Is mayonnaise dairy-free?

Answered by Willian Lymon

Mayonnaise is indeed a dairy-free condiment. To understand why, let’s break it down.

Firstly, let’s define what dairy is. Dairy products are made from the milk of mammals, particularly cows, sheep, and goats. They include items such as milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt. These products contain lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, and various proteins that come from animal milk.

Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is a permanent emulsion made primarily from oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and egg yolk. The key component that holds the emulsion together is the lecithin found in egg yolk. Lecithin is an effective emulsifier that helps to stabilize the mixture of oil and vinegar or lemon juice, creating a creamy texture.

Since mayonnaise is made using eggs, it is not suitable for those with egg allergies. However, eggs are not dairy products. They come from poultry, specifically chickens, and do not contain lactose or any of the proteins found in milk.

In the traditional recipe for mayonnaise, the eggs used are raw, which may pose a risk of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella. To mitigate this risk, many commercially produced mayonnaises use pasteurized eggs or egg products to ensure safety.

It’s important to note that there are variations of mayonnaise available in the market, including vegan mayonnaise, which eliminates the use of eggs altogether. Instead, they use plant-based ingredients such as soy milk, tofu, or aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas) as emulsifiers.

To summarize, mayonnaise is a dairy-free condiment as it does not contain any milk products. It is primarily made from oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and egg yolk, with the lecithin in the yolk acting as an emulsifier. While it is not suitable for those with egg allergies, it can be enjoyed by individuals who are lactose intolerant or following a dairy-free diet.