Once you try Japanese Mayonnaise, you’ll never go back. It has a rich egg flavor, a tangy and sweet taste, and is creamier in color and texture than regular mayonnaise. And just like any Japanese creation, it scores high on the umami factor.
Japanese mayonnaise (マヨネーズ) better known as Kewpie mayo—is a pantry staple in almost every Japanese household. Known for its richer egg flavor and umami goodness, Japanese mayo has become a cult favorite among foodies worldwide. David Chang, the famous chef and founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, even calls it “the best mayonnaise in the world.” I have to agree!
Thanks to its popularity, you can easily find Japanese mayonnaise outside of Japan these days. However, if you wish to make a homemade version, I have two recipes: One is made from scratch, and the other is a short-cut version using ready-made mayonnaise.
Table of contents
What is Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie Mayo)?
When most people mention Japanese mayonnaise, they refer to the most popular brand, Kewpie Mayo. It was invented in 1924 by Toichiro Nakashima, who first discovered mayonnaise on his visit to the U.S. and decided to introduce his own mayonnaise so the Japanese people would enjoy it.
Today, Kewpie mayo has become synonymous with Japanese mayonnaise. Everyone recognizes it for its signature squeeze plastic bottle with a Kewpie doll logo and a red cap.
The Japanese are obsessed with this condiment as we use it on sandwiches, okonomiyaki, rice bowls, fusion sushi, salad dressings, and even pizza. In fact, when I was growing up, there were limited choices of dressings, so we used to eat our salad with a dollop of Kewpie mayo (oh, the good old days!)
Many JOC readers told me they were never into American mayo, but they would only use Kewpie mayo as they are enamored by its slightly tangy, creamy, light, yet umami flavor.
What is the Difference Between Japanese Mayo and Regular Mayo?
So, what is Japanese mayo all about and why is it so famous? How does it taste differently?
You’ll first notice that Japanese mayo has a more prominent eggy taste with a hint of fruity sweetness. The texture is also thicker and creamier than regular mayo.
Japanese mayo uses only egg yolks to create a deeper yellow color and a custard-like texture that is smooth and luxurious, as opposed to regular American mayonnaise, which uses whole eggs. While distilled vinegar is used in American brands, Kewpie incorporates rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar to lend a sweeter and subdued tang.
As the flavor is more rounded and packed with umami, it’s no wonder Kewpie mayo is the must-have ingredient in many iconic Japanese dishes!
Where to Buy Japanese Mayo
You can find Japanese mayo, especially the Kewpie brand, at most Japanese or Asian grocery stores or online. Some well-stocked mainstream grocery stores such as Costco, Walmart, and Target might carry it too. If you live outside the U.S., you can find it at Daiso (if there’s one near you) or online.
Note that other brands of Japanese mayonnaise are also sold in a plastic squeeze bottle with a fine tip. The unique tip design allows you to spread the mayo on anything and to create zigzag patterns on okonomiyaki (see picture above). Look for the Kewpie doll logo on the bottle if you only want to purchase the Kewpie brand mayo.
Try my homemade mayo if you can’t find it or prefer to make your own!
7 Important Tips Before Making Japanese Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and vinegar. Oil and water in the yolk are a mixture of two liquids that normally can’t be combined.
Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while mixing rapidly. This disperses and suspends tiny droplets of one liquid through another. Proteins and lecithin in the egg yolk serve as emulsifiers.
Here are a few tips you need to know:
1. Use vegetable, safflower, grapeseed oil, or canola oil
Never use old oil or extra virgin olive oil, as it won’t emulsify well.
2. Make sure the egg yolks are at room temperature
Molecules in cold egg yolks get separated easily, which makes them less ideal for mixing.
3. Use mustard
Not sure about adding mustard? It’s not included just for the taste but also to further stabilize the emulsion as it contains small amounts of lecithin.
4. Add dashi powder for umami flavor
Kewpie mayo includes monosodium glutamate (MSG), which gives an umami flavor. Since I don’t keep a bag of MSG brand Ajinomoto at home, I add dashi powder (MSG-free) instead to give a similar umami flavor. The umami from kombu and Katsuobushi in the dashi powder works in the mayonnaise.
5. Gently pour in the oil in a thin, steady stream
Adding oil too quickly will keep the two liquids from combining (emulsifying); hence, you want to pour the oil into a thin and steady stream when combined with the rest of the mixture.
6. Use a blender, mixer, or food processor
The key to making delicious mayonnaise is how small you make the oil molecules. Store-bought mayonnaise may taste better and lighter because household blender/mixer/food processor is not as powerful as commercial ones.
Still, it’s better to use equipment if you already have one in your kitchen. Using a tool helps churn your homemade mayonnaise much faster and more consistently (less arm work, too).
7. Use pasteurized egg yolks or very fresh egg yolks
Pasteurized eggs can reduce or eliminate the risk of being infected by the salmonella bacteria when preparing recipes that call for raw or uncooked eggs (Roughly one egg out of every 20,000 eggs will contain salmonella). If you have an immersion circulator, you can purchase pasteurized eggs or make your own. Also, the quality of the eggs makes a difference. Use fresh, local organic eggs if possible.
The Easy Version: Quick Japanese Mayo
Not everyone has the time to make homemade mayonnaise from scratch. The good news is you can take a shortcut by adding rice vinegar and sugar to the American mayonnaise. So don’t throw away your Hellmann’s Mayonnaise just yet. It’s not precisely the same, but consider this your easy hack when replicating the taste of Kewpie mayo.
For 1 cup of American mayonnaise, whisk together 2 Tbsp rice vinegar and 1 Tbsp sugar.
For 1 Tbsp of American mayonnaise, whisk together ½ tsp rice vinegar and ⅛ tsp sugar.
Signature Japanese Recipes Using Japanese Mayo
- Japanese Egg Sandwich (Tamago Sando)
- Japanese Potato Salad
- California Roll
- Japanese Kani Salad
Also, don’t forget to check out my super easy Spicy Mayo recipe! It’s so good in lobster rolls and sushi rolls like dragon rolls.
Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie Mayo)
- Before You Start: This recipe calls for pasteurized egg yolks. If you cannot find pasteurized eggs, use the best, freshest eggs you can find for this recipe. You can also follow my tutorial to pasteurize your eggs using an immersion circulator.
- Gather all the ingredients. Tip: If you reduce the recipe ingredients, there won’t be enough volume for the food processor or blender to do its work, so you may need to hand whisk the ingredients (or use a hand mixer or immersion blender).
- Make sure the egg yolks are at room temperature. Put 2 pasteurized egg yolks and 2 tsp Dijon mustard into the bowl of a food processor or a blender; I used a food processor with a 3-cup bowl for one batch (yields 2 cups) of this recipe. Process for 20 seconds. Tip: Mustard adds flavor and helps to emulsify the mixture, reducing the risk of the mayonnaise breaking.
- With the food processor running, SLOWLY drizzle about one-third of the 1½ cups neutral oil in a thin, steady stream—about ½ cup oil for one batch of mayonnaise. The mixture will begin to thicken and emulsify. Tip: If you add the oil too fast, it won’t emulsify.
- Add 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 2 tsp sugar, and ½ tsp dashi powder and give everything a whirl again.
- Continue to add another one-third of the oil in a thin, steady stream. I use the Stir setting while adding the oil.
- Finally, add 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned), 4 tsp fresh lemon juice, and the remaining one-third of the oil and process for an extra 10 seconds, just until the ingredients are combined and emulsified. Tip: Don’t blend the mayonnaise too long, as homemade mayonnaise comes together pretty quickly in the food processor or blender. When blended too long, the emulsion that brought the spread together is more likely to break, either from overprocessing or overheating.
- Taste the mayonnaise and adjust with salt, sugar, or lemon juice to your liking. I personally added 2 more teaspoons of sugar for a total of 4 teaspoons for one batch.
- You can keep the mayonnaise in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for about 4 days.