and pickles. I don’t need fried eggs, avocado or super thick bacon. I am, however, very into the idea of cheese mayonnaise, which frankly streamlines my already simple burger even further.

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The word, when broken down, simply means “garlic and oil”. Therefore, to be a true aioli, both garlic and oil must be present. Can you use egg yolks as an emulsifier? Sure, but you don’t have to. Mayonnaise flavoured with garlic is technically an aioli, but not all aioli is mayonnaise.

In fact, my favourite aioli is vegan, heavy on the garlic, and not much else. Though it requires your hands to do a bit of work (they need a job anyway), slowly emulsifying a neutral oil with crushed garlic gives you the most garlicky garlic sauce you ever did taste.

I make mine much like Chef John, and give him full credit for opening my eyes to the brilliance of this condiment in its purest form. The only real difference between mine and John’s is that I use canola oil rather than olive, because I don’t want a single flavour overpowering the garlic.

To make your own, you will need:

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic (go for five if they’re small)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or olive if that’s your preference)
  • A mortar and pestle

Roughly chop the garlic, put it in the mortar, and sprinkle the salt on top. Mash it up real, real good, until it looks like this:

Photo: Claire Lower

Add the lemon juice and mix it it in.

Add a teaspoon of oil, and mash and mix vigorously until it is fully incorporated into the garlic. (There should be no visible “oil slick” on top.) Repeat, adding a teaspoon at time, until you have added the full half cup of oil. It will look a little lumpy at first, but it will eventually emulsify into a glossy, thick sauce.

Drizzle it on meat, dip chips in it, plop it on potatoes, or smear it on roasted vegetables. Of course, you can use it just as you would fancy mayo; it is divine on a burger.


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