Aioli is a Mediterranean sauce packed with delicious garlic flavor. This foolproof recipe is very simple and will make you feel like a kitchen pro!
I love making sauces and condiments from scratch. From tzatziki and tahini sauce to balsamic glaze, there is something about making sauces from scratch that makes them tastier! Today we are making a classic Mediterranean sauce called Aioli (also called alioli) that's pretty simple but absolutely delicious.
We're regulars at a tapas bar that has the best Spanish tapas and, needless to say, amazing alioli sauce. Their dishes are so good that we were persuaded to visit Spain to witness and experience the food culture ourselves. We spent about three weeks in Spain and had our fair share of patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo and aioli in different cities and regions which helped us come to a very good understanding of Spanish tapas culture. I cannot wait to share these recipes with you, starting with this easy, foolproof recipe!
What is aioli?
Aioli, also known as aïoli, alioli and allioli, is a Mediterranean sauce commonly used on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, the Provence region of southern France, and parts of Italy including Sicily. While some regions use eggs as emulsifiers to make this sauce which gives it a creamy texture, traditional Spanish alioli is made solely using garlic and oil, hence the name that translates into "garlic and oil" in Catalan.
This kind of aioli calls for only two ingredients and requires a lot of elbow grease to mash the garlic and add the olive oil in drops so the sauce doesn't "break". Traditionally, Catalan alioli is made using mortars and pestles, however, the emulsified version uses a blender or a food processor these days.
After a few trials and tweaks, I got the ingredients right. I don't have the strength to mash garlic for a long time and use olive oil drop by drop to make authentic aioli, so here is what you need to make this recipe at home:
- Lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
- Canola oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
This recipe is closer to the Provençal version as it uses a bit of mustard. The reason I used both canola and olive oil is that the flavor of olive oil could be a bit strong for some. Also, olive oil tends to get bitter when blended, therefore I always add it after I add the canola oil.
Many aioli recipes out there would tell you to simply mix some crushed garlic with mayonnaise, and that surely is tempting from a convenience standpoint. But I'm here to tell you that once made from scratch, this can be one of the tastiest sauces out there. Anyway, making a quality sauce from scratch can be truly rewarding; don't take that joy away from yourself!
- Make the base: Place the egg, garlic, lemon juice, dijon mustard and salt in a food processor. Blend on high until fully combined.
- Add in the oils: With the food processor still running, drizzle the oils very slowly into the mixture in a very thin stream. Do not rush this process as it would result in a broken sauce.
- Blend and chill: Once you've added all the oil to the mixture, you should have a fluffy and creamy sauce. Transfer the sauce into a container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
How to fix broken aioli
It can happen to the best of us: when making emulsified sauces such as this one, we might experience breakage, meaning oil separation. There are several reasons this can happen, such as the wrong measurements or over blending. If your sauce breaks, don't throw it away! It's fixable!
To fix broken aioli, place an egg yolk in a bowl and whisk it. Slowly add the broken sauce into the bowl and whisk at the same time. Once whisked, the sauce should have that creamy texture back. Now slowly add in some canola oil in a thin stream and whisk until you reach the desired consistency.
There are so many ways you can use this classic Mediterranean sauce:
- Vegetables: Serve it with Spanish patatas bravas or French fries. You can also serve it with oven roasted vegetables or simply as a dip with a plate of raw veggies.
- Sandwiches: Use it as a spread on your sandwiches and burgers for more flavor.
- Seafood: This sauce pairs perfectly with seafood such as garlic lemon shrimp, salmon croquettes or salmon patties.
- Chicken: Got some grilled chicken? Whip up some of this sauce and serve it on the side.
- Chipotle: Add 1 tsp chipotle powder to the egg mixture.
- Saffron: Add a pinch of powdered saffron to the sauce before adding the oils.
- Cilantro lime: Use lime instead of lemon and add chopped 1 tsp chopped cilantro to the sauce once it's ready.
- Paprika: Add 1 tsp smoked paprika to the ingredients before adding the oils.
Frequently asked questions
this classic Spanish sauce usually keeps for up to one week in the fridge though I really doubt it would last that long because it's so good. In our home, it's usually gone in a day! To store alioli, transfer it to a container and refrigerate. I don't recommend freezing this condiment.
The main difference between aioli and mayonnaise is that the first one uses garlic and olive oil whereas mayonnaise calls for canola oil and leaves out the garlic. While the texture is similar since both recipes use eggs as emulsifiers, the flavors are very different.
What you see on a restaurant menu as garlic aioli sauce could just be mayonnaise mixed with some garlic. The term is becoming very similar to "mayo with garlic" and while they're not actually exactly the same thing, they're pretty similar.
Yes. Just like mayonnaise, this sauce also uses raw eggs that are beaten and mixed with oil. However, it's good to know that store-bought emolsified sauce such as mayonnaise are made with pasteurized eggs. You can get pasteurized eggs at the supermarket or, if making this recipe with regular eggs, keep them cold just to be safe.
Notes and tips
- I used canola oil for this recipe, but you can use other neutral flavored oils such as vegetable oil or avocado oil as well.
- As I mentioned above, it's very important to take the time and drizzle the oils very slowly and in a very thin stream to avoid breakage. It should take you about 2 to 3 minutes to add all the oil to the mixture while the food processor is running.
- You can make this recipe using any of these tools: food processors, blenders and immersion blenders. I have come to find that using the food processor yields a better result relative to the other two.
- You can use whole garlic cloves and blend them with the other ingredients in the food processor or mince them in advance and add them to the egg. Both methods work just fine.
- Make sure you're using fresh garlic cloves and not garlic powder or packaged minced garlic for this recipe. That fresh garlic flavor is what this recipe is all about.
Easy Aioli Recipe From Scratch
- 1 egg whole
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Add the egg, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and salt to the bowl of a food processor and blend until fully combined. You can also crush the garlic in advance.
- With the food processor still running, very slowly, add in first the canola oil then the olive oil in a very thin stream. The aioli will come together and will be creamy.
- Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to one week.
- Instead of canola oil, you can use vegetable oil, avocado oil or other neutral flavor oils.
- Make sure you're using fresh garlic cloves and not garlic powder or packaged minced garlic for this recipe. That fresh garlic flavor is what this garlic aioli is all about.
- Other variations of this sauce are:
- Chipotle spicy: Add 1 tsp chipotle powder.
- Cilantro lime: Use lime instead of lemon and add some chopped cilantro once aioli is ready.
- Saffron aioli: Add a pinch of powdered saffron to the sauce.
- Paprika: Add ½ tsp smoked paprika to the mixture before adding the oils.