J. Kenji López-Alt's Unexpected Swap For Flavorful Vegan Mayo

For vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike, mayonnaise is a great ingredient to have on hand. Its most obvious use is as a sandwich spread, but it also goes well in dips and dressings, and can even make cake extra moist. If you follow a plant-based diet, however, traditional mayonnaise is out of the question. Egg is one of the main components, and if you remove it, all that's really left is olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice. There are plenty of "vegenaises" that you can buy from the grocery store, but you can also just make it yourself by substituting the egg for soy milk or aquafaba, Inspired Taste shares.

While these egg substitutes allow you to achieve a consistency close to that of regular mayo, they contribute very little in terms of flavor. To add more, Gretchen's Vegan Bakery recommends adding kala namak, a type of black salt that contains sulfate and sulfide compounds that give off an eggy flavor. But if you can't get your hands on kala namak, there's a much more accessible ingredient that chef J. Kenji López-Alt recommends for an equally tasty vegan mayo.

Swap the eggs for eggplants

Despite their nearly identical names, it's common knowledge that eggs and eggplant aren't interchangeable. One is a vegetable, and the other is something a chicken lays. But when it comes to mayonnaise, eggs and eggplants are surprisingly similar in function. According to J. Kenji López-Alt (via Serious Eats), the vegetable is the key to making vegenaise that's flavorful rather than bland.

Inspired by baba ganoush, which already shares many of the same ingredients with mayonnaise, eggplant is the foundation of López-Alt's vegan friendly recipe. The main difference is the lack of tahini and the ratio of oil to eggplant. To swap the eggs for eggplant, the celebrity chef first roasts the eggplant, then after removing the skin, he blends it with oil and lemon juice like a regular mayonnaise, before adding whole grain mustard and garlic. The resulting mayonnaise has a uniquely savory flavor that rivals any other vegenaise.

Why does eggplant work as an egg substitute in mayonnaise?

It's important to note that if you were to make J. Kenji López-Alt's vegan mayo recipe without roasting the eggplant, you'd end up with very different results. That's because the texture of eggplant changes drastically when cooked. As Parsley and Pumpkins explains, cooking eggplant not only softens the fibers, it can also make them slimy. Because eggplant is also naturally absorbent, the more oil it soaks up, the slimier it will become.

Sliminess is usually something you want to avoid in your dishes, but when you're trying to replicate the consistency of raw eggs in mayonnaise, roasted eggplant blended with oil works perfectly. An important distinction, though, Kenji López-Alt notes (via Serious Eats), is that eggplant doesn't emulsify as well as eggs do, and it will therefore eventually separate from the other mayo ingredients the longer it sits. If you don't want to continue reblending your mayo, then the chef suggests adding a pinch of soy lecithin to help. With or without this extra ingredient, however, your eggplant-based mayonnaise will still be delicious.