Menu
Search
Menu
Close

January/February 2017

Vegan Mayonnaise

Vegan mayo can’t be very good, can it? Read on for a shocking surprise.

Update: May 2017
Hellman's Carefully Crafted Dressing & Sandwich Spread now contains paprika oleoresin, which the company told us is added for color. It is otherwise unchanged. Nasoya Vegan Nayonaise has been discontinued.

How We Tested

Sandwich slather. Salad binder. Bread-crumb adhesive. Dip base. These are just a few of the many uses for mayonnaise. Traditional mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), and egg yolk. The yolk, apart from imparting flavor and richness, contains lecithins that stabilize the emulsion; that is, they help the oil and acid combine. But recently a number of egg-free substitutes have hit the market—America’s largest convenience chain, 7-Eleven, even replaced regular mayonnaise with vegan mayo in its prepared foods. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires products branded as “mayonnaise” or “mayo” to contain egg, so the egg-free products are technically called dressings or spreads.) But are these vegan mayos any good? They can’t possibly compete with real, egg-based mayonnaise . . . can they?

To find out, we purchased six widely available vegan mayonnaises and gathered 21 editors and test cooks to sample them in a series of blind taste tests. Every taster tried each mayo plain, in tomato sandwiches, and in our All-American Potato Salad.

Differences were apparent immediately, as tasters easily sorted the mayos into three products they liked (albeit two with reservations) and three they very much did not. Among the lower-scoring options, one was glaringly white, looking more like school glue than mayo. Others were gummy, greasy, and/or gelatinous, and a few smelled and tasted—there’s no other way to say it—awful. But on the positive side, one product rose to the top of our rankings and was universally praised for its clean flavor and smooth, nongreasy texture.

Why were these mayos so different? The differences in texture, flavor, and aroma can be attributed to two components: the emulsifier and the oil. Traditional mayonnaise consists of oil droplets dispersed in a small amount of acid (lemon juice or vinegar), thanks to the emulsifying power of egg yolk. The six vegan mayos we tasted substituted pea protein, soy protein, or modified food starch for the yolk. Pea protein (from the very same plant that gives us green peas) and soy protein both have emulsifying powers comparable to those of egg yolks. But the two mayos at the top of our ratings—both of which were praised for their homogeneous, nongreasy texture—use pea protein. Why is pea protein better?

Under acidic conditions, as in mayonnaise, pea protein dissolves better than soy protein, allowing it to mix better with other ingredients. Because it combines more fully, pea protein produces a superior emulsion. We saw this reflected in our results: The products that used pea protein were creamy and spreadable; the rest used soy protein and were at least a little (and sometimes very) oily, runny, or lumpy due to soy’s less-than-stellar emulsifying properties at a low pH.

Oil, and lots of it, is also essential to making a smooth, spreadable mayonnaise. The mayos in our lineup had fat contents that ranged from 3.5 to 10 grams per 14-gram serving; the lower-fat products don’t have enough fat to naturally sustain an emulsion, so manufacturers have to use chemical thickeners and stabilizers to approach the consistency of mayonnaise. These lower-fat mayos were unanimously panned as unnaturally dense or gloppy. Tasters preferred mayos with more fat—9 to 10 grams per 14-gram serving—since these natural emulsions had the creamy consistency we wanted. More fat also translated into richer flavor.

Said winner, Hampton Creek Just Mayo, Original, was really good—so good that we wanted to see if it could come close to the real McCoy. So we pitted it against Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise in three additional side-by-side taste tests: plain, in our Make-Ahead Vinaigrette (to see how well it emulsified a dressing), and in place of the butter on the outside of grilled cheese sandwiches (a test kitchen trick we sometimes use to ensure great browning). To our utter surprise, the Hampton Creek Just Mayo, Original matched Hellmann’s in every test, and we liked it just as much in every application.

Methodology

Twenty-one America’s Test Kitchen cooks and editors tasted six vegan mayonnaises in three blind taste tests: plain, on tomato sandwiches, and in our All-American Potato Salad. Once we had a winner, we tested it against Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, the industry standard and a product we recommend, tasting it plain and in our Make-Ahead Vinaigrette and using it in place of the butter on grilled cheese sandwiches to see if both could brown and flavor the toast. We obtained nutritional information from product labels.

Try CooksCountry.com FREE for 14 Days

START YOUR 14-DAY FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

Every Recipe, Every Rating, Every Video from Every Magazine & Every Episode!

  • 10+ years of Cook's Country Foolproof Recipes
  • Complete Cook's Country TV Video Library
  • 3,800+ Equipment Reviews and Ingredient Taste Tests
  • Step-by-Step Technique Photos
  • Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists

Dear Home Cook,

If we were new to CooksCountry.com, we might think, “It’s easy to get free recipes on the Internet. What makes your recipes different?” Well, unlike recipes from blogs, message boards, and other recipe sites, our recipes are exhaustively tested by our team of full-time test cooks until they offer consistently great results. That means fried chicken with a crunchy coating and moist meat, a low-fat recipe makeover for macaroni and cheese that’s as creamy and cheesy as the full-fat version, and fork-tender slow cooker pot roast.

We’re obsessive in our quest to find and foolproof the best of American home cooking, from fuss-free weeknight dinners, to updated, simplified versions of regional specialties, to slow cooker and make ahead meals. CooksCountry.com is the only place you can find every foolproof recipe published in Cook’s Country magazine since 2005, plus objective ratings and test results from both Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated for cookware and supermarket ingredients.

Let us make a simple, no-nonsense offer. Try out our website FREE for a 14-Day, No-Hassle Trial Offer. We’re pretty confident that CooksCountry.com will quickly become an invaluable resource for everything from a quick Tuesday supper to your next get-together with family and friends.

Thanks for your consideration,

The Editors of Cook’s Country

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.