You've probably seen aioli on a menu and wondered what exactly that is. When it arrives at your table, you think "It's just mayonnaise!" and while they're quite similar, there are many noticeable differences between aioli and traditional mayonnaise. Read on to learn what exactly aioli is, how it differs from mayonnaise, and even how to make aioli at home!

What Is Aioli?

aioli with green onion chopped into it

Aiolio with chopped green onions. (etorres/Shutterstock)

Aioli is a Mediterranean sauce that's traditionally made with thoroughly crushed garlic that is then emulsified with olive oil and salt, giving it a very strong, garlic flavor. Today, aioli is generally made with eggs and lemon juice as well, which makes it easier to emulsify and gives it the texture of mayonnaise. This makes aioli a great choice as a dip for vegetables, French fries or as a spread for sandwiches.

How Is Aioli Different From Mayonnaise?

regular aioli with chili mayo in white bowls

Aioli with parsley against flavored mayonnaise. (Wojciech Bobrowicz/Shutterstock)

On the surface, aioli and mayonnaise can look identical, but there are several noticeable differences between the two, such as:

  • Mayonnaise is traditionally made in a blender, in which egg yolks, lemon juice, and vinegar are emulsified with canola oil.
  • Aioli, traditionally, uses a mortar and pestle to thoroughly crush garlic into a paste. Egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard and olive oil are then slowly whisked into the paste to create a thick, garlic flavored sauce. As such, aioli takes much longer to make than mayonnaise, but the result is a much stronger flavor.
  • Mayonnaise can be made with a variety of ingredients and oils, and as long as it has egg yolks, some sort of cooking oil, and lemon juice, you'll have a standard mayonnaise.
  • Aioli, on the other hand, requires garlic to be the base ingredient, and olive oil to serve as the emulsifier. Without garlic or olive oil, you cannot have aioli.
  • Due to the neutral ingredients and oils used in mayonnaise, the variations are endless -- chipotle mayo, garlic mayo, and horseradish mayo are three vastly different examples of what you can do with this condiment.
  • Aioli is much more limited in its varieties, due to the fact that garlic and olive oil are necessary staples to the dish. Any variations to aioli need to complement the Mediterranean ingredients nicely, such as saffron.

A Simple Aioli Recipe

Check out how to make a simple yet delicious aioli and what you can do with this sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Three eggs, separate the yolks
  • One tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Three cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Three tablespoons diced chives (optional)

Instructions:

  • In a food processor or blender, add the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and dijon mustard. Cover the blender and pulse until smooth.
  • Run the blender at a low-medium speed and slowly pour in the olive oil -- you're aiming to have as thin a stream of olive oil as possible so that the egg mixture and the oil can properly emulsify, giving it the mayonnaise-like consistency.
slowly emulsifying egg yolks

The emulsification step of making aioli. (ffolas/Shutterstock)

  • Add salt and pepper to taste. If you choose to use chives, add them in as well -- they will offer a mild onion taste that complements the garlic nicely.
  • Give the aioli a few more pulses in the blender to ensure all the seasonings are evenly distributed, then store in the fridge. Fresh, homemade aioli is good for up to two weeks.

Garlic Aioli Uses

shrimp with aioli dip

Fried shrimp being served with aioli. (gowithstock/Shutterstock)

Aioli can take the place of regular mayonnaise in many cases -- try spreading it on your favorite slice of bread or as a dip paired with sweet potato wedges. Using garlic aioli as the base for chicken salad will yield a very flavorful dish, with the garlic complementing the pimentos and almonds well. How to use your aioli sauce will depend on how your aioli tastes, and there are many variations that pair well with different dishes.

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