Chances are you’ve seen it on menus here and there, but if you’ve never been to the Mediterranean, you might wonder, what is aioli?
Aioli is a condiment that traditionally features just garlic and olive oil. The two are emulsified in a mortar and pestle until smooth, then served as a cold sauce. It’s punchy, creamy, and quite strong. However, other versions are closer to mayonnaise and also include lemon juice or vinegar.
So, it’s basically a sauce or condiment with lots of garlic in the mix. And even the traditional kind with just olive oil is pretty creamy.
If you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know how strong the garlic flavor is – even in Americanized recipes.
Either way, it’s great with all kinds of dishes.
Want to know more? Keep reading!
What Is Aioli?
Originating from the Provençal region of France, aioli has quickly become an iconic fixture in cuisines from Spain to Northern Africa.
Known as the King of Sauces, it’s pretty tasty on everything from chicken to steak.
But if the OG recipe needs just two ingredients, how do the more modern versions differ?
Aioli is delicious emulsification of olive oil and garlic. It’s very pure tasting and quite intense. But more commonly today, it’s a blend of mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That said, it can also be made with egg yolks, mustard, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, oil, and salt.
So if it’s just mayo and garlic, why isn’t it called ‘garlic mayo’?
Well, it actually is in a lot of places. Though garlic mayo also often includes herbs and spices.
Aioli vs. Mayonnaise (What’s the Difference?)
The difference between aioli and mayonnaise can be summed up in one word – garlic!
Aioli is a Mediterranean sauce with a big kick of garlic flavor. It’s even spicy in some cases.
In contrast, mayonnaise is an emulsified mixture of egg yolks, oil, mustard, and some form of acid, like vinegar or lemon juice.
You’ll notice a lot of the same ingredients there. Like I said, the big difference is garlic.
Unless you’re talking about traditional aioli, of course, Then they’re totally different!
How to Make Aioli
Making aioli is much easier than it sounds.
You can grab a mortar and pestle and smash garlic with oil until it finally comes together. But that’ll take a while – and a lot of elbow grease!
So instead, I suggest making the more simplified version:
- Whisk the egg yolks with the mustard until smooth.
- Whisk in the minced garlic and lemon juice until smooth.
- Slowly pour the oil into the bowl, whisking constantly and vigorously until it’s pale and silky.
- Gently stir in the lemon zest and salt.
The trick is to slowly add oil while continuously whisking the ingredients together in order to increase the emulsion.
This is easiest to do in a food processor if you have one.
What Oil Should I Use for Aioli?
The truth is, you can use all kinds of oil for aioli. But I do have a few rules to try and stick to:
- Make sure the oil is high quality.
- Use cold-pressed oils for the higher levels of antioxidants and fatty acids.
- This is important because they keep your aioli flavorful and healthy.
- I recommend extra virgin olive oil for its mild flavor and natural monounsaturated fatty acids.
- If you’re looking for something a bit lighter, try macadamia nut oil or avocado oil.
No matter what type of oil you choose, remember to buy it fresh and store it away from light.
How to Use Aioli
Aioli is a delicious condiment with many uses.
Whether you’re pairing it with veggies, spreading it on sandwiches, or using it as a dip for french fries, there are so many ways to enjoy this creamy garlic-flavored condiment!
But you don’t just have to use it as is. Instead, I suggest making a batch and playing around with it:
- Use classic aioli instead of mayo in a BLT
- Try spicy aioli (with Sriracha and lime juice) for fried chicken sandwiches
- Use traditional aioli on steaks
- Add fresh herbs and use it to season a roast chicken
- Add fresh rosemary and spread it on a burger bun
- Mix in some chopped nuts and serve it as a dip
- Add extra black pepper and serve it on toasted baguettes with crushed, fresh tomatoes
- Use it as a dipper on a charcuterie board
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