Focus on: Mayonnaise

It’s one of those versatile staples that most kitchens can’t do without: mayonnaise. The creamy condiment is essential in sandwiches, salads, dips, sauces and more. Time was when a basic mayo was sufficient for all these applications. While that’s still possible, there are now several variations within the category—each boasting its own strengths.

Real mayonnaise, the original and still top seller, works well in dressings as well as salads and sandwiches, says Steve Jilleba, corporate executive chef for Unilever Food Solutions, makers of Hellmann’s and Best Foods.

Extra Heavy mayonnaise, a foodservice-only product, is the “professional mayonnaise,” states Terence Thomas, senior associate business manager for spoonables at Kraft. “It’s a thicker product with a higher oil content and eggy flavor that’s suitable for bound salads, such as tuna, chicken and potato, and heated applications,” he says.

Light mayonnaise is all about less calories and fat. “We position our light mayonnaise as the full experience without the sacrifice…consumers say the rich taste is more like real mayonnaise. Plus, it’s made with cage-free eggs,” notes Toby Campbell, senior marketing manager at Unilever Food Solutions. Adds chef Jilleba, “Light mayonnaise does well with salad applications that have some moisture to them and is a good choice for premade sandwiches.”

Olive oil mayonnaise is the newest in Kraft’s portfolio. “It has all the performance attributes of real mayonnaise with half the calories and fat and more flavor than light,” explains Thomas. “It can enhance the nutritional profile of menu items.”

Although not technically mayonnaise, whipped salad dressing is also part of the Kraft and Hellmann’s lines. It looks and performs like mayonnaise but is sweeter with a tangy zip. It doesn’t appeal to all, but “there are huge biases for the product in certain areas of the country,” says Thomas.

When evaluating mayonnaise, “taste is most important because that affects everything it touches,” claims Jilleba. “You need mayonnaise to be well-balanced in flavor in terms of sweet, acid and seasoning.” Adds Thomas, “flavor really depends on individual preference, but in general, the egg, salt and oil should be in balance.”

Texture and appearance are also key. The mayonnaise should be thick and creamy without any oil separation. “Plus, you don’t want the product to oxidize and turn yellow when exposed to air,” Thomas advises. He also suggests seeing how it holds up in your application. If you are using the product primarily for salads or sandwiches, it shouldn’t be watery. If crab cakes are a mainstay of your menu, the mayonnaise should bind the ingredients well and not separate when heated.

Mayonnaise for foodservice comes in gallon jars or jugs, pails, cartons, pre-portioned, recipe-ready pouches and individual packets.