Demystifying Vegan Mayo: What Is It Made Of?

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Mayonnaise is a condiment that often divides opinions – some love it, while others can’t stand it. It’s one of those polarizing ingredients that can elevate the taste of a dish in one context and be a source of repulsion in another. Enter vegan mayo, a plant-based alternative that has been revolutionizing the world of condiments since the 1970s. In this article, we’ll unravel the secrets of vegan mayo, from its origins to its ingredients, and explore how you can use it to enhance your culinary creations.

The Birth of Vegan Mayo

The inception of vegan mayo can be traced back to the founders of Follow Your Heart Cafe in 1970. Although independent cafes and home cooks might have been experimenting with eggless mayo earlier, Follow Your Heart Cafe’s creation marked a turning point. Faced with the challenge of finding a suitable condiment for their signature sandwich – Avocado, Tomato, and Sprouts – the cafe’s founders embarked on a mission to create their own vegan mayo. After several iterations, they succeeded in crafting Vegenaise, which quickly gained popularity. Today, the term “Vegenaise” is synonymous with vegan mayo, much like how “Kleenex” is used interchangeably with “tissue.”

What Defines Mayo?

Legally speaking, vegan mayo cannot be labeled as “mayonnaise” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. The FDA’s definition of mayonnaise stipulates that it must contain at least 65-percent vegetable oil and include at least one “egg yolk-containing ingredient.” While other ingredients don’t have to meet such stringent criteria, traditional mayonnaise also typically includes salt, acid (like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar), and mustard, along with sweeteners and stabilizers in commercial variants.

This legal distinction became widely known when Hampton Creek, now known as Eat Just, introduced “Just Mayo.” The product faced scrutiny from the FDA, which demanded that the term “mayo” be removed from its label. After a protracted dispute involving Eat Just, retailers, the American Egg Board, and the FDA, the vegan company made minor concessions to its packaging, allowing other emerging brands to use the term “mayo” without legal repercussions.

Ingredients in Vegan Mayo

Vegan mayo can be crafted from various ingredients, but the presence of plant-based fats and vinegar is crucial. Common components include oil, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, mustard, salt, and aquafaba (the brine from chickpeas). However, both brands and food bloggers have explored different avenues to create this essential condiment, resulting in oil-free options, nut-based spreads, and creamy tofu-based mayos.

Crafting Vegan Mayo

The process of making vegan mayo mirrors that of traditional mayo, as it involves creating an emulsion of fat and acid with additional ingredients. While traditional mayo uses both oil and egg yolks as fat sources, vegan mayo relies solely on oil. The process typically begins by combining aquafaba (chickpea brine), mustard, vinegar, salt, and a liquid sweetener (such as brown rice syrup). Emulsification is the critical step, where two liquids that don’t usually mix (like oil and water) are blended to create a cohesive, smooth mixture. The key is to drizzle the oil slowly and steadily into the aquafaba mixture while continuously whisking it. This process results in a thick, creamy, and silky-smooth condiment.

While this is the traditional method, other variations exist. Some vegan mayo recipes use silken tofu and/or cashews as the base instead of aquafaba and oil. Regardless of the approach, whipping is an essential part of the process, so having a reliable blender or immersion blender is advisable when making your own.

Top Vegan Mayo Brands

  1. Vegenaise: The original and a gold standard in the world of vegan condiments, Vegenaise offers a range of flavors, from roasted garlic to chipotle, alongside its classic version.
  2. Primal Kitchen: Known for its paleo-leaning products, Primal Kitchen also offers an avocado oil-based vegan spread. Ensure you select the jar labeled “Vegan.”
  3. Chosen Foods: Chosen Foods, while not exclusively vegan, produces a vegan mayo that incorporates avocado oil, aquafaba, sugar, and vinegar, enhanced by fava bean protein.
  4. Hellmann’s/Best Foods: Recognizable from the pre-vegan era, Hellmann’s/Best Foods launched its vegan “dressing and spread” in 2016, catering to brand loyalists.
  5. Plant Perfect: A relatively new entrant, Plant Perfect specializes in creamy condiments, including a straightforward vegan mayonnaise that works well in various applications.
  6. Sir Kensington’s: This brand boasts a cult following for its dips, spreads, and dressings. It offers four vegan-certified varieties of its classic spread, including flavors like chipotle and avocado oil.
  7. NotCo: Utilizing artificial intelligence, Chilean company NotCo produces vegan mayo using ingredients like canola oil, vinegar, chickpeas, and lemon juice.

Innovative Uses for Vegan Mayo

Vegan mayo can be employed in numerous ways, just like traditional mayo. Beyond the obvious use in sandwiches and potato salads, it can be incorporated into inventive recipes, including:

  1. New York Style Vegan Reuben: Create a tangy dressing by combining vegan mayo and ketchup for a classic Reuben sandwich.
  2. Vegan Picnic Potato Salad: Enjoy mayo-laden deli salads without worrying about spoilage in the sun on picnics.
  3. Vegan Shiitake BLT Sandwich: Elevate your sandwich game with vegan bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a generous spread of vegan mayo.
  4. Kale Slaw With Barbecue Walnut Crumble: Coleslaw, dressed with vegan mayo, offers a delightful side dish that pairs perfectly with barbecue walnut crumble.
  5. Ultra-Moist Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake: Surprisingly, vegan mayo can be a secret ingredient in chocolate cake, contributing to moisture and richness.
  6. Vegan Macaroni Pasta Salad: Use mayo-based dressing to enhance pasta salads or as a topping for mixed greens.
  7. Vegan Egg Salad: Create a quick vegan egg salad by combining vegan mayo with tofu, mustard, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper.

In conclusion, vegan mayo is a versatile and innovative condiment that has come a long way since its inception in the 1970s. Whether you choose to make it at home or opt for store-bought brands, vegan mayo can add a creamy and flavorful touch to your dishes. To explore a wide range of vegan condiments and discover more about plant-based cuisine, visit the Crooked Beverage Co. homepage.

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