Aioli … almost

Today, I made something, then I threw it away. So it goes in the world of cooking. Let me explain:

I had a left over egg yolk, from when I had to use an egg white recently to make a chicken recipe. I don’t like to waste food, and an egg yolk is still food. So I searched recipes that contained “egg yolk,” and among the things that came up was a recipe for aioli. An aioli is basically a garlic mayonnaise. So, I’m essentially making mayonnaise from scratch. Yes, you can do that. No, it’s not that hard, but you do have to be careful and pay close attention to the instructions.

4  garlic cloves, peeled, chopped fine
2 egg yolks
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. cold water
1 tsp. lemon juice

Add the garlic and salt to a mortar bowl and grind slowly with the pestle, moving in one direction only.  You can do this first step in a food processor if you’d like, then transfer the mixture back to a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the mustard first, then the egg yolks. At this point you can transfer the mixture back into the mortar or use the whisk in the bowl. Now you will add in half of the oil.  This must be done very slowly or the oil will not emulsify and your sauce will not thicken.  Add the oil in a slow, fine stream while either whisking with a wire whisk or using your pestle.  Once the first half of the oil is incorporated, then add the water and the lemon juice, whisking or stirring constantly with the pestle. Then slowly add the rest of the oil.  The mixture will thicken as you continue to blend it. The mixture should be slightly thinner than commercial mayonnaise.  If it becomes too thick you can add a bit more warm water, one teaspoon at a time.

My first problem was that I do not have a mortar and pestle. This would have made it easier to grind up the garlic and the salt. What happens is that the salt cuts into the garlic with it’s sharp edges (at least, for a particle as small as a salt crystal), so when you rub salt against garlic, eventually the garlic turns to a mush-like paste, and that is the flavor basis for the aioli. I did this in a food processor, which worked OK, but I still had to mash it up more.

The trick then is to pour the oil in a slow stream while whisking vigorously. If you pour the oil in too much or too fast, the sauce will not emulsify correctly, and you’ll arrive at what happens when you mix oil and water – i.e., it’s not pretty. By adding the oil slowly, you give the oil molecules a chance to blend with the water-based mixture. It was successful for me. Despite having some chunks of garlic in there from the lack of mortar/pestle, my aioli came together quite nicely:


But, as I mentioned, I tossed it. I suddenly realized that the yolk that I used that was left over, was probably over a month old, and I was not cooking it, meaning it may or may not have been OK to eat raw. I decided not to take a chance.

If you want to make this at home, be sure that your eggs are as fresh as possible and from a reputable farm, or, buy pasteurized eggs.



  1. Laura said,

    February 8, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Even fresh eggs can contain salmonella. The ONLY way to be sure they’re safe is to use pasteurized shell eggs. The risk is small, but it’s there.

    Remember, there was less risk with peanut butter than with eggs, and look what happened. (The warning is right on the egg carton.)

  2. readysetcook said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks for your comment. The peanut butter problem appears to have been caused by extremely dirty conditions in that factory. The risk for eggs is very small with proper handling, but if you’re skittish about it, go with pasteurized eggs.

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