Once you try Japanese Mayonnaise or Kewpie Mayo, you’ll never go back. Japanese Mayonnaise has a rich egg flavor, a tangy and sweet taste, and is creamier in both color and texture than standard mayonnaise. And just like any other Japanese creation, it scores high on the umami factor.
Japanese mayonnaise (マヨネーズ)—or 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 by foodies around the world in recent years. 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 for you: One is made from scratch, and the other is a short-cut version using ready-made mayonnaise.
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What is Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie Mayo)?
When most people mention Japanese mayonnaise, they are referring to the most popular brand known as Kewpie Mayo. It was invented in 1924 by Toichiro Nakashima who first discovered mayonnaise on his visit to the US and decided to introduce his own mayonnaise so good that all 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 certainly obsessed with this condiment as we use it on our sandwiches, savory pancakes, rice bowls, sushi, salad dressings, and even on 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? Why is Kewpie mayo so popular? How does it taste differently?
The first thing you’ll notice is 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 that uses whole eggs. While distilled vinegar is used in American brands, Kewpie incorporates rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar to lend a more 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 of the US, you can find it at Daiso (if there’s one near you).
Take note that there are other brands of Japanese mayonnaise, which are also sold in a plastic squeeze bottle with a fine tip. The special 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.
And of course, if you can’t find Japanese mayo, or prefer to make your own, then my homemade recipe is here for you!
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 simultaneously 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 and do not use 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 the popular MSG brand Ajinomoto at home, I add dashi powder (this is an MSG-free brand) instead to give a similar umami flavor. The umami from kombu and katsuobushi (smoked and dried bonito flakes) in the dashi powder works great 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 in the oil in a thin and steady stream when combining 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 seem to taste better and lighter and that’s 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 to churn your homemade mayonnaise a lot faster and in a more consistent manner (less arm work too).
7. Use pasteurized egg yolks or very fresh egg yolks
Using 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 1 egg out of every 20,000 eggs will contain salmonella). You can purchase pasteurized eggs or make your own pasteurized eggs if you have an immersion circulator. 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 version by adding rice vinegar and sugar to the American mayonnaise. So don’t throw away your Hellmann’s Mayonnaise just yet. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but consider this your easy hack when you need to replicate 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 roll & sushi rolls like dragon rolls.
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Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie Mayo)
- 2 pasteurized egg yolks (at room temperature; from the market, or pasteurize eggs at home)
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1½ cups neutral-flavored oil
- 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 tsp sugar (plus more, to taste)
- ½ tsp dashi powder
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned)
- 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 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-flavored 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.
- You can keep the mayonnaise in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for about 4 days.