We all know that person who absolutely despises mayonnaise, but tolerates or even enjoys a sandwich that’s been smothered in aioli (my person is Emma, hi Emma!), claiming it’s a completely different condiment. And honestly, those seemingly hypocritical mayo haters aren’t totally wrong.
Both sauces are comprised of egg yolks emulsified with an acid, an oil, and often a few flavor boosters, leaving you, in both cases with a creamy, slightly tangy sauce. Where they differ, though, is in which acid, oil, and flavor-booster used to create the emulsion. Mayo’s acid is usually white or rice vinegar and its oil is a neutral one, like canola or vegetable oil. On the other hand, lemon juice plays the role of the acid and olive oil that of the oil in an aioli. And aioli classically includes a few cloves of garlic. They’re definitely similar, but also definitely not exactly the same. They can definitely be considered culinary cousins, if not siblings.
I’ve made both of these sauces from scratch a number of times, but honestly, find doing so somewhat fussy, especially when a store-bought mayo can be so, so tasty. That said, it’s rare that I spot a store-bought aioli, but sometimes my fried spuds are calling out for the lighter, brighter, slightly more elevated flavor profile I associate with mayo’s French relative, Aioli.
That’s where this Cheater Aioli comes into play.
I got the idea for a simplified aioli after making the Caesar dressing from Julia Turshen’s beloved cookbook, Small Victories. As Julia explains, “The small victory [in this dressing] is abandoning convention and swapping a spoonful of mayonnaise for the customary raw egg to make a creamy, thick, luscious dressing…”
I loved the idea of starting with mayo as shortcut to a creamy sauce, and decided to put a spin on Julia’s small victory for my Cheater Aioli: I skip the fussy steps of dirtying my immersion blender, separating egg yolks from their whites, and slowly mixing everything, being careful not to break the emulsion. Instead, I use store-bought mayo as the bulk of my sauce and add the ingredients that make aioli stand apart from mayo to it: lemon juice and garlic. It literally comes together in moments and is so delicious. So, without further ado…
Here’s how to make my beyond easy Cheater Aioli:
½ cup high quality mayonnaise (I loooove Kewpie, and sometimes opt for Hellmann’s—and I haven’t tried it with vegan mayo, but I bet it would work!)
The juice from ½ a large lemon (about 1-2 Tbsp)
2 cloves of garlic, grated or extremely finely minced
A three-finger pinch salt
A small pinch smoked paprika (you can skip this, but I think it lends a really nice depth of flavor)
Whisk everything together in a medium bowl. Let rest in the fridge 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together and the sauce to slightly thicken.
That’s it! Serve with whatever your heart desires, but here are a few of my ideas:
We had this with crisp potatoes, steak, and green beans for dinner last night. I dipped all three in it and was a very happy camper.
Use it as a dip for raw veggies like radishes, celery, peppers, or carrots.
Spread it on whatever sandwich your heard desires.
Thin it out a bit with some more lemon juice or red wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil and use it as a salad dressing. We’re doing that for lunch today!
The list goes on and on…
Did I convince you that you must try this sauce? If not, maybe the visual aid of a silly little reel I made about it will the deciding factor? I’m not saying you have to try it out, but if you’re in the camp of at least 80% of folks who really enjoy mayo, then I think you’ll love this Cheater Aioli just as much, if not more.
And if you do give it a try, please let me know what you think! You can respond directly to this email, or tag me in your photos over on Instagram. I’d especially like to see if you do end up taking a little swim in it…
Alright, that’s it from me this week.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,