Cheater’s Aioli

My husband I don’t argue about much, but we do argue about aioli. Yep, aioli. We argue about the degree to which it is similar or different from mayonnaise. I say that aioli is practically sisters with mayonnaise, while he claims that the two condiments might as well be second cousins.

This typically takes place over wine and French fries in our favorite restaurants. We ask our server, “What is aioli?” Somehow his or her answer is always a point for both of us. I know, it’s silly.

If you ask me, aioli is quite similar to mayonnaise. They’re both made of raw eggs emulsified with oil (mayonnaise is made with neutral oil, while aioli is made with olive oil) and a little bit of acid (mayonnaise uses vinegar, while aioli uses lemon juice). Sometimes the French add a little bit of mustard.

Aioli also contains garlic, which we agree must be included. The word aïoli literally means oil and garlic (ail is garlic in French). The most original form of aioli, which I’m hoping to taste in Provence this summer, is made only with garlic and olive oil emulsified in a mortar and pestle.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that there are many opinions about aioli. I’m surely going to upset someone with this quick and dirty version of aioli that tastes just like your favorite restaurant’s. Want to learn how it’s done?

How to Make This Quick & Easy Aioli

My easy aioli recipe is made with—wait for it—mayonnaise! To make it, you simply soak minced garlic in lemon juice for 10 minutes, strain it out, and stir the garlicky lemon juice into the mayonnaise. Essentially, you’re using mayonnaise as the creamy base, and adding the most characteristic aioli flavors to it.

I learned this trick from my tahini sauce. This way, you get nice garlic flavor without any actual garlic floating around in your mayo. Minced garlic would only distract from the creaminess and could make your sauce too garlicky with time.

Uses for Aioli

Anywhere you might use mayonnaise, you could probably use aioli. Here are some ideas:

  • As a dip for French fries, crispy potato wedges (shown below) or sweet potato fries
  • Or as artichoke dipping sauce
  • As a sandwich spread, perhaps in lieu of mayo on my veggie breakfast sandwich
  • Serve a dollop with prepared vegetables, like green beans, roasted cauliflower, potatoes or a grilled kebab
  • Generally speaking, it works well with Spanish and provincial French cuisine, and also on seafood, apparently

Please let me know how your aioli turns out in the comments!