Today we're talking mayonnaise. That wonderful source of creamy richness found in everything from the perfect B.L.T. to the garlic aioli you dip your local burger joint's fries in.
When people first experiment with keto, it's typical to clear out the fridge and pantry to start with a clean slate. Keeping exclusively keto items in your kitchen keeps temptation away and keeps you in ketosis longer.
So where does mayonnaise fit in?
Is mayo keto? What you need to know
Yes. Assuming you eat the right kind and avoid mayonnaise that's high in sugar or other carbs, then you have nothing to worry about.
Since ketosis is about restricting carbs to low levels and initiating your body's consumption of fats over sugars, mayo's high-fat, low-sugar profile fits right in.
What is mayo, anyway?
I think we can all agree that a world without mayonnaise wouldn't be nearly as tasty, and it's actually a really simple combination of ingredients we're all familiar with.
At its core, mayonnaise is simply:
- Eggs (typically egg yolks)
- Oil (soybean, canola, olive, and avocado are all popular choices)
- Some sort of acidic component (lemon juice or vinegar)
That's it. Through a process known as emulsification, two liquids that normally don't mix (in this case the water in the yolk and oil) form a temporary peace treaty. Mayonnaise is the result of this emulsification, which is why you hear about mayo "breaking" sometimes. This is when that treaty is broken and the liquids return to their respective camps.
Emulsification is also how we get delicious salad dressings like balsamic vinaigrette. When you look at a dressing and see hundreds of tiny fat droplets dispersed through a water-based liquid, that's emulsification in action! It's also why takeout vinaigrettes are usually not as good — making them immediately before serving is the way to go.
The biggest differences in mayo come down to the choice of oil
Since oil is the main component in mayonnaise by volume, the choice of oil greatly affects the flavor and nutrition profile.
Here are a few of the most common oils used to make mayonnaise:
This is the best choice for mayo on a keto diet. Avocados are a fantastic source of healthy fats and carry a bunch of nutrients without affecting the flavor too much.
Soybean or canola
Soybean and canola oil is super popular in store-bought, mass-produced brands. You need to be careful here, though, as these sources typically contain more GMOs and preservatives than other sources of oil.
Olive oil can be a hit or miss with mayonnaise. Olive oil can carry a lot of flavor depending on the source and processing, so if you want your mayonnaise to have that "classic" flavor, stick to more neutral-flavored oils.
The flavor of coconut oil mayonnaise is even stronger than olive oil. It absolutely cuts through. Some people love it, but it's a bit too singular in use for me.
The no-no ingredients: don't eat mayo with any of this in it!
As mentioned, avocado mayos are your best bet for being the most keto-friendly, but here are some other things to keep an eye on when shopping for keto mayo.
There's a reason Miracle Whip and other mass-produced mayos are so addicting. It's the sugar. (It's always the sugar, isn't it). Anything with added sugars or high-fructose corn syrup isn't going to be as healthy or keto-friendly.
As with any store-bought foods, you need to be diligent and check for anything that is added solely to extend shelf life. So artificial preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), nitrates, and benzoic acid are all worth checking for[*]. The fewer ingredients, the better.
Avocado mayos "blended" with other oils.
Some store-bought "avocado" mayo lines say it's "avocado oil blended with soybean oil" or something similar. This is when companies use a smaller percentage of avocado oil to justify the label but aren’t actually all-in on the idea. Don't buy these products!
Our favorite keto-friendly mayo brands
We prefer making our own mayo (recipe below!), but having good store-bought options is in mind can be useful.
Here are a few of our favorite keto mayos:
Chosen Foods actually makes their mayo with coconut oil, but it doesn't carry that flavor nearly as much as you'd expect. They also use a touch of natural cane sugar and cage-free eggs to put together a really delicious product.
Per serving: 100 calories, 11g fat, 0g net carbs, 0g protein
Sir Kensington's Mayo
Sir Kensington specializes in avocado oil mayo and uses all non-GMO ingredients. Their trick is to use a bit of lime for acid instead of lemon or vinegar. We're big fans.
Per serving: 90 calories, 11g fat, 0g net carbs, 0g protein
Primal Kitchen offers a mild flavor profile with zero sugar and opts for vinegar instead of lime like Sir Kensington's. The right choice depends on your preferences.
Per serving: 100 calories, 12g fat, 0g net carbs, 0g protein
Tessemae is a bit more acidic than other brands, which I love. They use a combination of lemon juice, vinegar, rosemary, and sea salt to bring this mayo to life.
Per serving: 90 calories, 10g fat, 0g net carbs, 0g protein
You have to have a classic brand represented, right? Duke's is one of the few major brands that are sugar-free, so if you're looking to keep that iconic mayo taste, they're a good option.
Per serving: 100 calories, 12g fat, 0g net carbs, 0g protein
The easiest (and tastiest) keto mayo recipe out there
Here us out. Making mayo is easy. As in having amazing, rich homemade mayo in as little as 10 minutes easy. If you want to know exactly what you’re eating, why not make it yourself?
All it takes is a few fresh ingredients and a little elbow grease. There are options to use an immersion blender, but we think using only egg yolks (as opposed to the egg) and a whisk yields a creamier, tastier mayo. We'll let you be the judge.
Step 1: Prepare your ingredients and tools.
All you need to create homemade mayo without any added sugar or preservatives is:
- Small bowl
- Whisk or fork
- 1 egg yolk
- A healthy squeeze of lemon juice
- A small dab of dijon mustard
- Salt to taste
- ¾ cup of the oil of your choice (we recommend 100% avocado oil).
Excluding the yolk and oil, the specific quantities of ingredients really depend on how you like your mayo, so don’t be afraid to trust your gut!
Step 2: Combine everything but the oil.
Just mix it all up in your small bowl.
Step 3: Start adding in oil one drop at a time while whisking.
Start very slowly adding the oil in while whisking, drop by drop. It may seem agonizingly slow, but trust us you want to take it easy in the beginning or else you risk "breaking" the mayo. This messes with the emulsification process we talked about earlier and causes the water and oil to split apart and go back to their respective camps.
As your mayo starts to thicken up, you can be more liberal with your drops. And after you make this once or twice, you'll get an idea of how fast you can add the oil.
Step 4: Keep whisking until all the oil is used up.
Keep on whisking until all the oil is gone. You should notice it start to adopt a silky, thick texture.
Step 5: Turn your bowl upside down to see if it passes the flip test.
This is my favorite part. Once the mayo seems super thick, flip the bowl upside down and see if the mayo moves at all. If it doesn't, it's perfect! If it does, make sure to flip it back before all of your hard work goes to waste!
Step 6: Enjoy!
Homemade keto mayo is a great thing to have around the house, and turning it into aioli is as simple as adding garlic.
And there you have it! All the details on how to make sure the mayo you eat is keto-approved. Best of luck with your keto journey — we're rooting for you!