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Okay so it’s a Monday night, and my scheduled grocery shopping trip isn’t until Saturday, I go to the fridge to make sure dinner is good to go and…I’m out of mayo. Now I’m faced with a decision, come up with some other condiment to go with our turkey burgers, or make some mayo to get me through a few days. Or…do both! This red pepper aioli was born of just that, me staring in the fridge knowing I had to make a mayo like sauce to happy about dinner that night.
It turned out so good I had to share it. And since it fits right in with my journey to homemade living (though mayo is something I usually recommend buying, but more on that later), it was a great opportunity to discuss what the heck an aioli is and why it’s good to know how to make it!
Aioli vs. Mayonnaise
What is Mayonnaise? Simply put it’s the emulsion of oil droplets into egg yolks. Usually it also contains acid, salt, and mustard.
Egg yolks are a powerful emulsifier, the proteins in raw yolk separate and suspend the oil creating a creamy, thickened sauce.
What is Aioli? It’s a type of mayonnaise! Typically one made with garlic. The word aioli is from the provencal words ‘ai’ for garlic and ‘oli’ for oil.
There are actually several ways to make mayonnaise without egg yolks. It’s possible to create a similar sauce by using a veloute or bechamel sauce, where the gelatin or milk proteins in the sauces create a thickened effect. Others call for hard cooked yolks, bread, potato starch, or even fresh cheeses. Frankly, none are as good at creating the thickened, voluminous sauce we know and love as your standard mayo.
Making Your Red Pepper Aioli from Scratch
A lot of aioli recipes that you’ll find online call for the addition of flavoring components and garlic to already prepared mayonnaise. That’s fine for a quick sauce, but I’m going to take you through the process from yolk to finished sauce. From there, you can not only make this sauce, but any flavored mayo, or even a classic if you wish.
- Roasted Red Peppers – These are the primary flavor of this aioli, and it’s super easy to make them yourself if it’s pepper season. Read my guide Bell Peppers + 6 Methods of Cookery for easy instructions on how to do that. If however, it isn’t bell pepper season, I recommend buying a good quality jar of them for best flavor.
- Egg yolks – This particular recipe calls for 3 egg yolks. It’s essential that these are room temperature! Cold eggs do not emulsify properly and your aioli can come out too runny.
- Oil – Another essential ingredient, you literally can’t make aioli without oil! It makes up 80% of the final sauce! The typical oil of choice is extra virgin olive oil. This particular recipe however, I didn’t use extra virgin olive oil though (I know, shocking for me if you’ve read my other recipes!). One of my splurges is on really good quality oil, but I found that the grassy, spicy notes of it overtook the red peppers so I actually opted for a more neutral oil! Canola, grapeseed, sunflower, or olive oil will all work.
- Salt – Beyond flavor, salt is absolutely necessary for aioli. The salt breaks down the yolk granules, making it easier for the yolk to suspend the oil.
- Acid – The standard for mayonnaise is lemon juice, and I do recommend it if making a standard mayo. I didn’t have any, which is why I used golden balsamic vinegar. It’s necessary to brighten the flavor of the fat, but it’s a small amount. Feel free to use white wine vinegar or lemon juice if you don’t have golden balsamic.
- Garlic – It wouldn’t be aioli without it! Aioli calls for quite a bit of it, just know it’s essential!
- Dijon Mustard – For both flavor and stability, mustard is important for keeping the emulsion stable.
- Parsley – Just for a little fresh, herbaceous flavor and some lovely color, a touch of parsley is perfect.
- Pepper – The final flavor addition!
One thing to love about this delicious red pepper aioli is the utter simplicity of making it. If you’ve ever made a vinaigrette, you can make mayonnaise, and can make aioli. I promise.
First a few tips:
- It’s possible to make aioli by hand by simply vigorously whisking the oil into the yolks, acid, salt, and mustard in a very slow stream. This particular aioli however does require a blender or food processor, the peppers need to be blended to emulsify properly. If you have a powerful blender, be sure to blend on low to prevent breaking your aioli.
- Everything should be room temperature. Cold egg yolks will not emulsify properly, this does take some forethought but it’s really important. In a pinch, place the whole egg (in its shell) in a bowl of warm water for a for a few minutes, then separate them.
- Garlic is one of those ingredients that I hate judging by number of cloves. Some are larger than others! I call for 4 cloves, but it’s a heaping tablespoon you’re aiming for.
- If using jarred peppers they have more water than a freshly roasted red pepper, gently pat them to remove excess water before adding to the food processor.
Mix it up!
Once you’re ingredients are all ready to go, place your egg yolks, salt, minced garlic, red peppers, parsley, vinegar, mustard, and pepper into the bowl of your food processor.
If you’re looking to make classic mayo, all you need is egg yolks, acid, salt and mustard. Then follow the same steps!
Turn it on and blend until everything is well blended. This took about 30 seconds for me.
Next is the hardest and most crucial part, adding the oil. Adding too fast will cause it to break. Start pouring in the oil very slowly, like a very thin stream. Air on the side of caution, adding drops at a time if necessary. Once the aioli begins to come together you can add it slightly faster but be careful. It’s fine to go slow.
If by chance your aioli gets too thick, you can thin it out with a teeny bit of water.
You’ve Made Mayonnaise!
Congrats! You’ve just made mayonnaise, a delicious red pepper aioli version of it. It’s versatile and easy to make as you now know, but I should tell you why I usually recommend buying mayo.
Do you eat mayo on a daily basis? No? I don’t think many people do. It’s a condiment that most people use just a tablespoon or so at a time. Not a problem for the store bought stuff that has stabilizers to keep it good in your fridge for weeks. Buuut for our fresh mayo with raw egg yolks, it’s extremely perishable and only good for about a week.
Acid, and extra virgin olive oil should help kill bacteria, and using pasteurized eggs can help further and can possibly make your mayo refrigerator stable for around 2 weeks, but I get a little wary of it myself.
Now, it’s totally possible to make small batches, just 1/2 a cup at a time. I’m just not sure I’d use that much in a week! If you do, or if you have a recipe that calls for a lot, like chicken salad, egg salad, or roasting a chicken with a mayonnaise slather, then YES go for it. Homemade mayo is absolutely delicious. Who knows, this was so easy, I might be willing to whip it up on a weekly basis!
Using this Red Pepper Aioli
This particular red pepper aioli is something I’ll throw together for those wonderful dishes I know will benefit from the flavor. A roasted fish or chicken, a thickener for a light pasta sauce. I’ll make it for that family bbq as a special addition to burgers.
Plus, it’s good to know how to make in a pinch. So when you find yourself, like me, staring at the fridge in sweatpants, a sleeping baby upstairs and running to the store not an option, whipping up a quick aioli is no problem at all.
I hope this inspires you to experiment in any case. My husband and I have been enjoying this red pepper aioli on all sorts of sandwiches and dishes all week. It’s full of that slightly sweet, roasted red pepper flavor, with a bite from that garlic. It’s a good one, so I hope you try it! If you do don’t forget to tag me on instagram with a pic @theflourhandprint and #theflourhandprint! In the meantime, Happy Eating!
Other Sauce Recipes you Might Enjoy
- 3 large egg yolks room temperature
- 3/4 cup grapeseed oil or canola or olive
- 2/3 cup roasted red peppers
- 1 tbs minced garlic about 4 cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp golden balsamic vinegar or white wine or lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbs parsley, minced
- Add all the ingredients except the oil into the bowl of a food processor or blender.
- Blend until peppers are broken down and ingredients are combined well, about 30 seconds.
- With the food processor running, begin drizzling in the oil VERY slowly. It will take several minutes to incorporate all the oil.
- Once all the oil is added, pour aioli into an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week.
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.