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Is mayonnaise made with egg yolk or egg white?

Mayonnaise is a thick, creamy sauce or dressing that is made by emulsifying egg yolk with oil and an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, along with seasonings. So to answer the question directly – traditional mayonnaise is made with egg yolk, not egg white.

The Role of Egg Yolk in Mayonnaise

Egg yolk is a key ingredient in mayonnaise that gives it its rich texture and flavor. Here’s why egg yolk is so important for making mayonnaise:

  • Emulsification – Egg yolk contains lecithin, which is an emulsifier. This means it helps bind together ingredients that normally don’t mix, like oil and water. Lecithin allows the oil and water in mayonnaise to form a smooth emulsion so the sauce doesn’t separate.
  • Texture – The fats and proteins in egg yolk help give mayonnaise a rich, thick, creamy texture.
  • Flavor – Egg yolk contributes to the rich eggy taste of mayonnaise.
  • Color – Egg yolk gives mayonnaise its pale yellow color.

Egg yolk contains all the necessary components to make a stable emulsion and give mayonnaise the right mouthfeel and flavor. Replacing egg yolk with egg white would not have the same effect.

Why Egg White Doesn’t Work

Egg white alone cannot be used to make real traditional mayonnaise. Here are some reasons why:

  • No emulsification – Egg white doesn’t contain lecithin or enough fat/protein to properly emulsify oil and water.
  • Thin texture – Without egg yolk, mayonnaise would be much thinner and watery.
  • Lack of richness – Egg white mayonnaise would have a much blander flavor, without the rich eggy taste.
  • Color – Egg white mayonnaise would be colorless instead of pale yellow.

While oil and egg white alone may end up emulsifying into a sauce, it would be lacking the texture, flavor, and appearance of real mayonnaise made with egg yolk.

Making Mayonnaise with Egg Whites

There are some ways to make a mayonnaise-like sauce with egg whites, but it typically requires additional ingredients to achieve a thicker texture and more flavor.

Here are some ways egg whites can be used in mayonnaise:

  • As part of an egg white omelette – Whisking oil into egg whites for an omelette can result in a mayo-like texture.
  • With an emulsifier – Adding mustard or soy lecithin to egg whites can help emulsify the oil.
  • With thickeners – Stirring gelatin, arrowroot, cornstarch, or another thickener into the egg white and oil mixture improves the texture.
  • Extra seasoning – More intense seasonings like garlic, onion, herbs, or vinegar can add more flavor to egg white mayo.

While these kinds of egg white-based sauces can approximate mayonnaise, food scientists recommend using at least some egg yolk to create the real thing. The egg yolk makes a huge difference in the final product.

Nutrition Comparison

Egg yolks and whites each have their own unique nutritional profiles. Here is a comparison of some of the key nutrients found in egg yolks versus egg whites:

Nutrient Egg Yolk Egg White
Calories 55 17
Fat 4.5g 0g
Protein 2.7g 3.6g
Cholesterol 184mg 0mg

As you can see, the egg yolk contains more calories, fat, and cholesterol compared to the egg white. Meanwhile, the egg white is almost pure protein and contains no fat or cholesterol.

So while egg yolks give mayonnaise a richer taste and texture, egg white mayonnaise would be much lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol. However, it would also lack some of the nutrition found in egg yolks like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and choline.

Common Uses

Mayonnaise made with egg yolk is used in a variety of dishes and sauces. Some of the most popular uses for mayonnaise include:

  • Sandwich spreads – Mayonnaise is a popular sandwich condiment on cold cut sandwiches, burgers, chicken sandwiches, BLTs, and more.
  • Salads and slaws – Mayonnaise is mixed into all kinds of salad dressings and coleslaws.
  • Dips – Mayonnaise can be turned into dips for veggies, chips, and bread by adding herbs, spices, or other flavorings.
  • Tartar sauce – Mayonnaise is a key ingredient in tartar sauce, along with pickles and spices.
  • Aioli – This garlic mayonnaise sauce is served with many seafood and vegetable dishes.
  • Potato and pasta salads – Mayonnaise helps bind together many classic potato and pasta salads.

Mayonnaise made with egg whites could potentially be substituted in any of these recipes. However, the sauce would have a thinner consistency and more mild flavor. The egg yolk-based mayo makes for a richer, more decadent tasting finished product.

Cost Differences

Egg yolks and whites can have different costs depending on how they are purchased:

  • Whole eggs – If using whole eggs, there is no cost difference between yolks and whites.
  • Carton egg whites – These tend to cost significantly more than whole eggs by volume.
  • Bulk egg yolks – Commercial bakeries can buy egg yolks in bulk at a moderate cost savings compared to whole eggs.

For most home cooks, using egg whites instead of yolks would not generate much savings. The increased cost of buying cartons of egg whites would cancel out any savings from needing fewer egg yolks.

In commercial food manufacturing, bulk egg yolks can be more affordable. However, the additional ingredients and processing needed to make egg white mayonnaise would likely negate any potential savings.

Common Substitutions

There are a few common substitutions used to make mayonnaise without eggs:

  • Tofu mayonnaise – Silken tofu blended with oil, lemon juice, and seasonings can create a vegan mayo substitute.
  • Cashew mayonnaise – Cashews processed with oil and seasonings create a creamy egg-free option.
  • Greek yogurt – Plain Greek yogurt whisked with oil, lemon, and spices can replace mayo in some recipes.
  • Commercial eggless mayo – Brands like Just Mayo and Vegenaise are vegan mayonnaise products made without eggs.

While these egg substitutes can mimic the texture and flavor of mayonnaise, most food experts recommend including at least a small amount of egg yolk for the best results. The egg yolk proteins and lecithin remain the gold standard for creating a creamy, emulsion-stable mayonnaise.

History of Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise has been around for several centuries, and egg yolks have always been a main ingredient:

  • 1700s – Early recipes for mayonnaise appeared in French cookbooks. The recipes used egg yolks as an emulsifier.
  • 1756 – The word “mayonnaise” first appears in print in a French cookbook by Menon.
  • 1815 – Mayonnaise became popular across Europe and Russia following the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Early 1900s – Mayonnaise reached North America as a packaged product at grocery stores.
  • 1970s – Shelf-stable and non-egg mayonnaise products were introduced.

While new eggless varieties exist today, traditional mayonnaise continues to rely on egg yolks for the quintessential mayonnaise texture and flavor.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Making mayonnaise at home allows you full control over the ingredients and lets you use the freshest egg yolks. Here is a simple recipe for homemade mayonnaise:


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard until combined.
  2. Very slowly, drizzle in the oil while whisking constantly. Add just a few drops at a time to start.
  3. Keep whisking vigorously as you pour in more oil in a thin, steady stream until all oil is incorporated and emulsion is thick.
  4. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow flavors to blend.

This easy homemade mayonnaise uses the power of egg yolks to turn oil and lemon into a smooth, rich emulsion. Feel free to experiment with different oil and vinegar types, or extra spices and herb flavors.

Egg Allergies and Food Safety

When making homemade mayonnaise, be aware of potential egg allergies and food safety considerations:

  • Egg allergies – People with egg allergies should avoid mayonnaise made with egg yolk or use one of the eggless substitutes.
  • Salmonella risk – Use very fresh eggs and refrigerate mayonnaise immediately to reduce any potential salmonella risk from raw eggs.
  • Foodborne illness – Only use properly sanitized equipment and ingredients within recommended expiry dates.
  • Acidic ingredients – The lemon juice or vinegar help make the mayonnaise inhospitable to bacterial growth.

As long as sound food safety practices are followed, homemade mayonnaise made with egg yolk poses minimal risks thanks the acidic environment and emulsified nature of the sauce.


Mayonnaise relies on egg yolks, not egg whites, for its characteristic rich, creamy texture and flavor. The proteins and emulsifiers in egg yolks are uniquely suited to creating a smooth emulsion with oil and acid. Replacing egg yolks with just egg whites results in a very thin, bland sauce lacking the hallmarks of true mayonnaise. There are eggless alternatives using ingredients like tofu or cashews. However, most chefs and food scientists consider egg yolk to be integral to quality traditional mayonnaise. So next time you enjoy a creamy dollop of mayo, you can thank the power of the humble egg yolk!