Surprising Things to Make with Mayonnaise
Create some kitchen magic with mayo in marinades, breading, and a moist and luscious spring strawberry cake
Article, recipes, and photos by Ashley Strickland Freeman
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Mayonnaise is a magical ingredient to me. Yep, you read that right. The humble condiment used for making potato salad and slathering on your favorite ham sandwich can do so much more. In fact, last summer I published an entire cookbook dedicated to recipes with my beloved condiment — there’s even a dessert chapter.
Before you go running for the hills, think of what mayonnaise is — a wonderfully thick and creamy emulsion of eggs and oil, plus a little acid like lemon juice or vinegar. All of those things are often found in many of the recipes we use every day, including sweets. For breakfast to dessert and everything in between, I’ve got a use for mayo. It’s great in marinades, can be used as a binder for breading, and is my secret to locking in moisture with cakes.
Besides all of the unexpected uses for mayonnaise, one thing I learned while writing my cookbook is that everyone is just as passionate about the brand of mayonnaise they buy as they are the football team they cheer for or how they pronounce “pecan.” Like many other Southerners, I grew up eating a certain brand of mayonnaise (Duke’s) and it’s still my preferred mayo to cook with. Unlike other commercial mayonnaise, Duke’s doesn’t contain sugar, making it a more versatile product for cooking and baking. If your favorite brand does have sugar, just keep that in mind when using it in recipes — you may need to adjust the amounts of salt or sugar called for.
Something else I discovered while creating the book is that there are a lot of people who are scared of or have a strong aversions to mayonnaise. Is that you or someone you know? Well, I’m here to tell you that my husband was not into mayonnaise before, and now he’s a believer.
Whether it’s my Grilled Chili-Lime Chicken Breasts with Mango Salsa, Sweet and Spicy Oven-Fried Shrimp Tacos, or Strawberry-Lemonade Cake, I challenge you to try one of the following unexpected ways to use mayonnaise. I may make a believer out of you too!
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Mayo surprise #1: Marinade magic
Mayonnaise is awesome in marinades, especially for lean proteins like chicken breasts and pork loin or chops. Often by the time I’m able to brown thin cuts of meat, the inside is tough, overcooked, and dry. A marinade with mayonnaise in it, however, helps with the Maillard reaction, the browning reaction that occurs when meat is seared. That browning means flavor, so I love marinating those thin, lean cuts of meat in mixtures that include mayonnaise. Another bonus: Mayonnaise is a great carrier of flavors. Aromatics like garlic and herbs are more easily transferred to protein through the mayonnaise. Finally, the viscosity of mayonnaise mean it will stay stuck on the meat while it cooks, locking in flavor and moisture.
Want to give it a try? My grilled chili-lime chicken breasts feature a mayonnaise marinade seasoned with chili powder, garlic, and lime. There’s a generous, sweet and crunchy mango salsa to spoon on top that can double as a salad.
Mayo surprise #2: The key to crispy oven frying
Fried foods are delicious, but who wants to heat up a vat of oil and fry at home? Not me! I used to have the hardest time “frying” things in the oven. The breading would always fall off, it wouldn’t get browned, or it wouldn’t be crispy. That’s where handy-dandy mayonnaise comes to the rescue. I use it as the batter in my breading routine, and it’s the glue that sticks everything together and makes the coating crispy. For baked onion rings, fried shrimp, and chicken fingers, mayonnaise is my go-to ingredient when it comes to oven frying.
Mayonnaise is also the key ingredient in my Sweet and Spicy Oven-Fried Shrimp Tacos. These handheld tacos are an all-in-one dinner with a colorful, crunchy coleslaw and crispy sweet shrimp. Top the tacos off with a smoky, spicy sauce and watch them disappear!
Mayo surprise #3: Cake’s best buddy
There’s nothing more frustrating to me than spending hours carefully creating a beautiful layer cake, only to have it come out dry as a bone. If I’m going to spend all of that time baking, the result has to be awesome. That’s why I add mayonnaise to cake batter. It’s my secret ingredient for ensuring the cake layers are moist and the crumb is tender. It also adds an extra layer of protection in case I overcook the cake by a minute or two.
Do you love to bake or want to make your baking better? Give my Strawberry-Lemonade Cake a try. Luscious layers of strawberry cake are sandwiched with tangy lemon curd and pink-tinged strawberry-lemonade buttercream. Crowned with fresh strawberries and lemon zest curls, this cake is worthy of any celebration — from birthdays and baby showers to making it through a crazy Monday.
Though the cake gets its dense, moist texture thanks in part to mayonnaise, there are a couple of additional tricks to note here. The batter is flavored and colored with pureed fresh strawberries that are cooked down to a thick paste. The rich buttercream gets its rosy hue and bright flavor from freeze-dried strawberries, which are available in most supermarkets.
More mayonnaise magic
Mayonnaise is great for marinades, breading, and cakes, but I also use it for:
Brushing on the outside of grilled cheese to cook up perfectly browned and crisp
Making flaky pie crust
Stirring into scrambled eggs to make them creamy
Tossing into streusel and crumble for fruit crisps
Adding to bread recipes to produce a tender crumb
Mixing into ground meat for flavorful and juicy burgers and meatballs
Making the fluffiest, creamiest mashed potatoes
See? Mayonnaise really is magical. Do you have other uses that I haven’t thought of? I’d love to hear about them. Tag @yummly on Instagram or Facebook.
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