Culinary Arts

Easy Homemade Garlic Aïoli Recipe: Tips for Making the Creamiest Aïoli and 5 Creative Variations

Written by MasterClass

May 14, 2019 • 3 min read

Velvety, luscious, garlicky mayonnaise—what the French call aïoli (pronounced eye-oh-lee)—is another sauce Chef Alice Waters uses all the time: on sandwiches; with vegetables, both raw and cooked; with meat and fish; as the binder for chicken salad and egg salad; and as a base for sauces such as tartar sauce.

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What Is Aïoli?

aïoli is a sauce made from garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and an emulsifier—commonly egg yolk. aïoli hails from the Mediterranean, where it is a prominent condiment in French, Spanish, and Italian cooking.

How to Serve Aïoli

You’ve probably dunked your fair share of French fries in a dollop of aïoli. Substitute aïoli anywhere you’d use mayonnaise: on burgers, in potato salad, over the outside of a grilled cheese (this is a pro move), and even alongside grilled fish and preserved lemon.

3 Methods for Making Homemade Aïoli

  • By Hand: Whisking aïoli by hand is the most traditional way to make aïoli—it's also the best way to maintain control over the emulsion and prevent a broken aïoli.
  • With a Food Processor: A piece of equipment that will give you the least amount of control when making aïoli, but still a viable option if you want to avoid whisking by hand.
  • With an Immersion Blender: Since you're likely to only make a cup or so of aïoli at a time, an immersion blender is a great tool for small amounts.

Chef Alice Waters’s Tips for Making Homemade Aïoli

  • The strength of garlic’s flavor can very a lot, depending on freshness, season, and variety. Alice always pounds the garlic in a mortar and pestle and reserves half of it, so she can add it later if the aïoli needs it. (You can always add more garlic, but you can’t subtract it.)
  • When mashing the garlic, it’s important to get it to the consistency of a smooth purée so the sauce will be garlicky through and through, not just a mayonnaise with bits of garlic in it.
  • It is much easier to whisk when the bowl is steadied; to help hold it still, set it on top of a coiled dish towel.
  • Adding a small amount of water to the egg yolk (at room temperature) before you incorporate the oil helps prevent the sauce from separating or “breaking.”
  • If the aïoli does separates, stop adding oil, but don’t despair. Just crack a fresh egg, separate the yolk into a new bowl, add a little water as before, and slowly whisk in first the broken sauce and then the rest of the oil.

Watch Alice Waters demonstrate how to make the perfect aïoli at home in her MasterClass.

5 Creative Aïoli Variations

Plain mayonnaise—made the same way as aïoli, but without garlic, and finished with a touch of vinegar or lemon juice can be varied in many different ways:

  1. Mustard or horseradish mayonnaise is wonderful for sandwiches.
  2. An herb mayonnaise with chopped herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil and a little fresh lemon juice goes extremely well with fish and shellfish.
  3. To make tartar sauce, add chopped pickles, pickle juice, grated onion, capers, parsley, ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.
  4. To make a beautiful green mayonnaise, pound watercress or basil in the mortar and pestle and add to the mayonnaise.
  5. For an even zingier take on garlic aïoli sauce, mix in a teaspoon or two of Sriracha or gochujang paste.

Easy Homemade Aïoli Recipe

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon water
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. Peel the garlic cloves. Combine with salt and mash garlic until a garlic paste forms. Separate the egg yolk into a small bowl, add about half the garlic and the water. Mix well with a whisk.
  2. Measure the olive oil into a cup with a pour spout, and slowly dribble the oil into the egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. As the egg yolk absorbs the oil, the sauce will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque. This will happen rather quickly. Then you can add the oil a little faster, whisking all the while. If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it with a few drops of water. Taste and add more salt and garlic, as desired.