Whether you call it Japanese mayonnaise or Kewpie mayo, once you try it, you’d never go back. Japanese mayo has a rich egg flavor, a tangy and sweeter taste, and is creamier in both color and texture. And just like any other Japanese creations, it scores on the umami factor.
Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Karaage, Japanese Potato Salad, or Creamy Sesame Dressing…there is one thing common in these dishes and that is Japanese mayonnaise (マヨネーズ)! The Japanese loves mayonnaise as a dipping sauce, topping, or seasoning, and you would be surprised how much we use this condiment in Japan.
What is Japanese Mayonnaise?
Whether you call it Japanese mayonnaise or Kewpie mayo, it is definitely a delicious mayonnaise you ever taste. Many JOC readers told me they were not a fan of American mayo before, but now a big fan of Japanese mayo.
Kewpie is just one brand of Japanese mayonnaise that became popular worldwide, but all the Japanese mayonnaise is also sold in a plastic squeeze bottle and with a fine tip to for you to make the perfect zigzag pattern on your Okonomiyaki. Kewpie mayonnaise has a signature Kewpie doll logo on the bottle.
Just like soy sauce, sake, mirin, and miso, Kewpie mayo has been one of the predominant condiments in Japan since it was first introduced to Japan in 1925. In fact, when I was growing up, there were not too many varieties of dressings and we used to eat salad with a dollop of mayo (oh the good old days!).
What Does It Taste Like?
So what is Japanese mayo all about? What differentiates it?
Well, you would first notice it is tangier and sweeter than the American mayo. The texture is thicker and creamier in both color and texture.
Japanese mayonnaise has a rich egg flavor because only egg yolks are used compared to the American mayo that contains the entire egg. Also, Japanese mayo is typically made with rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar, instead of distilled vinegar.
And just like any other Japanese creations, it scores on the umami factor as it includes a small amount of MSG.
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 before making Japanese mayo:
1. Use vegetable, canola oil, or grapeseed oil
NEVER use old oil and DO NOT use extra virgin olive oil even though it sounds healthier as it won’t emulsify well.
2. Make sure egg yolk is at room temperature
Molecules in cold egg yolks get separate easily, which makes it 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. Use Dashi powder to replace MSG
Kewpie mayo includes MSG (monosodium glutamate), which gives the umami flavor. To substitute, I added dashi to give similar umami flavors as dashi contains umami from kombu and katsuobushi (smoked and dried bonito flakes). Since I didn’t want to add any liquid in emulsifying process, I used MSG-free dashi powder.
5. Remember to pour a thin, steady stream of oil
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 the commercial ones.
Still, it’s better to use equipment if you already have one in your kitchen. Using a tool helps to churn out your homemade mayonnaise a lot faster and in a more consistent manner (less arm work too).
7. Use Pasteurized Egg yolk or VERY fresh egg yolk
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 the salmonella). You can purchase pasteurized eggs or make your own pasteurized eggs if you have an immersion circulator.
Easier Version? Make This Quick Japanese Mayo
This is the shortcut version of Japanese mayonnaise using American mayonnaise (Best Foods/Hellmann’s Mayonnaise). It’s not going to be exactly the same, but this shortcut is something you can quickly put together to replicate the taste of Japanese 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.
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Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie Mayo)
Hand Whisk Portions (DOUBLE the recipe if you use a blender or food processor)
- 1 pasteurized egg yolk (at room temperature; If you cannot find a pasteurized egg, use the best, freshest egg you can find for this recipe. You can pasteurize your eggs if you have an immersion circulator. Here's my tutorial.)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard (Mustard not only adds flavor but it also helps to keep the mayonnaise stable and emulsify the mixture, reducing the risk of the mayo breaking. I personally consider mustard a "not optional" ingredient.)
- ¾ cup neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (I used canola oil)
- ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 1 tsp sugar (I added 2 more tsp at the end, but it's up to your preference)
- ¼ tsp dashi powder
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice (roughly ½ lemon)
- Gather all the ingredients. If you're using a blender or food processor (not hand whisking), DOUBLE the recipe. Tip: When making too small of a batch in the blender/FP, the ingredients don't have enough volume for the machine to do the work. Make sure the pasteurized egg yolk is at room temperature.
- In the food processor or hand mixer or immersion blender, put the egg yolk and mustard and process for 20 seconds.
- With the food processor running, SLOWLY drizzle canola oil (A THIN, STEADY STREAM OF OIL) until about ¼ cup of the oil has been added. The mixture is beginning to thicken and emulsify. If you add too fast, it doesn't emulsify.
- Add kosher salt, granulated sugar, and dashi powder and give everything a whirl again.
- Continue to add the oil in a thin steady stream until about ¼ cup of the oil has been added. I use "stir" while adding the oil.
- Finally add the rice vinegar, lemon juice, and the remaining oil and process for an extra 10 seconds, just until the ingredients are combined and emulsified. Don't blend the mayo too long as homemade mayo comes together pretty quickly in the 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 (I added 2 more tsp, so I used total 3 tsp), or lemon juice to your liking.
- You can store the mayonnaise in an airtight container for about 4 days in the refrigerator.