Aioli is traditionally a laborious process that involves painstakingly whipping oil into egg yolks (or aquafaba) until it emulsifies and gives you a delicious, fresh mayonnaise. You need to be sure your ratios are correct, your tools (and the room!) are at a suitable temperature, and you can't over-whisk or the mayo may break entirely. There has to be an easier way, right?
If you're dead set on that fresh aioli taste, I'm sorry to say, there just isn't. If, however, you're comfortable covering up that store-bought mayo taste with some zesty garlic and bright lemon juice, you're in luck. This is our guide to cheating at aioli!
What is aioli?
Traditionally, aioli is just oil and garlic emulsified together, but in today's usage it's really just a flavored mayonnaise. It's also a topic that chefs and foodies love to nitpick and argue semantics over, so don't sue us if you use our definition in conversation!
How to make a Cheater's Aioli
Step 1. Choose your fighter.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the particular mayonnaise you choose is an absolute necessity. There are lots of options on the shelves, so which one best suits your needs?
- Plain mayonnaise: From generic to name brand, most of your regular store-bought mayos will taste and act exactly the same. Bland, creamy, and fairly stable.
- Heavy mayonnaise: Heavy mayo is mayonnaise that is made with more egg yolks to keep the emulsion more stable and the end product significantly richer. This is your best bet for aiolis blended in a food processor because it's the least likely to break from the heat and friction of the blades.
- Vegan mayonnaise: There are dozens of options for plant based mayos that taste great (like the sunflower & oat mayo in our Vegan box), but you'll have to be aware the mayos made without eggs tend to break more easily, so they require a little more delicate handling. For most vegan mayos, you'll want to stick to the whisk and avoid a food processor. If you absolutely need to use a food processor (to smooth garlic or fresh herbs, for example), add the mayonnaise last and pulse intermittently to avoid breaking.
Step 2. Go with garlic.
Garlic isn't technically mandatory for a flavored mayonnaise, but since garlic is pretty much our religion here at Culinarie, we're going to pretend you can't go without.
- Raw garlic: Zesty and easily overpowering, raw garlic is easy to overuse. Smash a clove with the broad side of a knife, then smear the smashed clove around the inside of the bowl you'll use to mix your aioli. It doesn't seem like much, but it adds a real zip.
- Roasted garlic: Roasting brings out the sweetness and gives garlic a soft, malleable texture. Roasted garlic can be run through a food processor to create a smooth paste that's easy to whip into your aioli.
- Garlicky seasoning blends: Use your favorite garlic-based seasoning to bulk up the flavor and add an extra boost. We recommend the Rally Fries or Seattle Garlic seasonings from Two Snooty Chefs (in our Vegan and Garlic boxes, respectively).
- Garlic powder: Our least favorite option, but still a solid option. If you're short on time or fresh garlic, 1/2-1 tsp of garlic powder per cup of mayonnaise should add garlicky flavor to your aioli.
Step 3. Get creative.
- Add herbs: Fresh or dried both work here! Fresh herbs have a more delicate and nuanced flavor, but dried herbs will have a longer shelf life (and are infinitely cheaper if you're not growing them yourself).
- Add spice: Whether your preference is a single twist of black pepper or a whole tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (we love the Bullwhip Sauce from our Lava box), a little heat will definitely punch up your easy aioli.
- Add acid: Citrus or vinegar is your friend, but only in very small doses! A few drops of fresh lemon juice will bring a tarragon aioli to life, lime works great to soften spicy additions, and sweet vinegars can add a whole new dimension of flavor.
Step 4. Mix it and chill.
Stir your chosen flavors into your prepared mayonnaise using a whisk or food processor on low. Remember that even shelf stable mayonnaises can break, so if you're using a food processor, you'll want to go slow and gentle. Once everything is combined thoroughly, let it chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving so that the flavors have ample time to meld together.
Pro tip: If you start seeing a sheen on top of your mayo, it's about to break! Place the whole bowl or blender cup in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool it down, then proceed with caution. Repeat as necessary.
Our favorite Cheater's Aioli variations
All preparations are per 1 cup of prepared mayonnaise.
Lemon Tarragon Aioli
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon (or 1 tbsp dried)
1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce (try one from our Lava box)
1 clove roasted garlic
Smash or process all ingredients except mayo, then add to mayo with a whisk or lightly pulse in processor.
Black Garlic Oregano Aioli
2 cloves black garlic (from our Pizza box)
1 tsp dried oregano
Balsamic Black Pepper
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Whisk gently into prepared mayonnaise.