You’ve probably seen the word “aioli” on menus — it’s served as a dip for crunchy raw veggies, spread on sandwiches and used as dressing for salads. It looks a lot like mayonnaise, which is why many people think it’s just garlic mayo. However, its distinct taste and the process by which it’s made prove that it’s a different type of sauce altogether. Read on to find out what aioli is and how you can make it at home.
What Is Aioli?
Aioli is a thick garlic sauce that’s traditionally used in the cuisines of Provence, France and Catalonia, Spain, although it’s now widely popular throughout the Mediterranean.1 A truly authentic aioli is made from just three ingredients: garlic, olive oil and salt.2 In fact, its name comes from the Occitan words “ai” and “oli,” which means garlic and oil,3,4 so referring to this sauce as “garlic aioli” is actually redundant.
A dollop of aioli can provide you with many health benefits. Its main ingredient, garlic, is known to have potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It may help alleviate inflammation, improve heart health, maintain proper immune function and reduce the risk for certain types of cancer.
Meanwhile, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help reduce bad cholesterol levels, lower the risk for heart disease, maintain healthy weight and reduce belly fat.
Although aioli sounds like a simple condiment to make, the traditional method of preparing authentic aioli is actually painstaking and requires some work on your part. It involves mashing garlic into paste using a mortar and pestle. While stirring and mashing, you have to slowly add in the olive oil, and then continue mashing until the mixture turns pale and smooth.
This entire process can be tricky and time-consuming, since garlic is not really an excellent emulsifier. To speed up the process, some cooks add other emulsifiers into the mix, the most common of which are egg yolks, making the aioli similar to mayonnaise. But unlike aioli, mayonnaise can be made with other neutral oils and does not necessarily have garlic.5 Other emulsifiers that you can use to improve the texture and consistency of aioli are bread, lemon juice and mustard. 6,7
Here’s How You Can Make Basic Aioli From Scratch
Learning how to make basic aioli can come in handy for days when you need to serve a garlicky sauce with seafood, crudités or grilled meat. If you have the muscle power and patience, you can make aioli the traditional way using a mortar and pestle. But if you’re looking for an easier route, you can simply use a food processor. Here’s a simple recipe from The Spruce that you can follow:8
Basic Aioli From Scratch
- 7 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Put the garlic cloves, salt and egg yolks into the food processor and process until the ingredients are combined.
- With the food processor still running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Continue processing until you reach the desired consistency.
Try Making These Appetizing Aioli Recipes
You can take garlic aioli up a notch by flavoring it with different spices, herbs and condiments — this allows you to create a variety of delicious and colorful sauces that you can use for various dishes. For example, if you want to make your aioli spicier, you can simply mix it with chipotle,9 sriracha,10 jalapeno11 or wasabi.12 Add one or more of these spices in small amounts until you reach your desired spiciness level.
If you’re not into spicy foods, there are many other ingredients that you can mix into aioli for extra flavor, such as avocado and basil. You can also add in lemon juice or zest if you want your aioli to taste tangier. Some aioli sauce recipes are also flavored with truffle oil,13 but I suggest that you avoid this, since truffle oil is not actually derived from real truffles. Rather, it’s a mixture of base oil and artificial chemicals like 2,4-dithiapentane.
Aioli sauce is commonly used on burgers, or added to pasta, salads and potatoes. Whether you’re tired of those usual dishes or you’re simply looking for healthier alternatives, you should try making these nutritious and delicious recipes:
Wild Salmon Deviled Eggs Recipe
- 6 free-range, organic eggs
- 4 ounces canned wild traditional sockeye salmon
- 4 tablespoons aioli
- 1 tablespoon salmon roe
- 1 teaspoon chopped dill
- Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low so that the water is simmering, then add the eggs and cook for seven minutes. Drain, and when completely cool, peel the eggs under cold water. Allow the eggs to cool completely.
- Slice the eggs into halves lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolk from the white and place the yolks in a bowl.
- Mash the yolk with a fork until broken down into fine pieces. Add the wild salmon and aioli. Whip the mixture until smooth and creamy with a spatula or wooden spoon. If you like, you can place the mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with a little salt and pepper, if needed.
- Spoon the mixture into a disposable piping bag.
- Lay the egg white halves hole-side up, then pipe the salmon mixture evenly into the holes until all the salmon mixture is used up.
- Top each filled egg with 1/4 teaspoon of salmon roe and sprinkle with some freshly chopped dill.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Black Garlic Aioli
For the black garlic aioli:
- 3 cloves aged black garlic, minced
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of Himalayan salt
For the Brussels sprouts:
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into wedges
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- Himalayan salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the black garlic aioli:
For the Brussels sprouts:
- Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt together to create a paste.
- In a bowl, whisk the yolk and lemon juice, and then pour the mixture into the food processor.
- With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it’s fully incorporated and the mixture is emulsified.
- Add the garlic paste, and then pulse to combine the ingredients. Pour the aioli in a bowl then set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts and oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Gently mix to coat the sprouts.
- Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes then stir gently. Bake until the sprouts start to caramelize and turn crispy, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
- Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and serve them with the aioli.
(Recipe adapted from The Daily Meal14)
Here’s How to Fix a Broken Aioli
So you’ve been enthusiastically whisking aioli, hoping to create a flavorful sauce that your family and friends will surely enjoy, when suddenly the mixture separates. Don’t give up and throw away the separated mixture just yet, since it can still be fixed.
Aioli usually separates when the olive oil is added into the mixture too quickly.15 To keep it from going to waste, you just need an extra egg yolk and a small amount of oil. Whisk the egg yolk in a bowl and then carefully add in the oil, being careful not to drizzle it in too fast. Once the mixture emulsifies properly, add in the separated aioli, whisking all the while. Continue mixing until the sauce becomes creamy and homogenous.16,17
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