Mayo Madness: In Search of the World's Best Mayonnaise
What stokes the fire of Instagram trolls and tears families apart in 2022? Lunch’s most misunderstood yet utterly essential condiment: mayonnaise. This cream-colored, tangy delight is necessary not just in sandwiches, but it's also an elevating component of fry sauce, ranch dressing, and chicken, egg, and tuna salads. But which is the mayonnaise to rule them all? A group of local mayonnaise maniacs, also known as the Portland Monthly Mayo Council, gave us the answer.
We tapped Justin Hintze, owner of Jojo food cart and Instagram whisperer @jojo.pdx; Brooke Olzendam, courtside reporter for the Portland Trail Blazers; Nori De Vega, the “priestess of flavor” behind @nomnom_nori ; Karlye Golub, prep cook at Malka and a glass artist who keeps five different mayos in her fridge; and her partner, Alani Vierra, cook and 17-year industry vet. Bill Oakley, PoMo Burger Cabal member, former Simpsons showrunner, and fast food reviewer at @thatbilloakley, joined via Zoom.
All spoke passionately in defense of this egg-oil-vinegar emulsion. When Oakley is asked what he says to folks who don’t like mayonnaise—20 percent of the human population, in his estimation—he replies, “It’s like dealing with people who don’t like sunshine, or going to the beach, or love. I hesitate to write them off, but I don’t have any other way to deal with it.”
De Vega was equally blunt. “Mayo is so mild,” she says. “It’s just sandwich lube.”
Of course, each of our tasters had strong opinions about which mayo to slather and slurp. Hintze, who was born in Salt Lake City, favors Duke’s and uses it on every sandwich at Jojo, plus most of the dipping sauces. He even has a Duke’s poster in his apartment.
“Mayonnaise is literally in the blood of people in Salt Lake,” he says.
De Vega grew up in a Best Foods household and puts it in anything from chocolate cake to her mother’s Filipino macaroni fruit salad. For more mayo-forward applications, she prefers Duke’s, which she orders online by the case. “My two dogs love mayo,” she adds. “Sometimes when they’re crated I’ll put it in their Kongs.”
Oakley stocks Blue Plate, a New Orleans brand that he discovered at the suggestion of his Instagram followers while making mayo and tomato sandwiches. He also name-checks Duke’s, as well as the polarizing not-really-mayo he grew up with: Miracle Whip. “I like the sweetness of it,” he says.
Olzendam is a die-hard for Best Foods; it’s almost as important to her as basketball. “It’s really a family trait. My grandmother Gigi, 93 years old, carries mayonnaise in her purse.” (Take Olzendam’s opinions with a grain of salt, though: she dislikes ketchup, unless it’s mixed with mayo.)
But will these loyalties stand up to a blind taste test? We set out nine different mayos on paper plates, armed with a pile of steaming hot jojos for dipping, while Oakley dipped pretzel sticks over Zoom. We asked everyone to give ratings from 1 (worst) to 5 (best), for a total of 30 possible points. Here’s how the mayos fared.
1st: Duke’s (27/30)
“It’s a bomb-ass 5. ”—Olzendam
“That’s what mayo’s supposed to taste like.” —De Vega
2nd: Kewpie (26.5/30)
“You definitely know which one it is by looking at it. It’s one of the best mayos ever.” —Hintze
“Put that on a deviled egg, that’d be great.” —Olzendam
3rd: Best Foods (23/30)
“It’s a great all-purpose mayo. It just doesn’t give me enough special zhuzh.” —De Vega
“I like everything about it. There’s nothing I wouldn’t want to put it on. I mean, I guess a chocolate bar. Where’s my chocolate bar?” —Olzendam
4th: Kraft Real Mayo (22.5/30)
“I would bet $1 that this is Duke’s. The creaminess is magnificent. It has just the right amount of egginess.” —Oakley
“This tastes like a grocery store mayo.” —De Vega
5th: McCormick’s Mayonesa with Lime Juice (20/30)
“It’s gummy. A ‘stick to your teeth’ kind of vibe.” —Hintze
“It’s like mayonnaise flavored icing.” —De Vega
6th: Blue Plate (15/30)
“I think it’s boring. I would use it for a cake.” —De Vega
“It doesn’t light my fire in any particular way.” —Oakley
7th: Miracle Whip (10.5/30)
“That’s Miracle Whip, 1000 percent. I’m gonna give it a negative 5.” —Olzendam
“I like a sweeter, more flavorful mayo [like this]. I’d rather have something that’s a little oversweet than whatever that gray vegan dogshit was.” —Hintze
“I’d give that a 2. I didn’t spit it out.” —Vierra
8th: Suzie’s Organic Real Mayo (8/30)
“It tastes like ranch if ranch didn’t have anything in it.” —De Vega
“I don’t really know if there’s much right with it except the color.” —Golub
9th: Plant Perfect Vegan Mayonnaise (6.5/30)
“Did you leave it in the sun? I think that’s veganaise. Ugh. That owes me money.” —Hintze
“It reminds me of the juices in a sardine can.” —Oakley
In most cases, our mayo lovers were able to pick out their favorites—and their nemeses—right away. Duke’s and Kewpie were hits across the board. As we’d expect from mayo purists, the vegan mayo, which had a grayish-green sheen, performed poorly; unfortunately, so did Pendleton, Oregon–made Suzie’s. But Oakley was surprised by the results of his tasting. “I guess I don’t love Blue Plate as much as I thought I did. I should get some Kraft mayonnaise.”
As for Olzendam: “Best Foods is my ride or die, but I’m willing to order some Duke’s for my fridge for certain situations,” she admits. Maybe there isn’t one to rule them all after all.